The 50th running of the SCCA National Championship Runoffs held special significance for both the club and every one of the 701 drivers who turned a wheel at Road America this week. If the historic anniversary wasn’t enough, then the fact that this was SCCA’s final year at Road America helped draw the drivers to this event.
Every driver leaves the Runoffs with a story to tell. Some are better than others, some have happy endings, and a few of the best are collected here as a highlight recap for this year’s championships.
Lawrence Loshak (ABOVE, Mark Weber photo) qualified on the pole in Formula B. But in a scene straight out of a nightmare, he was stranded on grid without his helmet and watched helplessly as the rest of the field was waved onto the track without him. SCCA rules are clear: if you’re not ready to go when the whistle blows, you lose your position.
Loshak started that race dead last. A lesser driver might have been shaken by that calamity, but Loshak just started working his way through the field. He passed 16 cars and was in fifth place by the end of the first lap. Progress was slower after that, but on the final lap, he passed the leader and took home the win.
“I had no idea what position I was in because I got out so late. Every time I saw a car, my goal was to catch and pass them. I knew I wasn’t slowing down until I saw that black and white thing. Mistakes were not an option,” Loshak said.
One great thing about SCCA Club Racing is that you often see widely different cars competing against each other. That was the case in the Super Touring Under class, where an epic battle took place between three-time champion Elivan Goulart in a Lotus Exige and Marc Hoover in a custom turbocharged Mazda Miata. It was a classic contest between the great handling of the Lotus and the power of the turbo Miata.
As a heavy rain fell, Goulart’s Lotus was solidly planted on the track through every corner, while Hoover struggled to keep the Miata in line. But on Road America’s long straights, Hoover kicked in the afterburners and made up all the lost ground. The duo swapped the lead several times in a single lap.
“A few times out there, I thought he was going to go off. And just when I thought that he was throwing it sideways and everything I thought that I had this. Then he saved it. I was like, ‘Aww, come on,'” Goulart said.
Goulart was first to the checker, but just barely. Later, SCCA stewards disqualified second-place Hoover in the tech shed, but watch the webcast if you want to see an outstanding performance by both drivers.
In contrast to the races between very different cars, SCCA also offers classes with nearly identical cars. Most popular among these classes is Spec Miata, which fielded 69 cars for the race. That’s a Runoffs record, and it breaks the previous record of 60 cars set by Spec Miata in 2010.
Jim Drago won the Spec Miata title, becoming the first repeat champion in class history. But in the course of the 13-lap race the lead was held by seven drivers, and some of them held it multiple times. Craig Berry, Steve Gorriaran, Elivan Goulart, Matt Reynolds, Erik Stearns, Voytek Burdzy, and Jim Drago all took their turns at the front.
“I was fortunate enough to win, but there were 15 guys that could have won this race. It was just a crazy, crazy race,” Drago said.
For an idea of just how crazy it was, check out this onboard video.
A 13-lap race at Road America covers 52.6 miles. Given the distance traveled, it’s surprising that so many races are won by just a few seconds. But a few seconds would have been an eternity for Robert Lentz and Christopher Bovis in the GT-Lite class. These drivers delivered the closest measured finish in Runoffs history, with just seven-thousandths of a second separating them. Bovis caught Lentz at the finish line and won by little more than the thickness of a bumper sticker.
The loss was particularly devastating to Lentz because the previous closest measured finish in Runoffs history happened last year, when Kent Prather beat Lentz to the checker by just 0.023 of a second. In two years, Lentz has missed winning an SCCA National Championship by a total time of 0.03sec after 105 miles of racing….
Next year, the Runoffs move to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, further shaking up the already unpredictable results. The Corkscrew will replace The Kink as the corner to watch, and the stories will be different to a point. What remains the same is the drama created as the best amateur racers in North America come together to crown a new set of champions.