Masters National at VIR
Wednesday, May 10, 2006 Here’s the link for all the photos (Regional and Masters National) from VIR
Believe or not, the Masters National had never visited VIR’s full course layout. In 2002, the series ran one of the short courses – Roland Isra won one race, Chris Willcox the other – but this year was the first time for the Masters on the ”proper” VIR track.
Coming into the weekend, Willcox had 34-point lead over John Mayes, with Dick Lippert in third just two more points back. And Mayes took both poles at VIR…
In qualifying, Mayes’ 2:11.059 edged Peter Ludwig’s 2:11.377, with Lippert and Jimmy Locke on the second row. Back in row three it was Jeff Kaiser alongside Willcox.
Green flag on this 11-lapper and bada-bing, Mayes’ pole gets wasted when he, Mike Edwards, Lippert and Willcox have a scha-mozzle in T1. Locke led briefly, but Ludwig got around him, then Kaiser four-offed in Turn 10. So with a busy lap one in the books, your leader was Ludwig, Locke second, Bill Hammer (from 10th) P3, Michael Auriemma fourth from eighth and Quentin Wahl (started 11th) in fifth. By lap two Ludwig had already fashioned a big lead, but P3 was under dispute as a rocketing Chris Oliver swung himself past Hammer on lap three. One lap later Oliver took over second place from Locke.
All this dicing for second on back let Ludwig stretch his lead. On lap seven Oliver made a mistake in Turn Three, so the battle for the remaining podiums was between Locke, Willcox and Wahl. Or so we thought. Remember Mayes? Well, if the other drivers had written him off it was their mistake, because he was totally on fire. From lap three, when he was 14th, to lap nine, he picked off a gazillion cars and was up to fourth. Ludwig had no idea what was going on behind him and thinks the race is totally in the bag; at racing speed he’s got a hand in the air, showing the number 1.
On the second to last lap, Mayes grabs third from Locke. Now it’s the last lap and Mayes sets his eyes not just on P2 – which he takes away from Willcox in T14 – and actually begins to run up on Ludwig! But there wasn’t quite enough time and he finishes second, just one second behind. Willcox easily kept third from Locke while Wahl got fifth. Oh, and I’ll give you one guess as to who set fastest race lap. Yes, he had a strong car but still, Mayes’ 2:08.552 was a second and a half better than next-best Willcox’s 2:10.029.
Chris Willcox (c.) extended his points lead, Peter Ludwig (l.) jumped from eighth to third while Dr. Mike Edwards (r.) stays sixth, neck-and-neck with Dick Lippert and Jimmy Locke. Quentin Wahl is still fourth overall.
‘‘Maisy’’ again was good in qualifying and pipped Willcox by a hair for the pole, with Ludwig and Hammer next, then Kaiser and Locke.
Okay, before we begin, let’s just do a quick roll call of who spun and/or four-offed… Wahl. Lippert. Wahl again. Mayes. Um, Wahl. Oliver. Distaulo. Mayes. Distaulo (he would eventually MDNF). Peter Tucker. Mayes. Doug ‘‘Video Killed the Racing Star’’ Harrison. Locke. Ludwig. Mayes.
Jeez, that means, shockingly, the guy that won the race never fell off the road! Imagine that… This was actually a really good battle between Ludwig and Willcox for the first eight laps, then Edwards joined the party and made it even better. For the last three. Backing up just a bit, polesitter Mayes fell to third on the first lap, Ludwig and Willcox the leaders. By lap four, not only had Willcox taken the point from Ludwig, but Mayes went off-roading in One, so P3 was had by Kaiser. From laps four to eight, Ludwig and Willcox gapped the field as Kaiser, Auriemma and eventually Edwards fought for the scraps.
On lap nine, your leader was Willcox. On lap 10 your leader was Ludwig. On lap 11, the last, your leader was … Edwards! Or at least for the moment, in Turn One. By the time they came ripping down to 17, Ludwig was in front. But he skittered i9nto the grass! Willcox wins, Ludwig second, Edwards third, followed by Auriemma and Harrison. Mayes? He couldn’t really recover from his lap four excursion and finished a dismal 14th.
Well, that was good stuff! Clearly, Virginia International Raceway lends itself to stirring up the competitive juices of the Masters National guys. Because Ludwig hadn’t been able to make it the Sebring openers in February, his Saturday win in effect took points ‘’away’’ from Mayes, Lippert and Wahl in their efforts to gain on Willcox. Of course, Willcox did himself a big favor with a win and a third, so his points lead went from 34 to 48 over Mayes. Ludwig’s stellar weekend now has him third in points (from eighth), while Wahl remains in fourth. On the other hand, Lippert’s less-than-stellar VIR results – he had to retire after seven laps in race one (officially 14th) and worked himself from the back on Sunday to get an eighth – sees him in a log-jammed fifth in points, albeit just 12 behind P2 Mayes.
Up next is a track similar to VIR in ambiance and passing opportunities: Watkins Glen International, May 27-28. Willcox handily won twice there last year, but chances are it won’t be quite as easy this time…