Out West: Rounds 5 & 6
Wednesday, January 24, 2007
It was chilly but sunny at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for rounds five and six of the 2006-2007 Skip Barber Western Series. The cool weather meant the track record was broken – twice. Thanks to the Skippy mechanics for a job well done…
Here are the race group re-caps…
John Thompson took this 16-lapper by the horns, setting fastest race lap, leading every lap and winning by 11 seconds. Gary Williams, Jr., started third, finished lap one in fourth then hounded Jay Esterer for a couple of laps before getting around him. Fourth place was taken by Ian Black. Black started on the fourth row and then began a methodical march to the front. He put Ed Nigro behind him on lap four then stayed behind Harsha Sen for the next 10 laps. With three laps to go, Black put Sen back a place to take over fifth then harried Sarena Traver, who succumbed on lap 15. So it finished Thompson, Williams, Esterer, Black and Traver, followed by Sen, Nigro, Peter Muravez, Craig McIntyre and Frank Pray.
Again Thompson led early, running in front of Esterer and Sarena. But it would end in tears for Thompson on lap five, when grabbed too much of the Turn Six apex curbing and broke the suspension. Two laps of FCY followed, so the green to start lap seven saw Esterer, Sarena and Williams your top three. Two laps later, Williams got around Sarena. Williams immediately went after Esterer and got by him for the lead – and stayed there the rest of the way while Sarena and Williams duked it out for three laps. On the next to last lap, Black (again smartly playing a waiting game, running fourth for most of the race) pounced on Esterer to take, and hold, P3. So the checkers waved for winner Williams, Sarena and Black, with Esterer fourth and Sen a quiet fifth.
‘‘Former’’ Midwest star Revere Greist, who now is in grad school in California, showed what he can do on Laguna’s layout and led flag to flag. But this one had dicing up and down the field, with great drives from Jeff Kaiser, Quentin Wahl, Tim Traver, Alan Baia and Jessica Brunelli. (Best of the bunch, however, was Tom Roberts: He set fastest race lap as he sliced his way up the field from ninth on the grid and finished less than a second and a half behind Greist.) But things started to go to hell in a handbasket for the frontrunners. First, Traver had light contact on lap 10, so by having to pit he went from third to eighth. Then Brunelli had to go four-off to avoid on lap 14. Then, on the last lap, Wahl and Traver got mixed up in the Corkscrew and Kaiser had to go off the road to miss the mayhem. Everybody but Wahl continued but no one stopped in pit lane. Behind winner Greist and P2 Roberts, the way the rest of them crossed the line was Baia, Brunelli, Max Hyatt, Kaiser, Traver, Dom Bastien and Gary Manheimer. But Baia got his 20 seconds for contact at the start, Brunelli got hers for the four-off and Traver had to pay the price for his contact with “the Wahl.” With the math all done, Hyatt was third, Baia fourth and Bastien fifth. Rounding out the field were Brunelli, Kaiser, Manheimer and Traver.
Alexander Rossi, the youngest-ever champion of the Western Series who went on to star in the 2006 National and is now with Richie Hearn’s FBMW team, had set the SBF2000 lap record in January, 2006. His 1:40.013 is a record no more as not one, not two, but three drivers got into the :39s in this race. A fourth driver, Baia, missed breaking Rossi’s record by .002 of a second. In fact, eight of the 10 drivers in this race ran 1:40s or better! From the git-go it was a dice between Roberts and Greist, with Roberts coming out on top as he led the whole race, Greist less than a second behind at the checker. It was Tim Traver who lit the track on fire. He had started seventh but lost two spots on the first lap. No matter. He went from ninth to eight on lap two, eighth to sixth on lap three, up to fifth the next time around, took over fourth on lap five then started throwing down some laps – including a new record of 1:39.545 on lap 10 (a record that lasted only a few hours; we’ll get to that…). With four laps to go Traver took it to Baia for P3. Baia kept fourth, Max Hyatt fifth, followed by Gary Manheimer, Quentin Wahl (who had quickly reached P5 but had to pit due to contact he made on the pace lap), Dom Bastien, Jeff Kaiser (he, too, had scrambled into the top five before getting it wrong in Turn Six).
This was a good ‘un, with polesitter Jimmy Moon, Juan Pablo Glover Contreras (JPGC hence forth), Michael Ramies and Gary Williams, Jr., going at it for most of the race. By the time lap 11 of the scheduled 15 were in the books, Moon was leading over JPGC, Ramies was third, Williams fourth and Gray Gregory fifth. But then everybody who was up front started falling off the road – except for JPGC! First, Moon lost the handle in Turn Two. That put JPGC in the lead, Ramies second and Williams P3. But on the last lap Williams threw third away with an off in Six. So the end result was a Juan Pablo Glover Contreras win, Ramies second and Gregory third, with Moon and Williams rounding out the top five.
Here was another dandy of a race. Poleman JPGC lost the lead at the start to Ramies and within another lap, Moon locked onto Ramies after getting around Contreras. Those three were juking and jiving for five laps or so until Moon got around Ramies for the lead. But that lasted all of one lap, as Moon again went agricultural in Turn Two, including getting the car stuck in the gravel. Under FCY for two laps, the order was Ramies, JPGC, Greco, Williams and Carlos Medina. Green for the start of lap 11, Greco lost P3 to Williams on lap 12 – but Greco took it right back a lap later. But on the next lap, everything changed: Ramies got it wrong in the Corkscrew and then he and Gregory, running fifth at the time, made contact. Now we had JPGC in the lead – for good – with Williams in second place, also for good. Third was Greco, but he had Medina and Gregory on his tail. On the next to last lap, Greco and Gregory got into each other down in Two and they were done for the day. That gave Medina the final podium, with Nick Smith and Walter Kuhn rounding out the top five.
Benny Parsons Memorial
Bye, Benny, see you at the great hotdog stand in the sky… Championship drivers Revere Greist and Tim Traver had a grand old time dicing for the lead, with Jeff Kaiser not too far back, while Sportsmen Jimmy Moon, Alan Baia and Jimmy Greco had an equally fun time angling for class honors. And remember how Traver had broken Alexander Rossi’s lap record in his G2R2 race? Well, instructor Mikel Miller was in the zone, too, and on lap nine he not only broke Traver’s still warm record, but came within a gnat’s eyelash of getting into the :38s! For the record, the lap to beat at Laguna now is a 1:37.007.
Heads-up, everyone: Very cool track for the next Western Series races! Thunderhill Raceway Park is February 9-11, for rounds 7 & 8. Wide, fast, acres of run-off and great at-track facilities make this a must-do. We haven’t raced at Thunderhill since the mid-90s and the SCCA has been making it even better ever since. Click here for a track map and here for an on-board video lap.
Rounds 7 & 8 of the Southern Series is February 16-18 at Sebring, which always provides fun racing. One more thing… it’s not too late to sign up for the Skip Barber National opener at the Sebring 12-Hour, March 14-16. This year, the National has a Masters category for competitors over the age of 40. And the awards and prizes have been greatly improved. Click here for more details