Shift Up Now Athlete Laura Hayes earned back-to-back 11th-place finishes in rounds nine and ten of the Mazda MX-5 Cup Championship on July 2-3, 2022 at Road America.
Driving the No. 22 Soul Mazda car for Thunder Bunny Racing, Hayes was in the top 15 of the 30-car field during practice. Despite being familiar with the track – she and her teammates finished on the World Racing League podium earlier this season at Road America – and having a teammate for this race (Parker Kligerman), Hayes was unable to get a clean lap in qualifying to show the speed she had, and qualified P22 for the first race.
Saturday’s 45-minute race around the 14-turn, 4.048-mile track took place under sunny skies. Hayes worked her way through the field, methodically passing cars. A short caution stalled her progress but also packed up the field for a last-lap shootout. When the checkered flag fell, she earned a P11 finish, her best result of the season so far.
The second-fastest lap from Friday’s qualifying set the starting grid for Sunday’s 45-minute race. Starting from P24, Hayes set out to repeat her race from the day before. The Wilton, CA native again passed cars and advanced through the pack. After 17 laps of hard-fought racing, Hayes not only earned another P11 finish, but was the third-highest finishing rookie of the 15 in the field.
“I’m leaving this MX-5 weekend with increased confidence,” said Hayes. “Having a second car under our banner, driven by Parker Kligerman – who is extremely talented – really elevated our game. We made huge strides with car setup and I learned more this weekend than any other about racing in this series.
“Qualifying was tricky with only twenty minutes to put in two good laps. Every time I had a quick lap coming together, very slow traffic impeded my efforts. After starting near the rear of the field, working my way up to eleventh place in both races, and being one of the hard chargers, I am extremely happy. I gained respect from my fellow competitors and it’s nice knowing that I can do this.
“For the final rounds, we’re headed to two tracks I know well, so I’ll be focused on my qualifying game and hopefully we find ourselves inside the top ten or better.”
Hayes will return to World Racing League action with Thunder Bunny racing this weekend at Road Atlanta on July 8-10, 2022, followed by another MX-5 Cup race at Virginia International Raceway on August 26-28, 2022.