A suspension failure in the second race at New Jersey Motorsports Park cost Adam Christodoulou the lead of the Star Mazda Championship on Sunday as Richard Kent won from pole.
In the first race of the double-header Christodoulou had finished second and Kent eighth.
Kent built his reputation in the final Star Mazda race of last season when he turned up as a complete unknown, only to grab pole and win with unruffled ease. The 20-year-old from Clifton Reynes, near Milton Keynes, repeated the feat on Sunday despite a broken foot.
He said: “I won the last race of last year at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and then sat on the pole at this year’s season-opener at Sebring but missed the second race due to an injury and this race really marks the start of my 2009 season.
“My leg still hurts a bit, but not in the car and it isn’t affecting my on-track performance; I just have to be sensible with it when I’m away from the track. But right now nothing hurts at all.
“We just have to keep up on these podiums and winning these races and hopefully misfortune will come a few other people’s way as well, as it has for me.”
In Kent’s race, that misfortune struck Christodoulou early in the race – a disappointment after the Staffordshire driver had qualified and finished second in the first race.
He briefly grabbed the lead off polesitter and eventual winner Conor Daly, but could not hold it. Daly said: “I didn’t get a great start because my car was creeping even with the clutch in, so I had to work the clutch, gas and brake all at the same time. That’s why Adam was ahead of me going into the first turn, but I got past him again in three.
“I knew Adam was back there behind me and if there was an opportunity for him to pass he’d take it, so I had to focus on opening up a gap and once I was able to do that I just concentrated on managing my tyres and conserving my car to go the full distance.”
The “Irish Steamroller” Peter Dempsey, second in the standings before New Jersey, moved ahead of Christodoulou after finishing sixth and seventh in the two races.
In the headline event of the weekend, the two Atlantic Championship races, James Winslow was again mired in the midfield, ending the weekend with a pair of ninth place finishes.
Driving for his third different team of the season, he had in fact crossed the line eighth in the first of the two races but the two positions were reversed post-race as a punishment for avoidable contact.