The 2023 Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich Tires (MX-5 Cup) descended on the famed Watkins Glen International Raceway this past weekend for rounds seven and eight of the 14 race championship. Leaving the New York facility with a win at the hands of Selin Rollan and two podiums with rookie Thomas Annunziata, Hixon Motor Sports earned a quintet of top-ten results as they shift their focus to Road America in August.
“Great to see Selin back on top in MX-5 Cup competition,” Team Owner Bryan Hixon said with excitement. “Selin has been a leader in this sport for so long and while we all know it is his final year, it is awesome to see him add another win to his blossoming all-star driver resume.”
Rollan got the Watkins Glen festivities started with a solid second-place grid spot for race one and pole position for race two in qualifying as HMS drivers once again made their presence known. Putting three drivers in the top-six, Thomas Annunziata slotted himself into P5, just ahead of Jonathan Neudorf in sixth as they were also the top two rookies in qualifying. Ethan Tyler, Farhan Siddiqi, and Hanna Zellers were further down the running order and would look for the first race of the weekend to make up some lost track position.
Taking the first race green flag for round seven on Friday afternoon, it was a rough and tumble affair that featured a host of yellow flag periods, including one that ended the race. Moving forward from his P5 starting position, Annunziata was able to lead the HMS program and finish second, earning his first podium result in Mazda MX-5 competition and was the highest-finishing rookie. Neudorf, who had a strong run going, suffered damage late in the race after contact from a fellow competitor and was forced to retire. Similarly, Rollan suffered damage but was able to nurse his Mazda to a tenth-place result just ahead of Ethan Tyler who had a spirited drive through the field to 13th. Both Siddiqi and Zellers had a trying first race and shifted their focus to the second race of the doubleheader event.
Drivers returned to the track Saturday with increased determination for race two, the final race at Watkins Glen for MX-5 Cup. Unfortunately, a huge seven-car pile-up on the opening lap immediately put the field behind the safety car as a lengthy cleanup ensued. When they returned to the green flag after the incident, it was Rollan, Annunziata, and Neudorf who were in a heated battle for the fifth position before Rollan assumed control. Moving up to fourth with ten minutes remaining, Rollan made a huge pass moving from fourth to the lead in the late stages bringing Annuziata with him to P3. With the HMS drivers running first and third, Annunziata was able to sneak by for second as Rollan continued to lead. Selin drove on to earn his first win of the season and another for the potent Hixon Motor Sports squad while Friday’s second-place finisher Annunziata took home third-place when the checkered flag flew on Saturday. Three HMS drivers were in the top-ten with Neudorf securing eighth on track as Ethan Tyler continued his weekend progression to cross the line in 11th. Farhan Siddiqi closed the event with his best result of the weekend in 17th. Unfortunately, Zellers did not have the chance to start round eight due to damage.
“What a weekend in all aspects,” expressed Team Manager Shea Holbrook. “Watkins Glen is not an easy place, and the changing weather did not help us in any way. At the end of the day, we got the job done in race two and nearly completed the weekend with a sweep of wins. The strength of this program is second to none, and we will now enjoy a little time off before the next one.”
Bryan Hixon noted, “There was something very special about Selin Rollan’s win that had every one of his fans, the HMS crew, and family in happy tears for hours. Only 62-thousandths of a second was the difference between Rollan taking home first place. He also scored all three elements of the extra ten points: pole position plus fastest lap of the race plus leading the most laps in the race. There’s no doubt Selin “The Machine” Rollan is our All-Star Athlete on and off the racetrack.”
Rollan kindly responded, “Thank you Bryan! Thanks for all that you do and big thanks to the team! We left at 1am Friday night after the wreck in race one and finished up the Austin Hatcher #87 “Goblin” race car all the way to a winning setup for race two. Everyone was so precise with making sure it was set up the right way. Very impressive work by my 2022 Mechanic of the Year, Jack Schumacher, and the HMS Crew! After having become a part of the new E-racing STEM-based Formula Goblin engineering program with Austin Hatcher Foundation and Hixon Motor Sports, I was extremely motivated in race two to win a race for the children and families coping with pediatric cancer. This win was special because I was motivated by a force stronger than myself. I really wanted to win for those children battling cancer and to bring the ultimate joy to their families that watched the races with my charity partner on my race car and also in my heart in daily life away from the track: The Austin Hatcher Foundation for Pediatric Cancer.”
Next up for Hixon Motor Sports will be a trip to Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin and the 14-turn, 4.048-mile Road America. You can find the complete 2023 Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires full-season schedule HERE.
Photo Credit: Hixon Motor Sports