MILLVILLE, N.J.-Freedom Autosport's Brad Rampelberg and Eric Foss gave the team their first podium for the MAZDASPEED3 during the B+ Foundation Heroes 200 at New Jersey Motorsports Park on Saturday.
The third-place finish in the Street Tuner class came after plenty of hard work by the Freedom Autosport crew. Before Foss and Rampelberg could put the No. 27 MAZDASPEED3 on the ST podium in the GRAND-AM Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge race, the car underwent a complete overhaul in just a week's time.
"Between R&D and hard work, it paid off with a pole and a podium," says Team Manager Tom Long. "We made half a season's progress in only five days."
"The Freedom crew put in an amazing amount of work once we identified the missing link," adds Team Co-owner Derek Whitis. "That podium was part Freedom sweat and the rest was Mazda sweat thanks to Brad Rampelberg and Eric Foss. They drove a phenomenal race for a podium finish as the top Mazda of the weekend."
Foss handled qualifying, setting the quickest time to claim the pole. He is quick to note how much the car has improved. "Freedom Autosport did an awesome job of turning the car around. In the first corner of my first lap at New Jersey, I got on the radio and said, 'This is a different car.' We had a great race car the whole weekend."
In fact, the only unexpected hurdle came in the early laps, when the radio stopped working. Foss was keeping track of the race time on his watch, so he took a chance during the second caution and pitted.
Rampelberg took over, and he says, "I had no radio, no cool suit, half a jug of water, over an hour to go, and the crew said, 'Go do it.'"
And Rampelberg did just that. He was able to capitalize on a late-race restart to move from sixth to third. "The guys gave us everything to make the car handle better and go faster," he says. "We had to do it for these guys. I'm glad we could give them a good result as a reward."
Meanwhile, the No. 28 ModSpace/Construct Corps MAZDASPEED3 also benefitted from the Freedom crew's hard work. Nick Igdalsky set the fourth-quickest time in qualifying. He and Jason Saini got a punctured oil line early in the race and lost time making repairs, but they proved that their car is a solid contender.
"The No. 28 ModSpace/Construct Corps Mazda team has been improving all