The second race of the second season for the AOR Pro Mazda Championship headed to Barber Motorsports Park for what would be one of the more surprising races the league has seen in its short history. The surprises came thick and fast at the start when last season’s champion Kerry Knowlden started the race from third place, the first time he had failed to qualify on the front row… ever. Taking his place in the top two spots were Mark Jarvis and Justin Brunner, respectively, for the 40 lap race.
Knowlden wasted no time making his move for second place on Brunner on just the second lap of the race. A small mistake at Turn One for Brunner where he missed the apex and ran wide into the grass put him under immense pressure from Knowlden. Able to close the gap significantly through Turns Two and Three, Knowlden grabbed the slipstream on the run down to Turn Five and with some late braking moved up the inside of Brunner to take second place.
With Brunner dispatched, Knowlden turned his sights towards Jarvis for the lead of the race. Jarvis kept his laps consistent and low, which slowed Knowlden’s progress, unable to close the gap enough to get a run on Jarvis. But a mistake on Lap Ten from Jarvis was all that Knowlden needed. Jarvis turned in a bit early for the blind apex of Turn 11 and went all four wheels in the air as he caught more than a little bit of curbing. Knowlden nearly ran into the back of Jarvis in the process, but managed to squeeze by at Turn 12 without contact between them.
More struggles for Jarvis came on the very next lap, this time he carried just a bit too much speed through Turn 12 and ran wide on to the grass. Brunner took advantage of the ailing Brunner and moved back into his second place starting position on Lap 11.
The real shocker of the day came less than two minutes later when, now race leader, Knowlden went wide at Turn 14 (possibly because of the dirty air effect from a backmarker ahead of him) and into the grass, nearly running into the pit lane.
Knowlden barely managed to slow down his Star Mazda and avoid the pit entrance, but as he rejoined the track he caught Brunner off guard. There was an oversteer moment for Knowlden and the two of them made contact. Knowlden’s front right hit Brunner’s rear left and the impact was bad enough for Knowlden that he pulled off the circuit at the final corner and retired without even completing Lap 12. Brunner, thankfully, came off with little-to-no damage and was able to continue his race from the lead.
Brunner pit from the lead at the end of Lap 20, at the exact halfway point of the race, while Jarvis stayed out for a few more laps. Brunner had a bit of a gap to Jarvis at the time, but when Jarvis exited the pits at the start of Lap 24 the gap had closed quite a bit (and they now had lapped traffic to deal with). Brunner held on to the lead, however, for a number of laps. It wasn’t until Lap 32 that there was a change in position for the lead as Brunner turned in too early for Turn One, had to correct, and still went wide into the grass. This time it was much worse than before, however, and with Jarvis only a few car lengths behind he was easy pickings and dropped to second place behind Jarvis and with less than nine laps remaining.
Brunner managed to avoid further significant damage to his car in the incident, but was now about three seconds behind the pole sitter. Over the course of the remaining laps Jarvis extended the gap to Brunner to just over four and a half seconds. After the 40 lap race, dropping down to third and back into the lead, and suffering a bit of front wing damage, Jarvis took the win ahead of Brunner while Knowlden’s former teammate Knut Martinsen took an impressive third, albeit almost 24 seconds behind Brunner in the end.
In the championship Brunner takes the lead with 48 points after scoring two podiums in two races, a whopping 17 points ahead of Mark Jarvis in second place who didn’t even race at Interlagos. Patrick White’s win in Brazil keeps him in third with 30 points, despite not scoring at Barber, while last season’s champion Knowlden drops way down to P10 in the championship standings with only 20 points (two less than Martinsen, his former teammate).