PHOTO: Michael Lewis, in the No. 32 Goodyear Mazda RX-7, took the GT-3 class win Saturday during the Hoosier Super Tour’s stop at Buttonwillow Raceway Park in California.
Hoosier Racing Tire SCCA Super Tour competition got rolling Saturday on a weekend hosted by Cal Club at Buttonwillow Raceway Park in California. The day opened with a second round of qualifying followed by 25-minute timed races on the 2.95-mile circuit being run counterclockwise this year.
2020 GT-3 Challenge Begins: This year’s GT-3 Challenge presented by MPI opened this weekend as part of the Buttonwillow Super Tour event, and the series’ first race took place Saturday in dry conditions.
Michael Lewis, in the No. 32 Goodyear Mazda RX-7, started on pole and led every lap on his way to victory. Behind him, however, things got interesting: Taz Harvey’s Mazda RX-7 held down second for most of the race. But Jose Rodriguez, also in a Mazda RX-7, hounded Harvey almost the entire time, grabbing second with only a couple of laps to go. Harvey brought his car home in third to round out the podium.
The GT-3 Challenge is a series aimed at boosting participation in the GT-3 class and supported by Mazda, Max Papis Innovations, Penske Racing Shocks, AiM Sports and Hoosier Racing Tire, with new partners Goodyear Tire, Carbotech Performance Brakes and Bell Racing Helmets jumping aboard this year. There are five scheduled GT-3 Challenge rounds in 2020, the others taking place at Super Tour events at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta and Watkins Glen International, as well as Road America in July, and finally SCCA’s National Championship Runoffs in October.
Then Came the Rain: Saturday’s second race group consisted of fast, open-cockpit formula and prototype cars. And just as they pulled off grid for their pace lap, a light rain began to fall on the circuit. On slick tires, these cars don’t take kindly to wet surfaces. And on the opening lap in Turn 1, they showed it as a bunch of cars got squirrely, sliding sideways and collecting other cars. Those who emerged victorious after 25 minutes had one heck of a story to tell.
“There was a big melee at the exit of Turn 1. I’m not sure who was even involved in it, but cars were going everywhere,” said Bill Weaver, who drove his No. 67 James G. Parker Insurance Associates Star Formula Mazda to victory in the Formula X class. “I hit somebody. The front of my car launched up into the air, probably about three feet into the air. But it came down and the wheels were still on, so I just kept driving it. No front wing and a wet track is exciting to say the least. But we got it done, finished the race and had a great time.”
Aaron Bailey, who drove his No. 21 BRE / HRX USA / Goodyear / G-LOC Brakes Stohr WF1 to a Prototype 1 win in the same race, also had a tale to tell: “That’s the craziest race I’ve been in for a long time,” Bailey said. “I got hit on the start, but another car collected me and actually saved me from spinning completely. It started getting wetter and wetter, slicker and slicker, and I just tried to keep it together as much as I could and drive smooth.”
Sweep Ceased: Over the last two years, Mike Miserendino has claimed all four Hoosier Super Tour Spec Racer Ford Gen3 races at Buttonwillow Raceway Park. On Saturday, Miserendino looked set to do it again as he came to the white flag with the lead over TJ Acker. But, on the back half of the last lap, the top-two drivers encountered traffic and Acker, driving the No. 62 MBI Racing / Cindescency racecar, ended up crossing the finish line first.
“We had a couple of lapped cars to deal with, and I thought that would give Mike the tow to keep out in front of me,” said Acker, who also took a win Saturday in Formula Enterprises 2 driving the No. 62 Bulldog Motorsports Formula Enterprises/Mazda car. “But I got a good run and I think we were three-wide coming off the back straight. I had the inside and had the position getting up the hill … and got the lead.”
Doubles on the Day: Winning one Hoosier Super Tour event is pretty special. Winning two Super Tour races on the same day, that’s even more special. Besides Acker, two other drivers accomplished that feat on Saturday. One was Christopher Qualls, who drove his Ford Mustang to victory in both Touring 2 and American Sedan. Michael Lewis achieved the same by driving his No. 12 Goodyear Jaguar XKR to victory in GT-1 after claiming the GT-3 win earlier in the day.
Powers On: Leading Spec Miata to the start line Saturday was Dakota Dickerson, a former F4 U.S. and the reigning F3 Americas champion. But early on up front it was Steven Powers, Justin Casey, Tristan Littlehale and Nick Leverone. Several of those drivers took a turn at the front or applied copious amounts of pressure to whomever was leading.
On the last lap, Leverone made an amazing run down the backstretch and tried to challenge Powers, who was leading. But it wasn’t quite enough, and Powers pulled away to victory in his No. 145 Mazda Miata. Behind Powers, Leverone was passed by Casey, Littlehale and Dickerson who claimed second, third and fourth.
Party Time: As usual, Saturday came to a close with volunteers, competitors, crews and families gathering in the large, covered picnic area beneath the Timing/Scoring tower for an all-participant party where fantastic food was shared along with some great stories.
Racing continues on Sunday, beginning at 8:40 a.m. PT, with 17-lap (or 35-minute) races. Live timing, results, steaming audio and static cameras are available at www.scca.com/live.
Saturday Winners: Below are provisional race results from Saturday’s Hoosier SCCA Super Tour at Buttonwillow Raceway Park with Class: Name, Hometown, Region and Car.
American Sedan: Christopher Qualls; W. Los Angeles, CA; Cal Club; Ford Mustang
B-Spec: Chris Taylor; Elroy, TX; Lone Star Region; Mazda 2
E Production: Aaron Downey; Rossmoor, CA; San Francisco Region; Mazda RX-3
F Production: Ethan Shippert; Petaluma, CA; Cal Club; Lotus 7
H Production: Ben Valentine; Fullerton, CA; Cal Club; MG Midget
Formula Atlantic: Howard Sklar; Sonoma, CA; Colorado Region; Ligier F3
Formula Continental: Daniel Swanbeck; San Jose, CA; San Francisco Region; Van Diemen RF 01
Formula Enterprises 2: TJ Acker; Saugus, CA; Cal Club; Formula Enterprises/Mazda
Formula F: Chuck Horn; Los Gatos, CA; San Francisco Region; Swift DB6
Formula Vee: Dennis Andrade; Silverlake, WA; Northwest Region; Vortech Caracal
Formula X: William Weaver; Fresno, CA; San Francisco Region; Star Formula Mazda
GT-1: Michael Lewis; Poway, CA; San Diego Region; Jaguar XKR
GT-2: Darren Dilley; Hillsboro, OR; Oregon Region; Mazda RX-7
GT-3: Michael Lewis; Poway, CA; San Diego Region; Mazda RX-7
GT-Lite: Troy Ermish; Tracy, CA; San Francisco Region; Datsun 510
Prototype 1: Aaron Bailey; Shasta Lake, CA; San Francisco Region; Stohr WF1
Prototype 2: Joe Moran; Laguna Hills, CA; Cal Club; Ford Carbir CS2
Spec Miata: Steven Powers; Phoenix, AZ; Arizona Region; Mazda Miata
Spec Racer Ford 3: TJ Acker; Saugus, CA; Cal Club; SRF3
Super Touring Lite: Nathan Pope; Fremont, CA; San Francisco Region; Honda Prelude
Super Touring Under: Carl Young; Salinas, CA; San Francisco Region; Honda CRX
Touring 1: Sean Whitwood; Norco, CA; Cal Club; Corvette Z06
Touring 2: Christopher Qualls; W. Los Angeles, CA; Cal Club; Ford Mustang
Touring 4: Izzy Sanchez; San Mateo, CA; San Francisco Region; Toyota FRS