M1 Racing: Bowlin Doubles as Pro Mazda Expert Class Winner
 July 15, 2013| 
  • Team News

TORONTO, Ont., Canada — M1 Racing is back on track — literally.

After forgoing the two oval races on the 2013 schedule for the Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires, the Dallas-based team fielded a car for Walt Bowlin of Tarpon Springs, Fla., in the Allied Building Products Grand Prix of Toronto doubleheader last weekend.  Bowlin was the only driver entered in the Expert division in the doubleheader so he automatically came away with two victories for that class, which is for drivers over the age of 30. He is the defending champion in that division, and he won the Expert class in both races at Toronto last year as well.

Driving the red No. 23 sponsored by Tampa Bay Jaw Surgery, Jet Concepts and Foremost Insurance, Bowlin finished eighth overall both Saturday and Sunday morning.

The doubleheader was part of the Honda Indy Toronto, with the IZOD IndyCar Series as the headliner.

Bowlin was making his first Pro Mazda starts this season. Since he is not running for the overall championship his main goals were to be consistent, improve his lap times and challenge himself against some of the brightest young talent in the Mazda Road to Indy development program, which strives to produce future IZOD IndyCar Series stars.

Bowlin was able to cut nearly 2 seconds off his best time in Friday's practice sessions, as he ran a 1:15.347 in the first practice session and a 1:13.730 in the second practice prior to qualifying.  He qualified 11th later on Friday afternoon with a time of 1:13.882 (85.515 mph) for the 2.84 kilometer/1.755-mile, 11-turn temporary street course around Exhibition Place.

Saturday's race featured a rolling start while the series utilized a standing start on Sunday.

Bowlin had a good start in Saturday's race and he immediately capitalized on problems encountered by three other competitors to jump from 11th to eighth. One driver pulled onto pit lane with electrical system difficulties at the start but was able to rejoin the field later, and two others suffered a flat right-front tire and suspension damage during an early tussle.

Bowlin stayed in eighth place the rest of the way. Despite different rubber compounds on the course from the different series participating in the event, he laid down consistently improving lap times.  Remarkably his fastest lap of the race was his 19th lap out of 25, which he turned in 1:12.582 (87.046 mph), which was quicker than his best laps in practice or qualifying.

"The key was to keep it off the wall," Bowlin told a series official afterwards.  "Turn 1 is slick and the last three turns also are a little tough, so keeping it on line was difficult.  I spun a couple of times in Turn 1 and got back on, but I think everyone had trouble today.

"I came and raced here last year and was maybe 2 to 3 seconds faster, so I am getting the hang of it and if I could get within 2 seconds of these guys I'd be happy."

Like Saturday, Bowlin started 11th in Sunday's race. He advanced one position on lap two after Scott Anderson went off course. He moved into ninth place on lap 12 after Shelby Blackstock was forced to pit for a new wing.  He vaulted one more spot with 16 laps down when Spencer Pigot retired due to contact, forcing a full-course yellow so course workers could retrieve his front wing off the track in Turn 3.

Equipped with his new wing, Blackstock was able to pass Bowlin with 19 laps down to push him back to ninth place, but Bowlin regained eighth place after Lloyd Read went off course on lap 22 of the 25-lap/35-minute event.

Throughout the race Bowlin had been consistently bettering his fastest lap time. He managed his tire wear masterfully and recorded his best lap at the very end of the race, posting a 1:13.579 on lap 24 for an average speed of 85.867 mph.

Point leader Matthew Brabham led every lap of both races from the pole.

"Walt did a fantastic job," said M1 Racing owner Paul Mata.  "He improved his times steadily.  He hasn't raced since Road Atlanta last year, so he had to knock the rust off at first.  He also had to get used to different tires, since the series changed tire manufacturers for this season. He's a big guy for a Pro Mazda car, but it's amazing what he can do. He's also one of the nicest guys in the world.  Both Remi [team manager Remi Lanteigne] and I are really looking forward to working with him again at Mid-Ohio next month."

M1 Racing will have some exciting announcements in the new few weeks concerning additional drivers it will field cars for in upcoming Pro Mazda races.  For more information on the Dallas-based team, see its website at M1Racing.co. Its Facebook page is at M1 Racing — Pro Mazda, and it can also be found on Twitter @M1ProMazda.

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