The 2017 Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires came down to two races at Watkins Glen International with only two drivers eligible to win the title and Victor Franzoni making a definitive statement, winning both races en route to his graduation to Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires.
- RESULTS: 2017 Watkins Glen Pro Mazda Race 2
Franzoni and Martin entered the final race, dubbed the Soul Red Finale, with just nine points separating them in the fight for the championship.
Franzoni earned the last pole of the season in qualifying late on Saturday, setting him up for a front-row start alongside Team Pelfrey’s Carlos Cunha.
Martin, driving the No. 8 Mazda for Cape Motorsports, qualified with the third-fastest lap but received a two-spot grid penalty for failing to observe the checkered flag.
At the start of the race, the track was wet but with limited precipitation, a dry line was expected to develop. Franzoni shot out to the lead while Martin made up two positions in Turn 1 and began chasing Carlos Cunha.
Like Race 1, Franzoni’s car seemed set up to run out front in clean air with the Juncos Racing driver pulling away from the field in the No. 23 machine. Eight minutes into the 40-minute race, Franzoni’s lead over Cunha stood at 7.2 seconds.
Despite Cunha running between them, all eyes were on championship contenders Franzoni and Martin. Running in third for the entire race, the Australian driver trailed Franzoni by 11 seconds with 12 minutes remaining.
Franzoni went on to take the white flag with a 3.2-second advantage over Cunha and a similar 11-second gap to Martin.
Cunha turned the fastest lap of the race on his last lap. The 1:59.8181 brought him within 1.6 seconds of Franzoni at the checkered flag.
— MRTI—The Apex (@ApexMRTI) September 3, 2017
Franzoni’s victory was his seventh of 2017, securing him an insurmountable points lead over Martin who won five races. The Brazilian driver will move on to Indy Lights with the aid of a scholarship from Mazda.
The series heads to the offseason with a new car to look forward to. Beginning next year, the Tatuus PM-18 will replace the aging Elan chassis currently in use. The new car is expected to make its competition debut at the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on the weekend of March 9–11, 2018.