Gabby ChavesWhen Gabby Chaves looks back on the 2012 Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear season, the doubleheader this past weekend (September 8-9) at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca will almost certainly be the event he remembers most fondly. The teenage standout was a leading force throughout the event in California, leading the way in testing and practice, before finishing second in Round 15 and scoring an overdue first series win with a perfect run in Round 16. The JDC MotorSports star now enters the season-finale event in mid-October positioned to end his return to North American competition currently P2 on the championship charts.

For Chaves the penultimate event on the Star Mazda calendar was all about keeping the momentum going, having charged his way into the title fight via an impressive run of five podiums in eight races. Right from the time the cars rolled on-course at Laguna Seca, it became apparent that Chaves was poised to not only continue his recent string of great results, but build on it. Ultimately setting the stage for what would be the best weekend to date for the FIA Young Driver Excellence Academy racer in 2012, the CLARO/Marca Colombia/Tecpro Barriers/Red Line Oil/JDC MotorSports Mazda was at the top of the speedcharts both after the promoter’s test day and the lone official practice session.

Given the speed shown in the opening four sessions, both Chaves and his JDC MotorSports crew were focused on challenging for the pole come qualifying. Having made some changes that affected the balance of the car, he was unable to post an ideal lap around the undulating 2.238-mile road course. The former Formula BMW Americas champion posted the fourth best lap, earning a row two starting position for race one of the doubleheader.

When Chaves returned to the cockpit of his red and black racing machine, he was determined to once again showcase his speed and skill. He promptly did just that, almost immediately slotting into second and challenging for the race lead. Never much more than a car length behind first place, Chaves looked for the right opportunity to make his move. That came on the final lap, with a bold pass attempt at the famed ‘Corkscrew’ turn. Reminiscent of the famed Alex Zanardi moment at the same corner in IndyCar several years ago, both Chaves and the race leader went off-course but kept their foot in it, rejoining the track without any loss of position. At the line Chaves was P2, adding another podium finish to his ever-growing racing resume. Perhaps more importantly, he had posted the fastest race lap, securing the pole position for race two.

Lining up first on the grid for Round 16, the goal was simple for Chaves…win the race. Chaves started things off in ideal fashion, getting a clean launch from the Formula One style standing start. From that point forward, the highly-regarded racer never put a wheel wrong. Turning not only mistake-free lap after lap, but also posting the fastest lap times in the process, Chaves steadily increased his lead over the newly crowned series champion. Chaves in the end led ever lap in a perfect run behind the wheel, scoring his overdue first Star Mazda Championship win by 15 seconds.

“This win is a great victory for me personally, for the JDC MotorSports team, and my sponsors, CLARO and Marca Colombia,” said a jubilant Chaves, who also set the fastest race lap. “I had a very fast car yesterday even though I finished second to Jack, and today, as soon as the race started, I felt very much in control and was able to pull out a good gap and work on driving each lap as perfectly as possible. We have had a very consistent season, with nine podium finishes, but now that I know what a Star Mazda victory tastes like, I’ll go to the final race at Petit Le Mans in a few weeks hungry for another one.”

With the race win at Laguna Seca, Chaves travels to the season-finale single race event as part of the famed Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta on October 18-19, having strengthened his hold on second in the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear. While he and his JDC MotorSports crew will have plenty of time to enjoy and reflect on the superb weekend in California prior to Round 17, theCLARO/Marca Colombia/Tecpro Barriers-backed racer will be busy performing various duties as a FIA Young Driver Excellence Academy racer.