Summer Race Series and MAZDASPEED Challenge at Lime Rock Park

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Monday, June 28, 2010 Time to turn the Lime Rock Park race report over to our tame race driver/customer…

Some say that he believes that most of you reading this will get this obscure British television pop reference and that Doug Harrison thinks he knows who wrote this article… but he’s wrong. All we know is that he’s The Stig’s New York Cousin!

The tide officially turned at Lime Rock Park, during the first of three visits the regional summer series will pay to the Road Racing Center of the East this year, when for the first time since MX-5 racing began at Skip Barber there were more MX-5 racing groups (three) than open wheel groups (two). The perfectly aligned rows of both fleets impressively filled the entire pit lane from pit-in to pit-out.

With no shortage of cars or drivers there was nothing left to do but take it out on the track, and that they did using the very fast “classic” Lime Rock original footprint. It was just the way we like it with the old uphill and west bend making the track fast and demanding. With average lap speeds over 90mph in the open wheel cars, a full lap can take less than a minute and have drivers questioning their sanity and math skills when they think the white flag lap is looming only to discover there are15 laps remaining on the start/finish lap board! No rest for the weary and there is certainly no place to rest for anyone at Lime Rock Park.

Click here to see images from the weekend
Click here for complete results
Click here for Skip Barber Summer Race Series points
Click here for MAZDASPEED Challenge points

Group 1 Race 1 – MAZDASPEED Challenge
The MX-5 horses are on the track.

Sometimes the racing gods make amends for past offenses and no one has had worse luck over the past two years with MDNF’s and the indiscretions of other drivers than Jim Craige. One way to avoid other drivers is to simply lead the race and that’s what Jim did after passing John Snyder on lap two and never looked back.

For the rest of the field there was less clarity as P2 & P3 were up for grabs until Brian Freiberg ran down John Snyder and took P2 on lucky lap 13. Brian held that position to the end but John hounded him to the finish line less than a half second back at the checkered flag.

Tyler Wolfson and Mathew Di Leo had minor contact on lap 5 and both pitted for their safety checks before resuming the fray.

Ward Herst was in sole possession of fourth place until lap 26 when his mirrors were filled with Lucas Bize who passed and motored away taking P4 to the flag.

With Ward in P5, Tyler Wolfson was turning lap times close to the leaders and after his safety check, he caught and passed David Steinschraber to claw his way back to P6, twice working his way up from the back of the field.

Mathew Di Leo also caught David Steinschraber and got by him with three laps to go but David would not go gently into that good night and passed back for P7 on the last lap.

Of the four Randall’s in this race (yes, you read that right… There were four Flying Randall’s running…) Steve was the fastest grabbing p9 by a couple of seconds over Larry Flick P10, and the remaining reliable Randall’s Brad, Rod and DJ rounded out this robust rally.

Group 1 Race 2 Jim Craige didn’t have anyone to get around starting on pole so he once again decided to lead from start to finish. He did drop two wheels coming out of turn two in the early going but he kept his hands straight and nursed it back on to continue his domination.

Behind Craige was a snarling gaggle of MX-5s with Brian Freiberg, John Snyder, Tyler Wolfson, Lucas Bize, Ward Herst, Mathew Di Leo and David Steinschraber in hot pursuit. The fight was hot and heavy until lap 12 when John Snyder retired with a bad wheel bearing and lap 17 when Brian Frieberg went out when a stone punctured his radiator.

At the finish line, Jim Craige was over 8 seconds ahead of Tyler Wolfson P2 who was 5 seconds up on Ward Herst for the final podium spot. Mathew Di Leo was less than a second back in P4, Lucas Bize a second and a half back in P5 and once again fastest flying Randal (Steve) rose from P9 to finish P6 nipping David Steinschraber by less than a second, who then beat the second fastest Randall (DJ) P8 by just over two seconds who, in turn, beat 3rd fastest Randall (Brad) P9 by over two seconds, with less than a second between Brad and Brian Kimmins to finish out the top 10. If these Randall boys keep getting faster we may someday see an all Randall podium. Someone will correct me if I’m wrong but I doubt there’s ever been a single family podium before.

Group 2 Race 1 – Summer Race Series
This group of 18 fast and half-fast open wheelers distinguished themselves by having not a single four-off or contact during qualifying. That would not last for the race, however.

Ashley Freiberg sat on pole with Pat Daly, Greg Strelzoff, Luigi Biangardi, Greg (don’t call me Joe) DiMaggio, Austin Dyne and Chris Brassard following behind.

At the start Strelzoff and Biangardi freight trained themselves through turn one into Freiberg’s gearbox squeezing Daly back to P4. Dyne and Daly traded P4 back and forth once before cars started sliding off the track. Gary (the Viz) Vizioli went four-off on the downhill followed shortly thereafter by Austin Dyne who lost it while checking up at the downhill apex when Daly bobbled in front of him. Jack Mitchell was the next off-road vehicle on lap five going four-off in big bend.

Behind the leaders, Zac Silver, Chris Brassard, Greg DiMaggio, Sergio Pasian and Kyle Robertson waged a fierce Indy Lights battle.

Gus Doppes was four-off in turn three and continued on lap 12 while on lap 15, Greg DiMaggio dropped out of his Indy Lights battle going four-off exiting big bend. Pat Daly was the next casualty of big bend on lap 20 while passing into turn one. Poor brake modulation got the tail of his car around and four-off taking him out of P4. Chris Brassard was the last victim of big bend off-roading it around turn two on the last lap.

At the checker Ashley Freiberg, having been very competitive at the LRP National two weeks earlier, had a 21 second walk away win while also setting the fastest lap of the race. Greg Strelzoff P2 and Luigi Biangardi P3 battled tooth and nail with four tenths of a second separating them at the finish. Just 4.4 seconds later Zac Silver P4 took the first spot off the podium followed five seconds later by Sergio Pasian P5, 10 seconds later Kyle Robertson P6, Michael Johnson P7, Pat Daly P8, Jason Krikorian P9 and Austin Dyne rounding out the top 10.

Group 2 Race 2 “If they didn’t have bad luck they wouldn’t have no luck at all,” was the song for this race.

Light drizzle began falling during the warm-up and the amount of water on track changed from insignificant to significant at the precise moment the green flag dropped. Three cars spun before turn one and so many cars were spinning and slow speed crashing both on and off the track between turns one and four that the race was black flagged and restarted. The rule book has a provision for this and it’s called “The Big Mess.” This was the perfect storm of messes as even using in-car videos after the fact it was impossible for Bruce MacInnes to tell exactly who did what to whom in what order. A sign that this situation was handled perfectly was that no one, including Bruce, was happy with the allocation of crash damage which usually means it was the best decision possible under the circumstances.

After the big mess it took two false single file starts (One when Daly jumped early and one when they realized the re-formed line-up was out of order) to finally get this race underway.

Freiberg led the field around a rain soaked Lime Rock with Greg Strelzoff, Luigi Biangardi, Zac Silver, Sergio Pasian and Kyle Robertson following in her spray. A lead breakaway happened when Freiberg separated herself quickly from the group, then Strelzoff, Biangardi and Silver had a secondary podium battle followed by Pasian, Robertson, Daly and Austin Dyne fighting it out in an Indy Lights battle. Robertson and Daly worked past Pasian on lap eight and Daly passed Robertson on lap nine. In the podium pack Biangardi got around Strelzoff on lap 10 as Freiberg amassed a huge lead. Zac Silver after a fine run in P4 for most of the race went four-off in turn two on lap 16 and dropped back after his safety check.

At the checkered flag, Freiberg had a monumental 45 plus second lead over Biangardi and Strelzoff who were less than a second apart in P2 & P3. Daly P4 was over seven seconds behind Strelzoff with Austin Dyne P5 another seven plus seconds behind Daly. More than a lap down to Freiberg were Kyle Robertson P6, Greg DiMaggio P7, Sergio Pasian P8, Zac Silver P9 and David Knight completed the top 10.

Group 3 Race 1 – MAZDASPEED Challenge
At this point in the proceedings MX-5 drivers were checking to make sure Jim Craige wasn’t in their group and lucky for them he wasn’t.

The green flag saw Matt Fassnacht, Tyler Cooke, and Angelo Dinkov make a three-car break-away with Bruce Robson, (Flying) Steve Randall and Steve Craig battling for fourth, fifth and sixth position. Flying only slightly lower were DJ and Rob Randall followed by Don Rowly and Zoran Mitrovsky.

Up front, Fassnacht lead the first two laps before Cooke took the point for the next twelve. While Cooke was leading, Dinkov got by Fassnacht for P2 on lap seven and started applying pressure to Cooke. Dinkov passed Cooke for the lead on lap 15 but immediately gave it back on lap 16. On lap 18 Dinkov grabbed the lead for the next five laps only to be passed by Cooke again on lap 23.

Dinkov took the lead for good on lap 25 but Cooke was less than 4 tenths of a second back with Fassnacht less than two and a half seconds behind.

The next great battle was for P4 where Bruce Robson and Steve Craige fought very closely for the last 10 laps with Robson just 3 tenths ahead of Craige at the finish line. Steve Randall was all by himself in P6 more than 14 seconds behind Craige and more than 14 seconds ahead of P7 Gar Robinson. The Randalls DJ, Brad and Rod improved their collective lot to P8, 9 and 10. Rod Randall entertained himself and the crowd on the last lap when he spun through the downhill and continued not having gone for off or hit anything, earning himself two West Coast macho points.

Group 3 Race 2
This quickly became a two car race as Angelo Dinkov led the first two laps while Bruce Robson got around Fassnacht and Cooke to challenge Dinkov on lap three. Robson passed Dinkov and drove away.

On lap four Steven Craige had a four-off and Gar Robinson tagged the uphill wall. Both cars served their safety check penalties and continued. On lap six, Robinson had to retire when his muffler came off, a side affect of his wall contact.

Not being used to leading a race or having a big lead, Bruce missed a shift through Big Bend on lap 12 letting Angelo make up some ground. Dinkov began chipping away at Robson’s lead as the laps ticked down.

Meanwhile Tyler Cooke and Matt Fassnacht were fighting over P3. Cooke held the spot until lap seven when Fassnacht got around him but Cooke did not fade hounding Fassnacht to the end.

At the finish Bruce Robson decided he liked being out front and held the persistent Angelo Dinkov at bay besting him by nine tenths of a second, earning his very first win in the Skip Barber Race Series. Bravo Bruce!

Bruce and Angelo were more than 20 seconds ahead of Matt Fassnacht who grabbed the last podium step just a second and a half in front of P4 Tyler Cooke, who pushed him the whole race. Steve Craige recovered nicely from his four-off to grab P5, Don Rowley was P6 with Zoran Mitrovski, P7 Jay Rowley P8 and Gar Robinson P9.

Group 4 Race 1 – Summer Race Series
This race start went four wide into turn one with Luigi Biangardi winning the point and Chris Brassard in P2. Austin Dyne slotted into P3 and Greg Strelzoff P4.

Lap two saw Austin Dyne as the new owner of P1 with Luigi on his tail and Chris Brassard and Greg Strelzoff close behind. At this point (lap three), John Mitchell had contact with Gus Doppes and Gus pitted and continued. Unfortunately Gus rejoined just as Austin and Luigi were diving into Big Bend. Austin anticipated Gus’s pit-out and checked up early but Luigi didn’t expect so big a speed adjustment and hit Austin from behind. Both cars pulled into the pits where Austin was able to continue after a long safety check but Luigi had to retire with a cow catcher and front suspension too badly damaged to continue.

On track Greg Strelzoff took advantage of the moment after Biangardi & Dyne hit and jumped past Brassard to take the lead. Bill Shields was P3 and Jack Mitchel P4 before Mitchell pitted for his previous contact with Gus. That put David Knight P4, Justin Lafever P5 and Rick Manetta P6 on lap five.

Lafever was on a charge going around Knight and Shields on lap 13 before Shields spun in West Bend and Knight went four off to avoid Shields on lap 14. Lafever then passed Brassard, reshuffling the deck to Strelzoff P1, Lafever, P2 Brassard P3, Jason Krikorian P4 and Manetta P5

The second half of the race was relatively stable with Greg Strelzoff winning by a three-second margin over Justin Lafever who bested Chris Brassard by another three seconds for the final podium spot. David Knight made a nice recovery after his four-off check to fight back for P4 by seven-tenths over Rick Manetta P5. Austin Dyne was P6 after his long pit stop and Bill Shields P7 was also on the one pit stop strategy. Jason Kirkorian lost a solid fourth place run on the second to last lap when he spun in turn three and continued finishing P8. Franz Fleischli had a solid P9 and Jack Mitchel on a two stop strategy finished P10 still managing to beat John Mitchel P11.

Group 4 Race 2

With nothing slipperier than a wet Lime Rock, Greg Strelzoff spun himself off on lap one gifting Chris Brassard with the lead. David Knight grabbed P2 ahead of Austin Dyne P3. Rich Manetta was P4 and Bill Shields P5.

On lap five, Shields and most progressive Luigi Biangardi got around Manetta and then set their sites on David Knight. By lap 10, this duo had dispatched Knight and on lap 14 Biangardi passed Shields as well to move into P3.

Up front, Austin Dyne caught and hounded Chris Brassard until lap 16 when Austin finally got around Chris and took the lead. Brassard fought back with everything he had but came up .296 seconds short at the line sending Austin Dyne home a happy boy with his first win in the Skip Barber Race Series. Rain hats off to Austin.

Luigi Biangardi was decidely most progressive coming from P12 to P3 only 3.3 seconds behind Brassard and Bill Shields who finished P4 5.4 seconds behind Biangardi. Greg Strelzoff fought back from his early spin to P5, helped by a full course caution when Jack Mitchel hit the tire wall at the base of the uphill. David Knight P6, Rick Manetta P7, John Mitchell P8, Justin Lafever P9 and Tim Barnes was your top 10 finisher.

Group 5 Race 1 – MAZDASPEED Challenge
Jim Craige put on his superman cape once again as he waved to the crowd before climbing into the number 47 where he led lap one, lap two, lap three… Well you get the picture. Lee Carpentier had his kryptonite out but couldn’t quite get close enough to sap Mr. Craige’s super powers. Lee also had his hands full with Matt Fassnacht who challenged for and took P2 from Carpentier on lap 17.

About this time Craige was driving like he stole it, almost throwing it off at turn four and a few other corners around the track, getting the instructors attention but always keeping it under relative control and setting fast lap in the process.

Meanwhile mere mortals Carpentier and Fassnacht were fighting over P2 with Carpentier taking the position on lap 17 only to have Matt claim it back on lap 21.

P4 was inhabited by Dom Bastien in the early going before he went four-off at the downhill track-out. Bruce Robson took P4 possession next on lap 11 for three laps until Ward Herst claimed it on lap 14. Tyler Cooke took brief possession on lap 18 before Herst took it back for good.

Bruce Robson was having a strong mid-pack run before he spun in turn three sending him into the pits for a safety check.

At the checker, Jim Craige’s lead was comfortable at 6.4 seconds and Lee Carpentier took back P2 by over four seconds from Matt Fassnacht in P3. Ward Herst was the final holder of P4 beating Tyler Cooke P5 by a mere three-tenths at the line and five seconds behind Cooke was Mathew Di Leo P6. Steve Craige P7 brought it home 11 seconds behind Di Leo and one lap down were Bruce Robson P8 and P9 Marc Bastien. Dom Bastien, with two safety checks was the final top ten finisher.

Group 5 Race 2
Just to prove that someone else could lead an MX-5 race that Jim Craige was in, last year’s MX-5 series champ Lee Carpentier took the point and led the first four laps before master Craige got a run on him and took the lead back. Lee made Jim work for it every lap of the race, spawning a great dual that had the late day crowd on its feet.

Tyler Cooke was the Maytag repairman lonely guy in P3 from start to finish and Bruce Robson battled Mathew Di Leo and Ward Herst in the early going for P4 and held it from lap six on.

At the checkered flag, Jim Craige completed his perfect quadruple win day by nipping Lee Carpentier by .644 seconds as the crowd went wild. Tyler Cooke was 15 seconds back in P3 and Bruce Robson, the first grand master was five seconds behind Cooke in P4. Another five seconds back was Ward Herst in P5, Mathew DiLeo in P6, Steve Craige P7, Dom Bastien P8 and Dom’s son Marc in P9.

Lime Rock provided a multitude of dry and wet races giving every driver a worthy challenge as our eyes now turn to steamy Road Atlanta for the halfway point in this years eight race weekend summer series. Bring your sun block!

The Stig’s New York Cousin

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