SCCA National Championship Runoffs Wednesday notebook

Richard S. James

SCCA National Championship Runoffs Wednesday notebook

SCCA / SportsCar Magazine

SCCA National Championship Runoffs Wednesday notebook

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Two days of SCCA National Championship Runoffs qualifying are in the books, and drivers have one more chance to improve their times. The grid is set on each driver’s best time over the three days, and today’s breezy conditions have kept a lot of people from going faster. Those that think they can improve, and some who have yet to record a good time due to mechanical or other issues, have only Thursday left.

Chasing two medals with one car
One of the people who will need that third day is Michael Lewis. The nine-time National Champion skipped Tuesday’s sessions due to business commitments, and lost an engine in his GT-3 RX-7 on Wednesday. But he put in a top-five time in his GT-Lite RX-7 later in the day. Thing is, the GT-3 car and the GTL car are the same second-generation RX-7.

Lewis, who also races GT-1 with a Jaguar in which he’s won five titles, scored several GT-3 wins in the ’90s, and came back to the class a few years ago with a rented RX-7. Now he’s acquired the second-generation car, but also decided to race it in GTL as well.

“I really have to blame Joe Harlan for that,” Lewis laughs. “He’s a GTL guy from the Northwest, and he said, ‘Hey, a Mazda would probably do well at Road America.’ I said, would that be legal, could that be done without a lot of changes? We looked at the rules and we decided we could at least try it. We started out using the same engine, just changing a restrictor and a few other things. Once we got into it, we realized that same engine wasn’t going to work and we decided to try a 12A. Now it requires an engine change, an exhaust system change and it’s gotten out of hand.”

Lewis says a top-five finish is certainly achievable, and perhaps even a podium, but doesn’t expect to move up to the top step without some bad luck for his competitors. He hopes the larger wheel package he’s running may help him keep tires under the car when others start to fall off late in the race. But however he finishes, and despite the fact that the crew has to switch from the GT-3 13B rotary to the GTL 12A rotary and back, he’s glad he gave the class a try.

“I’m happy I’m doing GTL. It’s a cool class and a lot of nice guys. It was kind of an unknown coming here, especially with the 12A. It was kind of nice coming and not knowing how it’s going to work. We kind of knew, from looking at other cars and data, that the piston guys were going to be better on top speed, and they are. But it’s been fun.”

Third car’s a charm?
Joe Moser has been through a few cars in the last few years. After spending several years campaigning an E Production/Super Touring Under Honda Prelude, last year he tried out a Jesse Prather-built third-generation Mazda MX-5.

Joe Moser’s been through a few different cars before settling on his Super Touring Lite Honda CRX. Image by Richard S. James

“Within probably a minute and a half on course I figured out I probably went the wrong direction,” he laughs. “I finished out the season at the Runoffs last year in the MX-5 and immediately went to work on figuring out what ’s next, and jumped over to this CRX.”

It’s not that Moser is unfamiliar with rear-wheel-drive cars like the MX-5, but he’s been campaigning front-wheel drive cars for so long, he just feels better suited to it. He also feels it can be an advantage at some tracks. So he wanted to go back to front-wheel drive, he wanted to race a Honda, an he wanted it to be in a class he feels a FWD car can be competitive in.

“I sat back and tried to be objective about what I wanted to do. I wanted front-wheel drive. I wanted to race a Honda so I could continue to work with King Motorsports. And if you look at it, I think it’s been a long time since anyone’s been real competitive with front-wheel drive in E Prod. So I kind of felt like I was pushing a boulder uphill, and wanted to get to a class where I felt front-wheel drive was a little more of an advantage.”

So he went with a Super Touring Lite Honda CRX he bought from Sam Myers. Joe had pretty good success with the Prelude, winning a championship in STU and grabbing couple of silver medals in E Production, but he felt the CRX would be a good fit in STL. There’s also an emotional connection: He and his father, who passed away last December, raced CRXs together for a dozen years.

“So far so good,” Joe, who was picked by SportsCar magazine to win the class, said after the first round of qualifying. “We had the car out in testing, and it was a rocket. King Motorsports built a hell of a motor, so we’re feeling like this car is ready to go. We had some issues with the car in the first session, but still got the car on provisional pole, so we’re feeling good about that. And we think it’s got a little bit more.”

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