Lightning Strikes at East & Midwest Regional
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
Brand-new New Jersey Motorsports Park has two tracks, Thunderbolt and Lightning, and Skip Barber Racing was on both of them. Thunderbolt was hosting the Grand-Am Rolex weekend, where the BFGoodrich/Skip Barber National Presented by Mazda was one of the support series. Lightning was the scene for the East and Midwest Regional Series. Other than the facility needing time for grass to grow, and perhaps some reconfiguring of a couple of track-out curbs, the place was great. Lightning is 1.9 miles, with an attention-grabbing turn 1 (an uncommon fast, trailbraking uphill righthander that falls away at the exit), a whoop-de-doo, right-hand turn five and then the track’s signature corner, a banked right-hand caroussel that flings you out to the front straight. The Regional races were terrific, including two races that ended in dead heats – and that’s never happened in more than 33 years of Race Series competition…
Results, time sheets and qualifying are here . [Click the line that reads, ”New Jersey Regional Race Weekend 8/29/08”]
This group had three of the top four in the Eastern Region points standings: Court Vernon, Corey Lewis and Julien Gerbi. Lewis was on pole and kept the lead, but right on his tail were Vernon and Gerbi. Just before halfway, Vernon made his move on Lewis by taking advantage of lapped traffic and held Lewis off, finishing about a half-second up at the line, with Gerbi third. Brian Skinner ran P4 flag to flag, with John Peterson fifth. Also on the lead lap was Deyne Bentt. Seventh, eighth and ninth were Carl Hober, Gary Vizioli and Art Ringel.
Wow, talk about patience… Lewis took the lead at the start but on lap two, Hober went off in Ti and we needed to go full course yellow for laps three, four and five. Green to begin lap six, Vernon stalked Lewis lap after lap. On the last lap, as the leaders came up on traffic, Vernon got around Lewis for the win, a scant .065 ahead. Gerbi, Bentt and Peterson rounded out the top five.
This one had some great action involving Roberto Dalton, Al Carter, Brian Skinner, Dennis Trebing and Brent Milner. Side by side, two-offs, three wide in some corners, it was fun to watch. Last lap, it’s a drag race out of T10 between Dalton and Carter. Who’s going to nip who?! Absolutely, perfectly side by side they crossed the line… dead heat! Yep, out to three decimal places, Carter and Dalton tied. Great stuff! Third was Trebing, trailed by Brian Skinner and Milner. Julian Albarracin, Luca Orlandi, Andrew Chinnici, Bill Skinner and David Moore rounded out the top 10.
Is this really possible? For the second day in a row, Group 2’s race finished in another dead heat, again between Dalton and Carter. If you tried to make this stuff up, of course no one would believe you… Third again was Trebing, then Milner and Chinnici. Albarracin and Guiseppe Cipriani were next, with Orlandi eighth, the last on the lead lap. Moore, Ardee Toppe and Robert Carlson rounded out the field.
Court Vernon and Freddy Zebede put on a show trading places for the lead while fourth, fifth and sixth were heavily fought over all race long. Meanwhile, P3 Thiago Calvet was pretty much alone. At the checker, Vernon was up about a second on Zebede. Julian Albarracin won the battle for fourth over Al Carter and Michael Melvin (Luca Orlandi got a 10-second penalty for an improper four-off check). Giuseppe Cipriani was seventh, followed by Orlandi, Jim Norman and Felix Serralles.
Vernon more or less walked this one, leading every lap and finishing 10 seconds in front of second-place Carter. Orlandi had all he could handle from Albarracin and Zebede, those three crossing the finish line under a blanket, with Serrallles in sixth just a tick behind. Calvet crossed the line in seventh but he had failed to pit for a four-off check and was DQ’d, so Cipriani got the spot, followed by Melvin, Norman and Tom Ministri.
Phil Hill Memorial
Phil Hill’s passing was met with industry sadness. One of the great American competitors and the U.S.’s first F1 champion, he will be greatly missed. A friend of the company, his son Derek was the 1997 Barber Pro Series champion… Okay, for this race, ”last” means ”first,” so Rick Roso won, leaving Court Vernon, Felix Serralles and Dennis Trebing out in the cold….
… are the stand-alone season finales for the East and Midwest. The Eastern drivers wrap up September 12-13 at Lime Rock (using the two new corner complexes at the Uphill and West Bend!), while the Midwest troupe ends the year at Road America September 27-28. At the same Road America weekend is the finale of the inaugural Skip Barber MAZDASPEED ChallengeOne week after that, the Skip Barber National finale is at VIR, where four drivers are within 9 points of each other to win the championship and its $350,000 Star Mazda prize.
By now, most of you have heard that the success this summer of the Skip Barber MAZDASPEED Challenge series in the MX-5 Miatas allowed us to start Southern Series and Western Series versions. MAZDASPEED South opens October 25-26, at a perfect track for the Miatas, Carolina Motorsports Park (in S.C., about an hour south of Charlotte, N.C.). The Western Championship debuts November 1-2 at Laguna Seca. There are discounts available for both…