The May 20-22, 2022, SCCA Enduro National Tour at Nelson Ledges Road Course Presented by Summit Racing Equipment was a wild ride. This isn’t to say the double-header endurance racing weekend was brimming with entries – the car count was admittedly lower than some would have liked. But through the quality and dedication of the drivers, crew, and workers over the course of three days, two races, and roughly 16 hours of on-track competition, the very first SCCA Enduro National Tour was a sight to behold.
The first eight-hour race of the weekend brought excitement, thrills, and a heck of a lot of drama, with one team being forced to embark on a four-hour round trip to retrieve a backup car before Saturday’s race even began. Then, as Saturday’s inaugural SCCA Enduro race entered its final hour of competition, the battle for the overall race win was arguably decided by a lightning strike, with the race being called roughly 30 minutes early for safety reasons.
As the field lined up on Sunday, May 22, for its second eight-hour battle of the weekend, Team Nichols Racing’s E1 Ford Mustang sat in P1 overall, and the target on its back was unmistakable. The battle between that team and the E2-class Junk Player Special III Porsche 944 was not destined to repeat, though, as the Porsche failed to take the green. Team DDR was the one to beat in E3 following that team’s Saturday win, while Grass Paddock Motorsports was the lone E4 entry in the backup Mini Cooper that had done them well the day before.
Most notably in the field, the Mike Lally team had returned with a different car, eschewing their EX-class Corvette for an E2-class BMW E46 M3 – a speedy one at that.
The green flies again!
Two-and-a-half hours into the day’s eight-hour race, Team Nichols Racing had a firm hold on the overall lead. Well, almost. Some 106 laps in, the only other car on the lead lap was the Mike Lally team in their new E2 entry, although even they were perilously close to falling a lap behind. Meanwhile, Team Conover Motorsports – which retired early from Saturday’s race, likely a byproduct of a Friday incident that left them scrambling for parts – was on a tear, further capitalizing from a belt failure that cost Saturday’s E3 class winner Team DDR a spin followed by 15 minutes in the pits to replace the part.
Up front, Team Nichols Racing’s grip on the overall lead was tenuous, with the Mike Lally E2 BMW grabbing the overall lead with less than 170 laps on the clock. By the five-hour mark, Team Tweed Motorsport in an E2 1998 Porsche Boxster slotted into second overall in pursuit of the Mike Lally BMW.
Six hours into the eight-hour race, the Mike Lally E2 BMW was pumping out laps dramatically faster than the Team Tweed Motorsport E2 Porsche, but fuel economy was now in question. “The race is between the top two E2 cars, making speed and distance in totally different ways,” Jon Krolewicz, SCCA’s Event Lead for the Enduro National Tour, noted during the race. “The Porsche should be able to finish the race without a pitstop; the BMW will need at least one.”
It was a nail-biter, but Mike Lally’s strategy proved to be the winning one, having the Porsche in a seven-lap deficit with one hour to go. By the checker, that gap had ballooned to 11 laps.
In E3, Team DDR was pushing hard, but come lap 241, bad luck bit once more as their VW began shedding wheel studs, sidelining the Rabbit. Sunday’s E3 race belonged to Team Conover Motorsports.
Sunday race winners
(Class: Team name, car, laps)
E1: Team Nichols Racing, 2003 Ford Mustang, 329 laps
E2: Mike Lally, BMW M3; 341 laps
E3: Team Conover Motorsports, 2008 Volkswagen Rabbit, 320 laps
E4: Grass Paddock Motorsports, 2010 Mini Cooper, 262 laps
Beyond the drivers, teams, and volunteers who were determined to participate in the inaugural SCCA Enduro National Tour, the weekend was a success thanks to the support of Summit Racing Equipment, Hawk Performance, Hankook Tire, Continental Tire, Dino Luzzi, and NEOhio Region.
But wait, there’s more
The show doesn’t end at Nelson Ledges. This year will see a total of four SCCA Enduro National Tour weekends, with the second coming Aug. 6-7 at VIRginia International Raceway in Alton, VA. If the Nelson Ledges circuit offers an old-school racing vibe, VIR is the equivalent of competing in a national park.
The 2022 SCCA Enduro National Tour season concludes with a Nov. 19-20 stop on the West Coast at Buttonwillow Raceway Park in Buttonwillow, CA, followed by a weekend at MSR Houston in Angleton, TX, on Dec. 10-11. The complete schedule can be found here, with registration opening for the VIR SCCA Enduro in the coming weeks.