With seven drivers under the Hixon Motor Sports banner, it was a total of one win, two podium results, and five top-ten finishes over the two-race Idemtisu Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires (MX-5 Cup) weekend. Taking place at the ultra-fast VIRginia International Raceway (VIR), it was Connor Zilisch who led the HMS squad with a second-place podium result Saturday before leveling up Sunday to take the win.
“There is no better way to leave a race weekend than celebrating at Victory Circle and under the team awning together; it’s the best way to send everyone home after all the hard work and warm temperatures. We are in the championship fight, the rookie lead, and increased the team lead of team entries after VIR, which is all that we can ask for,” expressed Bryan Hixon. “With all the bad luck we have had this year and things out of our control, we have also proven that we are the team to beat. Whether we are running four drivers or seven drivers, the professionalism and the will to win remains high. We are looking to finish the season strong in one month. I was thrilled to stand in Bruno Smielevski’s dedicated car chief’s shoes on the podium as Smielevski and Nick Chorley received $1000 each for winning the Hard Charger Award in Sunday’s race.”
It was a mixed bag of results for HMS in the one and only qualifying session on the weekend. With times from the session setting the grid for both races, Connor Zilisch would lead the way with a fourth-place effort while Bryce Cornet and Selin Rollan slotted themselves into seventh and 13th, respectively. First-time MX-5 Cup competitor Thomas Annunziata was 18th, just ahead of Bruno Carneiro in 19th, Bruno Smielevski in 24th and Ethan Tyler in 25th.
The first lap of race one on Saturday was a disastrous one for Hixon Motor Sports (HMS) as Rollan had body work that cut into his tire, which forced him to the pits for repairs; unfortunately, he could not beat the pace car back out, so Rollan entered the field a lap down. Emerging at the tail of the field, the drive to move forward and salvage championship points was on. It was also an unfortunate start to the race as Bruno Carneiro had to retire after an encounter with the wall at turn 14. Up front, it was Zilisch who would battle in the top-three and for the second half of the race, battled for the win. Closing his first wheel-to-wheel action of the weekend, Rookie of the Year point leader and championship contender, Connor Zilisch, added a second-place podium result to his resume while Annunziata, in his first MX-5 Cup race, narrowly missed a top-ten result finishing in eleventh place. Another first-time series runner, Bruno Smielevski, ended his race 14th while Ethan Tyler just edged out Selin Rollan for 18th and 19th, respectively. Bryce Cornet looked poised for a solid result as he was running in third place in race one before an engine failure with 20 minutes remaining, which dropped him to 23rd. Sadly, Bruno Carneiro was unable to overcome major first-lap contact and was eventually classified 27th. The team applauded Bryce Cornet’s decision not to install another motor because he thought it would be a wise decision to save up for next season as well as let the crew have an easier night. Cornet’s decision was admirable and mature, and that’s just how he is all the time.
Back to the track Sunday, Hixon Motor Sports had a day of redemption. Flexing their muscles and showing that Saturday’s disappointing results were not normal, the potent team put four drivers in the top-ten including Zilisch who added another victory. Climbing to the top step of the podium, Zilisch celebrated as he makes a run at the series quarter-million-dollar title. Selin Rollan rebounded from his P19 result Saturday to earn a sixth-place finish Sunday with Smielevski and Annunziata slotting into eighth and ninth, respectively. Ethan Tyler finished just outside the top-20 in the 21st position while the damage to Bryce Cornet and Bruno Carneiro’s Mazda MX-5’s from Saturday was deemed unrepairable to race on Sunday.
Hixon continued, “I knew we would return Sunday and be right back where we know we can be. Saturday did not go our way but there is a ton of fight in this team, and nobody ever gives up. The goal still remains that we need race wins, podium results, and the championship. With one race to go, we are checking all the boxes.”
HMS Coach, Andrew Carbonell, said, “We know we have our work cut out for us at the 2022 season finale as Jared Thomas finished 2021 at Motul Petit Le Mans in second and in first place. We also have our eyes on last year’s champion, Gresham Wagner, as he finished the 2021 MX-5 Cup at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta with a win and a sixth-place finish.”
Next stop for Hixon Motor Sports is at the Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta for the final event weekend of the Idemtisu Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich Tires over the September 28th to October 1st weekend.
Photos: Ignite Media