The 2023 Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires (MX-5 Cup) kicked off their third and fourth rounds this past weekend on the streets of beautiful St. Petersburg, Florida. The only street course on the schedule for the 2023 season brought nothing but hot track temperatures and speed. When the final checkered flag flew on Saturday, Hixon Motor Sports (HMS) had taken over both the Team, the Driver and the Rookie of the Year championship points lead courtesy of a second-place podium result, a race win, and more than a handful of top-ten finishes.
Unfortunately, the first practice session out of two was delayed and eventually scrapped due to issues with track communication, but the second scheduled practice went off without a hitch plus an extra 20 minutes. With a shorter amount of track time than expected, it was time to qualify, ready or not. Leading the team into the ever-important qualifying session was 2022 Rookie of the Year, Connor Zilisch, as he managed a speedy session, claiming the second fastest lap time and outside row one starting grid spot for race one.
The doubleheader race day made its way around with HMS claiming three of the top-ten positions on the starting grid. Veteran driver Connor Zilisch fought hard up front in a two-car battle for the full 45-minute race crossing the finish line second with teammates Thomas Annunziata and Selin Rollan finishing close behind in fifth and sixth. Zilisch had the lead out of the last corner, but he lost in a 0.021 photo finish with Gresham Wagner.
“The team fought hard in race one,” explained Team Manager, Shea Holbrook. “Given that our drivers had very little track time before qualifying and racing, we earned some great results and more points added to the championship.”
Team Owner, Bryan Hixon, added, “Our cars and drivers improved both performance and results from practice through the end of the weekend showing great progression. This is a huge testament to our driver development, sharing of data and experience, as well as the great coaching that we offer to all team drivers.”
Race two saw four HMS drivers finish in the top-ten. Zilisch led the way to improve on his second-place result from the race prior to the top of the podium blocks and celebrate with another MX-5 Cup win. Selin Rollan continued his presence at the front of the field with a drive to fourth while rookies Jonathan Neudorf and Bruno Smielevski finished ninth and tenth, respectively.
Holbrook added, “We had another strong weekend and while some drivers may have done great, others will shift their focus to the next event. We win and lose as a team, and we are already looking forward to rounds five and six.”
After St. Pete, the weekend highlights included Zilisch moving from sixth overall to a commanding lead in the Driver’s Championship with 1200 points. Thanks to Connor Zilisch, Hixon Motor Sports moved up from third place to first place in the Team Championship, plus Connor also took thirty bonus points off the table from their rivals combined from rounds three and four at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Selin Rollan moved up from fifth to third place in the Driver’s Championship. Mazda Shootout Runner-Up, Thomas Annunziata, moved up one position in the overall Driver’s Championship and continues to lead the Rookie of the Year Championship while Jonathan Neudorf maintained 15th in the Driver’s Championship but moved to third place in the Rookie of the Year chase. Bruno Smielevski dropped down one spot in the Driver’s Championship as well as falling one position to fourth place in the Rookie Championship as HMS holds three of the top four positions in the Rookie of the Year honors.
Hixon Motor Sports will pack up the cars for a short stint until their next scheduled race at the 11-turn, 2.238-mile course of WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, known for the famous Corkscrew turn, from May 12-14 for the fifth and sixth rounds of the 14-round 2023 season. Stay tuned to the Hixon Motor Sports social media pages for news, information, photos, and results throughout the 2023 season.
You can find the complete 2023 Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires full-season schedule HERE.