October 14, 2013, Makati City, Philippines — Mazda Philippines-backed racing driver and IndyCar hopeful Michele Bumgarner pulled off a top-10 finish in her Mazda Road to Indy debut and bagged a few contingency awards along the way.
The 24-year-old driver of the Car #16 Mazda Philippines entry finished ninth in the final event of the 2013 Pro Mazda Championship series, a support race to the IndyCar Grand Prix of Houston on October 5 and 6 at the Reliant Park Street Circuit in Texas. Michele qualified 14th, but fought her way to cross the checkered flag just two seconds behind World Speed Motorsports teammate Kyle Kaiser in Race 2. She was thus accorded the Staubli Award and the Quarter Master Hard Charger Award for making up four positions.
Michele is no rookie in the Pro Mazda Championship, the second step in the three-part Mazda Road to Indy program; she competed in the first five races of the series’s 2008 season when it was still known as the Star Mazda Championship.
She tagged the wall during the practice run, and could only put in a limited number of laps in qualifying because the session was red-flagged after another driver’s crash. After starting 14th on the grid in Race 1 on Saturday, she misjudged the curbing of the chicane in the second lap and pitched the right-rear end of her car into the wall, ending her race prematurely. Fortunately, her team was able to repair the car in time for Race 2 on Sunday morning, and she returned the favor by improving upon her best finish in her 2008 campaign (15th) by six places.
“Certainly, the race weekend wasn’t everything I wanted,” Michele said of her performance. “As a driver, you always want the best results. But this really was a warm-up for me, so to get the solid finish in Race 2, I’m happy. I just want to thank everyone, especially Mazda Philippines for all the support, the love! It’s been amazing.”
For its part, Mazda Philippines has underlined its continued support for the talented racer, who will compete in her first full season of the Pro Mazda Championship next year. “You have to look at the context of Michele’s historical accomplishment to fully appreciate where she is now, and where Michele is heading,” said Steven Tan, President of Mazda distributor in the Philippines, Berjaya Auto Philippines Inc. “She came into the Pro Mazda Championship on the back foot, with far fewer testing and practice kilometers under her belt compared to the other drivers. So to finish ninth in her first race weekend is quite an achievement. Sure it’s talent, but it’s also hard work.”
“We at Mazda Philippines are very optimistic that she can continue on an upward trend in her 2014 Pro Mazda Championship campaign,” Tan continued. “Mazda has always been about pushing for ceaseless improvement and defying conventions. In Michele, we see someone who is capable of translating these ideals into success in the extremely competitive arena of motorsports.”