Sitting in second place and looking at an uphill battle in the final race of the season, Molecule Racing’s Adam Christodoulou drove a flawless race in the #11 Molecule Labs / Miller Milling / Alpinestarts / JDC MotorSports Pro Formula Mazda to close out the season with a victory at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and captured the championship as fellow championship contender Peter Dempsey retired from the event with a mechanical failure.
“We came into the weekend in a bit of a hole but we never gave up and the whole team kept pressing on throughout the weekend,” Adam explained. “We had built up a large enough points lead that a minimum of second place was guaranteed so I could focus all my efforts on attacking for the victory and doing everything possible to climb the podium. As I came out of that last corner I could see my team hanging over the wall waving me home and I was screaming in the radio as I crossed the finish line to take the title. It’s the best feeling in the world, knowing that you’ve completed something you have been working so hard for all year long”
The chase to the championship would be a battle throughout the weekend, with Saturday morning’s qualifying session being a microcosm of the entire season as Christodoulou and Demspey dueled back and forth for the pole position with first Adam on top before Dempsey grabbed the spot on the final lap by 0.02 seconds.
“Things had been looking really well in qualifying as my teammate Alex Ardoin and I were exchanging fast laps and as time was winding down I was on top of the charts,” Adam said. “With two minutes to go I was still fastest and looking strong for the pole position and everything was well until Peter produced a time two-hundredths faster than mine. This was not good. He had just extended his lead another point going into the race meaning I had to win and he had to finish 9 or worse for me to grab the championship. This was really frustrating for me as I knew two-hundredths was nothing, faster than you can blink an eye.”
With the race swiftly approaching Adam set aside any frustration and visualized the start of the 45-minute timed race. When the lights turned green for the final standing start Chrostodoulou and Dempsey rocketed down towards turn two, with Ardoin joining the fight for the lead as well. Ardoin would get the inside line and take the lead with Christodoulou sliding into second and Dempsey falling to third as the cars approached the famed “Corkscrew” of Mazda Raceway.
“Alex was leading the race and by the time we had got to turn six we had already pulled a gap. Alex ran wide going up the hill towards the cork screw and I thought about passing but it’s a risky corner for a pass and there’s a big chance of making contact with how tight the corner is,” Adam elaborated. “This exact scenario happened to Peter Dempsey as Joel Miller went for the overtaking move on the 1 lap into the cork screw and they made contact. Peter spun and dropped to last place before rejoining the circuit.
Things were looking up for me, but at this point I had no clue on what was happening behind me so I was pushing in 2 place and made a slight mistake in turn six myself two laps later. I went off course sliding towards the barriers but dragged it back on track not losing any positions. I caught Alex back up and I could see Caio behind me, the perfect scenario knowing I was safe with my teammates either side of me.”
The championship battle would turn over at the halfway point of the race as Demspey was forced to retire from the event from the damage sustained in the incident. At that point the pressure changed on Christodoulou as it became a matter of making sure he brought the car home to capture the crown, as he explained, “We got to turn two and the yellow flag was being show for a car off course, as I was exiting the corner there was the white, orange and green car of Peter Dempsey. I was shocked and on the next lap round my crew radioed in telling me all I had to do was finish. I couldn’t believe it, throughout the whole year Peter and I had been battling for the championship crown and there he was on the edge of the track. In a way I felt more pressure now, knowing it was down to me. Before I was just racing for the win, knowing it was down to Peter deciding where he was going to finish that would decide the championship, but now it was even more important than ever for me to finish.”
With the laps winding down Christodoulou saw Miller closing in and pushed to take the lead and have a teammate protecting his flank, making an inside move in the final corner to assume the lead from Ardoin. Safely through he opened a small gap that he carried to the checkered flag and the title. “I can’t thank the JDC MotorSports crew enough for all their efforts this weekend and over the season and am proud to have been a part of this team that captured the Overall and Master Class Championships as well as the Team Championship,” Adam commented. “I’ve got to thank All the crew, and the drivers for an incredible year, it been a pleasure working with them all. I felt like the whole JDC team just gelled, there was never any tension throughout the whole team, we all got on famously. The best thing is we didn’t just race with each other, we all worked together, we travelled together, went out together and completed 2009 together. It’s not just about one driver. It’s about a whole team, and that’s what I had backing me for us to win this championship.”
“Specifically I need to thank John, Katie and Sophie Church; Rick Cameron, my engineer; Dave Hopple, my mechanic; Mike Guasch and Molecule for supporting me this year, and capturing the Masters Class Championship; Gerry Kraut, part owner of JDC motorsports, for becoming Vice-Champion in the Masters class; my team mates Alex Ardoin, Caio Lara, and Chris Miller; and Gary Rodrigues and everyone from the Star Mazda Championship for an awesome Year.”
Christodoulou also had high praise for his fellow championship contender, stating, “I’ve also got to say, well done to Peter Dempsey; it’s been a fun year pushing each other along the way, battling with him for the title. It’s defiantly been a hard season and it was unfortunate for him to finish the year this way, I hope to see him back racing soon.”
Christodoulou wrapped up the season with three victories, nine podium finishes, eleven top-five finishes, and two pole positions in the thirteen race championship, capturing the title with 473 points to Dempsey’s 461 points.
In winning the 2009 Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear Adam will receive a funded ride in the 2010 Cooper Tires Presents the Atlantic Championship powered by Mazda as part of the Mazdaspeed Motorsports Driver Development program. In addition to the funded ride he received an additional check for $100,000 as series champion and $10,000 for the Rookie-of-the-Year honours.