Road Atlanta Race Weekend: F2000 & MX-5s
Tuesday, November 18, 2008 The 2008-2009 F2000 and MX-5 Miata MAZDASPEED Challenge Southern Series were at Road Atlanta, for rounds three and four. There were only two full course yellows – both in the same race – and as usual, the track and the drivers lent themselves to some darn good racing. Congrats to Mike Dorrbecker, getting his first Series win…
Here’s what Race Series first-timer Ward Herst told us after the Road Atlanta weekend… ”When I race my own GTU Mazda RX-7, it generally requires about 3 to 4 hours of attention each night (change springs, check toe, change fluids, work on brakes, etc.), so I rarely have time for dinner. My wife and kids generally don’t attend the racing events because they know they won’t see me much during the weekend. But with all of the support at the Skip Barber event, I was able to spend time with my family — and that’s priceless.”
Results, time sheets and qualifying are here.
[Click the line that reads, ”Southern & MAZDASPEED RW at Road Atlanta 11-11-2008”]
The first half of this race was a terrific battle between Dennis Trebing, Nick Andries and Andrew Chinnici, with the lead often changing more than once per lap, but each time at the stripe Trebing was P1. On lap six, Andries made a move on Trebing in Turn 10 that stuck – despite a monster slide in 11 – and crossed the line the leader. Heading toward the backside, Andries actually stretched out a four car-length lead… but he got it wrong in T7 and fell back to third place, Trebing leading again, with Chinnici P3. Chinnici wanted to rock and so went under Trebing in One. But with too much speed as he dropped two, then spun four-off (Chinnici would pit on lap nine and finish fourth). It all went to hell in a handbasket on lap 10, when, with the leaders nose to tail, Andries spun in the Esses and Trebing tagged him but good. trebing parked it, Andries continued in third place and Chris Oliver, who had been calmly watching the up-front battle from fourth place the entire race, took over the lead, with John Potter in second. Andries crossed the line third but his failure-to-pit penalty got him classified fifth. The drive of the race came from Dom Bastien, the 2008 Masters Division champion in the National. he started 12th but came home fourth at the stripe (and third officially, post-Andries penalty).
Trebing was starting on the sixth row but made quick work of it, up to fourth place by the second lap. Up front, Oliver led Andries but got it loose in T3 and lost a spot or two, Andries now leading. On lap three, the sprinting Trebing took the lead from Andries, which was the start of a furious battle between the two of them, plus Chinnici, for the next seven laps. By the time there were just two laps left, John Potter joined the club – and he leapt from fourth to first. But everybody popped on Potter down the back straight… On the last lap, coming out from under the bridge at 12, Trebing went inside Andries and nipped Nick at the line, with Potter third, Chinnici fourth and Oliver fifth. Good stuff…
The reigning MAZDASPEED Challenge champion, Justin Piscitell, led flag to flag, but he might have been challenged a bit more had not Angelo Dinkov made a dog’s breakfast of Turn One at the start. He fell off the road and when Dinkov rejoined after his stop, he was DFL. In the meantime, leader Piscitell was racking up some low to mid 1:47 lap times, as was second place Harrison Williams. Third place Ken Greenberg was in the mid- :48s. Everybody pretty much held station, but on lap 12 Greenberg put four tires in the dirt in Five. He had enough of a gap on fourth place to re-join in third, but a lap later, the recovering Dinkov – he set fastest lap during his charge – got around Greenberg for third. The rest of the field, Ward Herst, Pascal Couasnon, Stephen Nakamura and David Gordon, all finished on the lead lap.
Piscitell is a stalker! And I mean that in only the best of ways. Very smart, Piscitell led the first lap, got passed by Dinkov in Turn 10 on lap two – then clamped onto Dinkov’s bumper and stayed there the entire race. What, him worry? Nope. All Piscitell did was calmly wait until the last lap, where he not only got around Dinkov to take the win, but he set a track record for the Skip Barber MX-5, a 1:45.073, on that last lap. Smart, and fast. Williams put in a solid third place, finishing 8 seconds up on Greenberg. Nakamura, Herst, Gordon and Couasnon rounded out the field.
Ben Searcy romped and stomped his way to a flag to flag win from pole, but at least Dom Bastien was keeping him in sight. By the same token, Michael Dorrbecker was keeping Bastien honest, turning similar, if inconsistent, lap times. Meanwhile, having started on row six, Dr. Mike Edwards was making his way to the front, up to fifth place after one-third distance. It was pretty calm, actually, until the last lap: Dorrbecker got a run on Bastien and as they duked and diced their way around lapped traffic, the two cars touched. Searcy flies under the checker for his second Series win, followed by Dorrbecker. Bastien properly pits, then it’s Edwards, Robert LaRocca and David Libby. But of course Dorrbecker gets handed his time penalty (officially sixth on the sheet), so P2 went to Edwards, with LaRocca, Libby and Bastien next.
After the opening lap, Searcy clicked off a bunch of 1:38s while behind him Bastien, LaRocca, Dorrbecker and Edwards were putting in :39s and :40s. By lap six the order was Searcy, then a big gap to Dorrbecker, Edwards, LaRocca and Bastien. A lap later LaRocca and Bastien got together after Turn One, and LaRocca ended up parked and done at the apex of T3. Laps eight and nine were FCY for the towjob, so the re-start was on lap 10. But we only got about halfway around before another FCY was needed, to get the 65 car out of the gravel in T5. Green again to start lap 13, it remained Searcy, Dorrbecker and Edwards for the next two laps. With two to go, everything changed: Searcy threw it off in One, handing the lead to Dorrbecker he made no mistakes and got a well-desreved first-tim win – while Libby moved into second by getting around Edwards. Then on the last lap, Edwards turned his car around and Thomas Bonatz demoted Libby to take over P2. Jim Norman had a solid drive to fourth, while Michael Sauer went from 13th to fifth. Edwards salvaged sixth while Bastien, who did everything from jumping a re-start to speeding in pit lane, eventually paid all his dues and got a seventh out of it. Alex Kirby, A.J. Glassberg and Gary Gerrard rounded out the top 10.
The Southern Series – F2000 and MAZDASPEED Challenge – are on a break until January 24-25, when they’re both at Homestead-Miami Speedway. But the two Western championships head to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca December 13-14. That’s followed by the most important event for karters moving up to race cars, the 12th annual Skip Barber Karting Scholarship Shoot-out, December 27-29 at Sebring.