For Immediate Release: March 14, 2018 – Exclusive Autosport
ST. PETERSBURG, FL (March 11, 2018) – Exclusive Autosport enjoyed a successful debut in the Pro Mazda
Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, earning a podium finish at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, thanks to an impressive run by series rookie Parker Thompson. The Canadian finished second in Race 1 and then backed up his strong performance with a fifth in Race 2, which leaves him sitting second in the championship standings to begin the 2018 season. Exclusive Autosport fielded a pair of Tatuus PM-18 cars in St. Pete for Thompson and fellow Canadian Antonio Serravalle, the 15-year-old rookie from Ontario. Serravalle logged tremendous experience on the challenging street circuit, finishing 11th in the opening race and 13th in the second event of the doubleheader.
“I am really proud of my Exclusive Autosport team,” enthused Michael Duncalfe, Team Principal.
“This was our first weekend running a combined five cars in both championships. The crew did a phenomenal job prepping the cars and maintaining them throughout the weekend. Not only did they provide well-built cars, but also incredibly fast cars, as we had drivers in both series start from the front row and drivers in both series finish on the podium. A huge thank you to Aero Advanced Paint Technology for their support. We use their unbelievable product on our entire fleet including our USF2000 and Pro Mazda cars. Not only does Aero™ look amazing, but it is durable, lighter and a really great fit with our program.”
“Antonio (Serravalle) did a phenomenal job,” Duncalfe continued. “He’s only 15 and this was his first race weekend in a car (having made the jump from shifter karts directly into Pro Mazda). He finished every session, continued to make improvements and ran quicker times each session. He will continue to develop and will be a threat as the season progresses. Parker (Thompson) once again showed how strong he is as a driver and how well prepared and fast the EA cars are. He drove solid all weekend and I’m pleased to be leaving St. Petersburg with a podium and sitting second in the overall championship points standings.”
Thompson got the weekend off to a good start in Race 1 qualifying on Friday afternoon, posting the second quickest time of the 20-minute session (1:08.288) to secure the outside of the front row for the opening event of the year. For Serravalle, every session was a new experience and Antonio approached qualifying wisely, dropping 2.5 seconds off the best time he turned during his initial run in Friday morning practice to sit 16th. Qualifying for the second race of the weekend took place early Saturday morning in cool temperatures, and Parker was again pushing hard, but got blocked by a slower driver on a flying lap that had him on-pace to take the pole. As a result, he put his #90 PM-18 on the outside of row three in the sixth position. Continuing his improvement and comfort level, Antonio was able to better his time from Race 1 qualifying, advancing to the 14thposition.
At the start of the opening race of the year, as expected, the first turn of the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg featured havoc, but thankfully, Thompson and Serravalle were able to weave their way through cleanly. Parker assumed the early lead and then paced the field for the first half of the race until a late full-course yellow re-stacked the field. On the ensuring restart, he was dropped to second and, while he fought back valiantly, the end result was a solid second place finish. Antonio did a fantastic job in his debut, keeping his nose clean and crossing the line in 11th place.
Race 2 on Sunday afternoon began with some confusion, as a race control communication issue led to a disjointed start, which ended with a red flag stoppage to reset the grid for a single file restart. In the original start, Thompson had been able to advance to third, but the red flag negated that tremendous opportunity. It was quite frustrating for everyone involved. Parker restarted sixth, but starting single file made it more difficult to make up any positions when the race began. Thompson grabbed one position over the race distance to finish P5, posting another top-five finish that put him into second in the championship standings heading to Barber Motorsports Park in late-April. Antonio performed well in his second MRTI race, staying out of trouble while gaining valuable experience. A late-race spin put him a lap down, but he continued to leverage the track time. Antonio showed great maturity when being overtaken by the leaders, pulling through pit lane to avoid any issues. Again, he completed every session and finished the day in the 13th position.
The next stop for the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires will take the team to Barber Motorsports Park on April 20-22. Thompson has a successful history at Barber with four top-five finishes in his four starts there, two of which were wins in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda. Unlike St. Petersburg, Antonio has experience on the track from pre-season testing and he will look to improve his times and experience at Rounds 3 and 4.