SBNC: Surprise Winners at Road America

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Sunday, July 03, 2005 ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – It was a topsy-turvy race weekend at Road America for rounds seven and eight of the Skip Barber National Championship Presented by RACER. Being a drafting track, keeping yourself in the lead pack gives you as good a chance as any to win. Two drivers — one who hadn’t yet shown front-running speed, and another for whom this was his first SBNC race — proved it. For points leader and three-time race winner Bonilla, who did not have one of his best weekends, that was a good thing, because that meant his primary antagonists in the championship battle didn’t take home any first place hardware, either.

In Saturday’s first race, at the start polesitter Alan Sciuto had to tuck in behind second-quick qualifier Cole Nelson as the field scrambled through One, with Jordy Vorrath holding station in third. With more shuffling going on in Turns Five, Eight and Canada, by the time they finished the first lap Matt Varsha had taken second place from Sciuto, and Vorrath had been pushed back to fourth. Fifth was Rossetto, followed by Peter Ludwig and points leader Gerardo Bonilla, who had qualified sixth, 3/10s off pole.

Nelson stretched his lead to five car lengths on lap two, but behind him it was a Mixmaster, and one of the victims of the tussling was Bonilla, who came around with his exhaust header bent like a banana. Probably down 10 to 15 h.p., he did well to eventually salvage an eighth-place finish.

More problems just a lap later: With Nelson, Varsha, Vorrath, Sciuto and Rossetto glued nose to tail, they braked and turned-in for Five. Varsha busted a move — too late — to get under Nelson. He couldn’t hold the car and half-spun as Nelson squeaked past. When Varsha let the car roll back a bit as the field shot by, Sciuto’s left-rear clipped Varsha’s left-rear, and Varsha was done (and Sciuto spun out to the grass, but got going again). Rossetto took full advantage of the schmozzle and when the pack reached Canada, he out-braked Nelson for the lead. A few seconds later Nelson took it back on the front straight but when they came around to complete lap five, Rossetto had the lead once again. Nelson was not done, of course, and when Rossetto dropped a wheel at the exit of Three, that was more than enough for Nelson to grab the lead even before they reached T5.

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Look at Varsha’s (#84) front BFGs. Already in big correction, his half-spin is milliseconds away. In the back of this super pack? Winner Rossetto… Photo by Edmund Lacis

With three to go, Rossetto — a local who’s raced and won in Barber Regional competition at Road America — took the lead on the front straight but Nelson took it back in Five. Down to the last lap, Rossetto in P2 was going to call the shots. And he did, out-braking Nelson in Turn Five. “I could’ve made it harder, but I wasn’t going to risk a crash,” Nelson said. “I’m in the points hunt.” Plus he thought he had a good shot to snatch the win from Rossetto with a good shot out of 14, last corner. “But I turned just a bit too early!” Nelson said, and his run up to the finish line fell less than half a car length short — .053 of a second, to be exact.

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Andy Rossetto officially led two laps, including the only one that matters!

Garrett Zine drove a beautiful heads-up race, taking and holding third by lap five. Sciuto also raced like a champ, recovering from his Varsha clip to head a four-car chain that crossed the line inside half-a-second of each other: Sciuto, Richard Heistand (who had tasted P3 for a couple laps mid-race), Vorrath and Jonathan Goring (remember that name…. Bonilla got his aforementioned eighth, with Paul Albert and Brett Fenske rounding out the top 10.

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Garrett Zine had a solid weekend, taking his first podium on Saturday and eighth on Sunday

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The finish: This was shot about 150 yards before S/F. Nelson’s #4 would be even closer to Rossetto’s #29 at the line.

Sunday’s race was won by a kid who wasn’t even supposed to be here. Goring, a quick karter from Norfolk, Conn., has been breaking into race cars by running Skip Barber Regional. But the 15-year-old’s father, Keith, called too late to enter him into the Eastern Region groups, also running at Road America. All the seats were sold out. The only way to race was to enter the National. “We surely didn’t expect to qualify on the front row, let alone win,” Mr. Goring said. “Being in the National was just a fluke!”

Hell of a fluke, for sure. Goring started on the front row, alongside double Lime Rock winner Vorrath, and the whole race he managed and manipulated the draft like a pro. Vorrath led the first two laps, and an on fire Bonilla lap three. Following a one-lap full course caution to grab Jimmy Holden out of the kitty litter in 14, Goring and Nelson went at it full bore for second. Realizing that was letting Bonilla off easy, at the 10-lapper’s halfway point Goring and Nelson hand-signaled each other to chase down a disappearing Bonilla. They leapfrogged each other for four consecutive laps and caught him. With three laps to go, the two rocketed out of Turn Three and the draft pushed both of them past Bonilla even before they got to the braking zone for Five! Next lap, Bonilla took second back from Nelson going into One. And what about Vorrath, your polesitter? In all the action he remained fairly close but had been shuffled back to sixth by lap five. Needing to make some time, he was hotfooting it out of Canada — and spun. Vorrath wound up a disappointed 11th.

Back to the front: Now it’s the last lap and the Pack of Three is now a Pack of Four — Rossetto had chased everybody down and was in the mix. Nelson pops on Bonilla in One to take second. Then Bonilla pops on Nelson into Five to take it back. Goring’s loving this, of course, but it’s still not over as Nelson once again goes wheel to wheel with Bonilla in Canada to grab second place for good. Nelson finished 1.1 seconds behind Goring, Bonilla 1.2 seconds behind Nelson, and Rossetto 1.3 seconds after Bonilla.

Hey, Jonathan! When did you think you had a chance to win this thing?

“Just after I exited 14 for the last time!”, he said, as sincere as could be. Great stuff, good racing.

Almost as impressive as rookie Goring was Matt Davis, a karting buddy of Nelson’s who qualified and finished fifth (11th on Saturday) in his first Skip barber race (of any kind). He was just a second in front of a quickly improving Richard Heistand, whose two solid finishes this weekend (fifth and sixth) moved him from nowhere in the points to 11th overall. Varsha’s seventh in Sunday’s race at least keeps him within realistic spittin’ distance of Bonilla, and Zine recovered well from a mistake on the first lap to take eighth. Winston de Wardt and Brett Fenske rounded out the top 10. Sciuto’s race was unfortunately over early on, parking the car with suspension damage on lap five after running as high as fifth, after starting ninth.

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Bonilla (l.) was happy enough with third place, as he debriefs with Nelson (r.) right after the race. Nelson said the race was “Awesome!”

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Norfolk, Connecticut’s Jonathan Goring, just after his Victory Lap. That cool Alfa Romeo repair shop on Rt. 44 belongs to his Dad…

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Goring on the top spot of the podium!

So, with a bunch of drivers scoring big points who hadn’t already had a lot of points, Bonilla comes out of Road America none the worse for wear. He came into the weekend 31 points up on Vorrath, and leaves 30 points up … on Nelson.

Next two races on tap: Le Circuit Mt. Tremblant, July 22-24.

July 2, 2005, Round 7 of 14, Skip Barber National Championship Presented by RACER
Road America, 14-turn, 4.0-mile road course

Start position in parentheses

1. (5) Andy Rossetto, Grafton, Wis., 9 laps, 92.656 average mph
2. (2) Cole Nelson, Atwater, Calif., 9 laps
3. (8) Garrett Zine, Rio Linda, Calif., 9
4. (1) Alan Sciuto, Orange, Calif., 9
5. (9) Richard Heistand, Sunny Isles, Fla., 9
6. (3) Jordy Vorrath, White Rock, B.C., Canada, 9
7. (4) Jonathan Goring, Norfolk, Conn., 9
8. (6) Gerardo Bonilla, Orlando, Fla., 9
9. (10) Paul Albert, Ottawa, Ont., Canada, 9
10. (14) Brett Fenske, Fond du Lac, Wis., 9
11. (16) Matt Davis, Merced, Calif., 9
12. (15) David Greco, Italy, 9
13. (13) Jimmy Holden, Tiona, Pa., 9
14. (11) Peter Ludwig, New Paltz, N.Y., 8 (spin)
15. (12) Winston de Wardt, Steamboat Springs, Colo., 7 (spun, rejoined)
16. (7) Matt Varsha, Atlanta, Ga., 2 (contact)

Race length: 9 laps of 4.0-mile, 14-turn road course for 36.0 miles
Time of race: 23 minutes, 18.720 seconds
Winner’s average speed: 92.656 mph
Margin of victory: 0.053 seconds
Lap leaders: Nelson, 1 – 4; Rossetto, 5; Nelson, 6 – 8; Rossetto 9
Fastest race lap: Vorrath, 2:33.298, lap 9
Fastest qualifier: Sciuto, 2:33.599

July 3, 2005, Round 8 of 14, Skip Barber National Championship Presented by RACER
Road America, 14-turn, 4.0-mile road course

Start position in parentheses

1. (2) Jonathan Goring, Norfolk, Conn., 10 laps, 87.301 mph
2. (3) Cole Nelson, Atwater, Calif., 10 laps
3. (7) Gerardo Bonilla, Orlando, Fla., 10
4. (4) Andy Rossetto, Grafton, Wis., 10
5. (5) Matt Davis, Merced, Calif., 10
6. (10) Richard Heistand, Sunny Isles, Fla., 10
7. (8) Matt Varsha, Atlanta, Ga., 10
8. (6) Garrett Zine, Rio Linda, Calif., 10
9. (14) Winston de Wardt, Steamboat Springs, Colo., 10
10. (16) Brett Fenske, Fond du Lac, Wis., 10
11. (1) Jordy Vorrath, White Rock, B.C., Canada, 10
12. (13) Paul Albert, Ottawa, Ont., Canada, 10
13. (15) Jimmy Holden, Tiona, Pa., 9
14. (11) Peter Ludwig, New Paltz, N.Y., 5 (contact)
15. (9) Alan Sciuto, Orange, Calif., 4 (contact)
DNS (12) David Greco, Italy

Race length: 10 laps of 4.0-mile, 14-turn road course for 40.0 miles
Time of race: 27 minutes, 29.460 seconds
Winner’s average speed: 87.301 mph
Margin of victory: 1.193 seconds
Lap leaders: Vorrath, 1 – 2; Bonilla, 3- 7; Goring, 8 – 10
Fastest race lap: Rossetto, 2:33.399, lap 9
Fastest qualifier: Vorrath, 2:32.947

Top 10 in points after eight of 14 rounds:
1. Gerardo Bonilla, 131
2. Cole Nelson, 101
3. Jordy Vorrath, 94
4. Matt Varsha, 83
5. Andy Rossetto, 62
6. Garrett Zine, 62
7. Alan Sciuto, 56
8. Paul Albert, 49
9. Lorenzo Mandarino, 48
10. Pablo Sanchez Lopez, 41

Next races: Rounds 9 and 10, Le Circuit Mt. Tremblant, July 22-24

Rick Roso

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