BRASELTON, Ga. (September 30, 2015):
John Dean, of Sebring, Florida, found his way to the top of the timesheet in the opening practice in preparation for Rounds 11 and 12 of the SCCA Pro Racing Battery Tender Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich Tires, part of the Petit LeMans Powered by Mazda at Road Atlanta. Ara Malkhassian, of Houston, was second fastest, followed by Nathanial Sparks, of Spanish Fort, Alabama. Dean, at the wheel of the No. 16 Bulb Jacket/PPG/Sick Sideways MX-5 finished the opening 30-minute practice session with the best time of 1:40.528 (90.960 mph) around the 12-turn, 2.54-mile circuit. Between this session and yesterday’s promoter test days, which took place in extremely wet conditions, Dean said he feels confident moving into the final two races of the season.
“The confidence builder was yesterday, surviving the promoter test day in the rain,” Dean said. “Testing was crazy. It was pouring down rain and Sparks just didn’t feel like going out there. Obviously, I want to run fast. I never want Gallagher to be quicker, but [this session] was about seeing where we are on setup. Our setups were similar to what we used at some of the other tracks we’ve been to. Also, we have a bunch of cars here, so we were able to get feedback from a bunch of different drivers. We just have to go through the data to see where we are.“I’m happy with the time, but we still have some more work to do. I’m excited for a nice end of the season and, hopefully, a couple clean races.
Sick Sideways Racing:
We’re going to try and save our tires and equipment for qualifying and the races. If it’s dry for qualifying, look for some new rubber on the car.”In the No. 11 ALARA Racing MX-5 Malkhassian captured the second position in the first practice of the race week. His best lap stopped the timing clock at 1:40.603 (90.892 mph).“It was nice to practice in the dry today, even though we are probably going to race in the rain,” Malkhassian said. “It’s always good to be back at Road Atlanta, a track where I’ve had a lot of success and enjoy driving.“We developed the rain setup yesterday and the car feels really great in the wet. The ALARA Racing engineers did a really good job putting together a really comfortable rain race car.”Sparks, in the No. 8 OOTSK Performance/Sick Sideways MX-5, finished the session in third place.
Sparks quick lap registered as 1:40.612 (90.884 mph) as he was the second Sick Sideways car in the top five positions. Following the session, the numbers show that the Sick Sideways group is quick out of the box.“Before going out this morning, John [Dean] suggested we go with a particular setup,” Sparks said. “I still had the rain setup from Road America on the car and I wanted to see how that felt. Also, having two baselines to work with, I thought would be a good strategy. Using the rain setup, I was able to put down some pretty quick laps, there at the beginning, and it wasn’t too bad. We ended up having to stiffen the car up a lot, but it really kept its pace.“I’m glad I was able to get into third since the second through the fourth were all in the same 0.1-second.
At This Point In Time
At this point, I hope we can finish off the season with a pair of good races. I want to stay where I am in the championship standings. Our competitors are so strong here, so we’ll have to see how things shake out. I’m a little worried since I didn’t go out during the rain yesterday, but we’ll do the best we can.”Patrick Gallagher, in the No. 44 Howard Concrete Pumping MX-5, finished the session just outside of the podium positions, with a time of 1:40.626 (90.871 mph). Gallagher came into this doubleheader event as the second-place driver in the season-long standings.
Finishing the session fifth was Dean Copeland, in the No. 7 Copeland Motorsports/SyncSpeed Inc. MX-5, with a time of 1:40.851 (90.668 mph). Copeland has scored two wins this season, and is always a threat at the flowing high-speed circuits, like Road Atlanta.