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Alabama bound for motorsports test

Motors | Published:

MICHAEL GIBAUT recently returned from his three-day test with Mazda Motorsports US at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama. Michael was there at the invitation of Mazda Motorsports for the first test day of the 2018 season for the Mazda MX-5 Global Cup Series and also the Pro-Mazda series.

‘Barber Motorsports Park is the home of the Verizon Indy Car Series Grand Prix, and is such a beautiful circuit,’ Michael said. ‘We were made to feel so welcome, by everyone from Mazda Motorsports and even the head of Mazda Motorsports North America tracked us down and welcomed us personally. It was a great opportunity for us to meet him and to discuss future plans.’

The weekend is organised by Mazda Motorsports before the full race season starts and is an opportunity for all the teams to get their 2018 Mazda MX-5 Global Cup cars out on the track, look at new drivers, and for pro-drivers to get out on the track for the first time in 2018. Michael’s car was prepared by Long Rd Racing who are based in North Carolina and are the team used by Mazda as their test outfit for new technical changes to the cars but also work with BF Goodrich, who are the tyre suppliers for the series.

‘It was so professional,’ said Michael. ‘I’d be called into the pit lane and then my car would be surrounded by a team of six members of the pit crew and the BF Goodrich guys. They would take the temperature of the tyres and then compare how much fuel had been used against the weight of the car. During the three days, they made several changes to the car, based on my input but also giving me feedback on how to improve my times and how to attack the corners.

‘It was difficult first learning left-hand drive and then going from single-seaters to a sportscar, so in the first couple of sessions I took it nice and easy to learn the complexities but by the Sunday I was loving racing the car and it was such a great race car to handle. Very different to what I normally race in Formula Ford,’ he commented.

Patrick Gallagher, a Chicago-based pro-driver and the current Global Cup Champion, was also testing for Long Road Racing, so to have Gallagher as team mate, was a bonus for Michael.

‘Pat was great with me and we had many discussions looking over the data and discussing how to get more performance out of the car learning from his vast experience. He was quite impressed by my times at the end of the weekend seeing as it was my first time at a US circuit and first time racing in a sports car. As he said “your times are well in the ball park”.’

At the end of the testing weekend, Michael was interviewed by Andersen Promotions, who are responsible for the promotion of the Verizon Indy Car series, of which the Mazda MX-5 Global Cup series is a support race but also linked to the Pro-Mazda and USF 2000 series. ‘They were certainly impressed that we had travelled over for the weekend, which showed my commitment to the series, as the invite by Mazda Motorsports was just too good an opportunity to miss.

‘They have already featured me in an article in the US motorsport media, which is great publicity and exposure.’

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‘We really have to thank everyone in the US who helped us make this happen and importantly, Michael’s local racing mentor, James Walker, whose previous experience of racing in the US and in particular Daytona, has been able to support Michael in some of his decision-making.’

John M Doonan, director of Mazda Motorsports North American Operations, commented: ‘Our intention with the Global MX-5 Cup platform from the beginning was to attract an international audience and customer base that would see the value in this opportunity to grow their sports car racing career with Mazda. Michael, with all of his open-wheel success, saw Global MX-5 Cup as exactly that. We are pleased he could join us for the Barber Spring Training weekend and we hope that all the planets align for him so that he can join us in the 2018 Battery Tender Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires championship very soon.’

Everything is in place for Michael to race in this series, with offers from two teams for him to race with them, other than the mandatory sponsorship obligations. Anyone interested in discussing sponsorship and marketing opportunities should contact his father, Andrew, on 07797 724773 or email: mrgracing50@gmail.com.

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