Craig Berry topped 71 Spec Miatas for a season opening win.
(Mark Weber photo)
SCCA Club Racers officially rang in the new year with checkered flags today at the BFGoodrich Tires SCCA Sebring Super Tour at Sebring International Raceway, Round One of the Eastern Conference Majors Tour.
Saturday featured seven groups of 30-minute sprint races, covering all 27 SCCA National Championship Runoffs-eligible classes.
The day opened with defending E Production National Champion Greg Ira running flag to flag to carry his momentum into the new season. Ira’s No. 2 Starbrite Startron Datsun 240Z was chased by Kip Vansteenburg’s No. 111 German Excellence Porsche 944 through the middle stages of the race. Vansteenburg had a mechanical issue that forced him to the rear of the field to start the race, but closed to just over five seconds with two laps to go. The mechanical gremlins raised their ugly head again for Vansteenburg on the final lap, however, and Ira cruised to the win.
In the same group, B-Spec battle started the 2014 season in spectacular fashion. By the midpoint, the top four had spread into two groups the first holding polesitter Ernie Francis, Jr., in the No. 98 Breathless Performance Mazda2 and the No. 30 Indian Summer Racing/SOLID Mini Cooper of Travis Washay, the second a battle between the elder Ernie Francis’ No. 21 Breathless Performance Mazda2 and the No. 07 Dynasty Racing/HPD/Hoosier Honda Fit of Chi Ho. Washay, who started five spots on the grid behind the younger Francis but caught up quickly, made his first serious move into turn one at the start of the penultimate lap. Francis stayed in front, but Washay made the pass for the lead on the final lap and grabbed the checkered flag. Ho and Francis, Sr. battled for the final podium spot in their race, with Ho earning the position.
While Group One had a full course caution on the opening lap and ran clean the rest of the way, Group Two’s poorly timed caution periods kept the race from truly developing a rhythm. The carnage began on the pace lap, when the No. 89 Formula Enterprises machine of James Hanrahan backed into the tire barriers at Turn 8. The race started the clock and ran three laps under yellow.
Sedat Yelkin, the Formula Atlantic defending champion, took off from pole in his No. 75 Everclear Swift 014/Toyota once the green flag flew. Deeper in the field, Brandon Kennedy’s No. 14 Osinga Construction Inc./Hage Tool Formula Enterprises machine and the No. 73 Performance MotorCars of Charlotte/Syvel Images/Dangerous Cargo machine of Paul Schneider had begun to battle for the lead.
Yelkin’s lead and the Formula Enterprises battle evaporated on lap seven with 12 minutes remaining when Ty Young’s Formula Mazda got into the barriers in turn one. Yelkin pulled out immediately on the restart with less than five minutes remaining, but the break also allowed Kennedy to get away from Schneider for the class win.
JR Osborne set a new track record on his way to the Formula 1000 win, while Jacek Mucha and Richard Colburn earned the first-ever wins in the Club’s new Prototype 1 and Prototype 2 classes.
Craig Berry led 71 Spec Miatas to the checkered flag, then dared the entire field to keep pace with him his No. 20 Granite Remnant Mazda Miata at the front of the field.
Berry started in front with a familiar dance partner, the No. 2 East Street Racing Miata of Jim Drago. By lap five, Drago had been shuffled back, and the No. 57 Momo/Apex Alignment Miata of Alex Bolanos and the No. 8 Cahall/Driver Coaching/Hawk Miata of Todd Lamb were challenging for the lead. Lamb’s brake lights came on quickly just past the start/finish line as his day essentially ended, leaving Bolanos as the lone true contender with Berry.
Bolanos moved in front on lap seven, with 12 minutes to go in the race. Berry stayed in second until lap 10, when the eventual winner regained the lead for good.
The two were close again at the mid-point of the final corner, but Berry’s run through the exit to the checkered flag was enough to win. Selin Rollin’s No. 87 Apex Alignment Mazda Miata held off Justin Hille’s No. 48 Hilltrux Tank Lines Miata for third place in a tooth and nail battle of their own.
If Berry’s Spec Miata strategy was to get out front and challenge the field, Cliff White showed the 65-car Spec Racer Ford contingent exactly how that was done. White’s No. 58 Cottage Senior Living SRF was more than a second ahead on the opening lap, and that lead continued to stretch each and every lap to a 16.334-second margin of victory at the finish.
Behind White, however, was a three car battle for the final two podium positions. Andrew Charbonneau’s No. 67 Autotechnik/BFGoodrich Tires SRF, Richie Stanley’s No. 06 Fitbottle.com SRF, and Chad Galloway’s No. 05 PM Racing SRF all took a turn in the second position in a battle that wasn’t decided until the final corner. Stanley closed to Charbonneau in turn 17, but couldn’t make the exit out and fell to fourth at the finish, with Charbonneau holding on to second and Galloway third.
Any work that the big bore group had done for the first 29 minutes of the race was erased when a full course caution came out late for the crashed Touring 1 Chevrolet Camaro of Fernando Seferlis, leaving the field with just one tense lap of green prior to the checkered flag.
Simon Gregg had a huge lead in his GT-1 No. 59 Gregg Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette, but got a challenge on the final restart in the drag race to turn one from Ken Bupp. Gregg held his lead, as did Andrew Longe’s No. 02 Trianon/Fall-Line Porsche 996 in Touring 2.
In GT-3, Chad Bacon’s No. 18 CB Motorsports Toyota Celica and Bill McGavic’s No. 69 No Mo Money Race Engineering Mazda RX-7 went back and forth early, with McGavic holding the lead on the opening laps and Bacon sneaking by early. Making the restart from the front gave Bacon just enough of an advantage to top McGavic by 0.15 second.
Two drivers took advantage of the one lap shootout to move to the top step of the podium. Randy Kinsland got a run out of turn 16 and into turn 17 in his No. 4 Chevrolet Corvette to take the GT-2 win over Phil Lasco’s No. 14 Lasco Ford Panoz GTS after Lasco had led the entire race, and Jim Taggart led all of the Touring 1 race in his No. 61 Taggart Autosport Lotus Evora GT4 until after the restart. On that final lap, Francis, Jr. got his win, taking the checkers in the No. 98 Breathless Performance Chevrolet Camaro.
Track records were the name of the game in Group Six, as three of them fell while their pilots drove to runaway wins. Wayne Presley owns the new top mark in Touring 3 at Sebring, ripping his No. 03 VeryCoolParts.com Lotus Elise around the 3.740-mile circuit in 2:27.397. Jim Drago’s lap of 2:30.419 in the No. 2 East Street Racing Mazda Miata is the new mark to beat in Super Touring Lite, while defending National Champion Michael Scornavacchi reset the Touring 4 top spot with a 2:35.983 in the No. 25 Hoosier/Carbotech Ford Mustang.
The box score shows that Chuck Moran ended the day with an 11-second win in Formula Continental, but that doesn’t tell the entire story. Moran’s No. 45 Ski Motorsports Van Diemen RF99 fell behind Robert Allaer’s No. 52 LTD Motorsports Van Diemen RF00 on the opening lap, and then chased him to take a slight advantage on lap three. Allaer, giving chase, spun in Sebring’s difficult Turn 17 and fell behind, giving Moran the cushion he needed. The two ran nearly identical lap times the rest of the way, with Allaer going quicker at the end, but Moran didn’t throw away the early gap on his way to the checkers.
Formula 500 went back and forth all race, with Russell Strate, Jr, Chuck McAbee and Don Napier near each other for the full race. In the end, it was McAbee’s No. 16 Memyselfandi Motorsports QRE Invader moving around Strate’s No. 09 QRE/Hoosier Rocketech R2 on the final lap for the win.
Each of the seven race groups hosting the 27 Runoffs-eligible classes return to the track for Sunday’s races, beginning at 8:30 a.m. (EST). Sunday’s races are 15 laps or 40 minutes, followed by victory laps and podium ceremonies.
Live timing, public address audio, and lap notes are available on Sunday at SCCA.com/SCCALive. Results, grids and more information is available at SCCA.com/SebringMajors.
Provisional race winners for Saturday’s BFGoodrich Tires SCCA Sebring Super Tour at Sebring International Raceway. Drivers are listed by Class: name, hometown, and car.
American Sedan: Tom Ellis, Pompano Beach, Fla., Ford Mustang
B-Spec: Travis Washay, Wilford, Conn., Mini Cooper
Formula 500: Chuck McAbee, Sykesville, Md., QRE Invader
Formula 1000: J.R. Osbourne, Englewood, Colo., Citation F1000
Formula Atlantic: Sedat Yelkin, Canfield, Ohio, Swift 014/Toyota
Formula Continental: Chuck Moran, Oakton, Va., Van Dieman RF99/Ford
Formula Enterprises: Brandon Kennedy, Bear, Del., Formula Enterprises
Formula F: John Benson, Dade City, Fla., Swift DB3
Formula Mazda: Darryl Wills, Houston, Texas, Formula Mazda
Formula Vee: Stevan Davis, Danielsville, Ga., Racer’s Wedge/Volkswagen
E Production: Greg Ira, Plantation, Fla., Datsun 240Z
F Production: Ken Kannard, East Troy, Wis., Mazda Miata
H Production: Andrew Wright, Murfreesboro, Tenn., Triumph Spitfire
GT-1: Simon Gregg, Ponta Vedra, Fla., Chevrolet Corvette
GT-2: Randy Kinsland, Whittier, N.C., Chevrolet Corvette
GT-3: Chad Bacon, Kingsport, Tenn., Toyota Celica
GT-Lite: Peter Shawdowen, West Palm Beach, Fla., Honda CRX
Prototype 1: Jacek Mucha, Laval, Quebec, JMS 016 cp/Mazda
Prototype 2: Richard Colburn, Northbrook, Ill., Nostendos