Summer Race Series, MAZDASPEED Challenge at VIR

< Back 05/17/2010

Monday, May 17, 2010 We here at the Skip Barber Race Series would like to apologize for the tardiness of this race report. It seems that when we were cleaning up at the end of the weekend at VIR, we stowed The Stig’s New York Cousin in the Ops trailer before returning to Lakeville, as we always do… and forgot to let him back out. It took our crack IT department several days just to go through his data recorder and make heads or tails of what he saw. The following is what we were able to reconstruct from the data.

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

If Virginia is for lovers then VIR is certainly for racing lovers as temperatures rose from the mid 30’s early Wednesday to the mid 90’s by Sunday afternoon reflecting both the temperament of weather and competition in the friendly confines of Virginia International Raceway. With five race groups (three open wheel and two MX-5) Virginia International Raceway was filled with Skip Barber competitors from sun up to sun down from Friday thru Sunday as the Summer Series launch sent first time racers and wily veterans into the breach for their first of 8 race weekends this 2010 season.

Group 1 Race 1 – Summer Race Series
The first lap of the Summer series was led by pole sitter Ashley Freiberg, closely followed by Dr. Mike Edwards, Brian Cook, Pat Daly, Zach Silver, Luigi Biangardi, Jim Booth and Gus Doppes. While Ashley pulled away from the field, most progressive Jesus Rios went from 13th to 7th on lap one and from 7th to 5th on lap two. Youthful exuberance caused Jesus to forget that nine laps remained to work on the four remaining positions and an ill fated late attempt on the 66 car into the esses resulted in his spinning off track. Light contact with a tire wall damaged a radiator and ended his impressive start.

The resulting full course yellow bunched the field back up for a restart on lap four with Ashley Freiberg leading and Dr. Mike, Brian Cook and Pat Daly in hot pursuit. On lap five Daly drafted past Cook into turn 14 for P3 and lap six saw Cook dive inside Daly into turn one who then returned the favor with an inside re-pass coming out of turn two. The battle ended when Cook spun trying to stay inside of Daly through turn three.

Lap seven saw Dr. Mike pass Ashley for the lead with Ashley returning the favor on lap eight and Daly using their back and forth as an opportunity to hang in their draft. On the last lap Dr. Mike bobbled through turn three allowing Freiberg to pull away and Daly to position himself for a run out of Oak Tree. That run let Daly take P2 on the last lap as Dr. Mike fell to 3rd, Luigi Biangardi took P4, Zachary Silver P5, Jim Booth improved to P6, Gus Doppes P7, David Knight P8, Michael Wu from P15 to P9 and Brian Cook rounded out the top 10 with Ashley Freiberg the undisputed winner, 3.082 seconds ahead of the pack.

Group 1 Race 2
This race took a long time to start and gradually degenerated into a turn 1 off-road event. Pole sitter Freiberg dropped the starting pace so slow the flagman slipped into a coma seeing so little forward progress he never waved the flag. On lap 2 the leaders did see green but not before Luigi Biangardi was radio coached into jumping the start passing the leaders before the start/finish line. With the exception of Freiberg, from that point on everyone did their best to first achieve and then remove themselves from podium contention. Freiberg and Daly overtook Biangardi before he was penalized for jumping the start. Daly then dropped a wheel on the outside of turn 2 and spun without leaving the track but dropped back to P8. The turn one grass then became absolutely magnetic as Craig McIntyre, Bob Goodman, Jesus Rios, Zach Silver and Dr. Mike Edwards (after being hit by Silver) spent time mowing the lawn before pitting in for their safety checks. With the numerous spins and hits Daly worked all the way back to P2 before late braking himself off in (Let’s all say it together…) “turn one” on the last lap and finished in the pits. Luigi and Brian Cook got together in turn ten on the last lap with Luigi also finishing in the pits.

After all the four offs and contacts the final results had the slow to start but fast to finish Ashley Freiberg leading from lap two to the finish with Jose Rios coming from P11 and a 4-off to earn P2 and Gus Doppes winning “The Little Engine That Could” award with a squeaky clean run grabbing the final podium spot. David Knight took P4, Luigi Biangardi P5 Brian Cook P6, Pat Daly P7 Dr. Mike Edwards P8, Zach Silver P9 and Michael Wu P10. No style points were awarded to anyone in this gem.

Group 2 Race 1 – MAZDASPEED Challenge
During the warm-up Elias Sakkal went 4-off pre-testing the off road ability of the MX-5 and its BFGoodrich tires. This warm up event was appropriate as he’d test their off-road capability twice more during the race.

John Snyder started from pole position for the first time and the field had a good clean start running side by side through turn two before slotting into single file for turn 3. Pablo Cisilino missed a shift and almost got his taillights re-aligned by those behind him.

John Snyder held pole for lap two while Ward Herst grabbed P2 from Chris Perera with Lucas Bize right on Perera’s tail. On lap three Bize tagged Perera’s tail and spun him going into Oak Tree corner. Jim Craig was unable to avoid the spinning Perera and all three had to report to the pits for a safety check.

Lap four saw speed demon Angelo Dinkov, who started 11th, take over P2 from Ward Herst. It only took one more lap for Dinkov to run down and pass Snyder and from that point on Dinkov was never challenged pulling just short of a four-and gap at the finish. However, Snyder had mirrors filled with Herst who wanted and eventually took P2. John had a good run on the last lap but fell a few inches and 3 hundredths of a second short grabbing the last podium spot. Great battle.

Thomas McGregor was P4 almost 26 seconds back, Mathew Di Leo was P5 13 seconds behind McGregor. Then Oak Tree boys Bize and Craig had a bragging rights battle as Bize just held off Jim’s last lap front stretch draft pass that fell seven hundredths short for another very entertaining and hard fought run.

Bruce Robson had a four off in turn one but battled back for the P8 position. David Steinschraber had a clean run for P9 and Chris Perera finished out the top ten.

Group 2 Race 2
The second race for group two had another clean start with everyone behaving at or above their potential as Ward Herst crossed the lap one line ahead of Angelo Dinkov with Mathew Di Leo, Jim Craig, Thomas McGregor and Lucas Bize in the single file procession. Lap two saw Angelo take back the lead from Herst while Jim Craig took P3 from Di Leo and then P2 from Herst on lap three. Craig was on the Blue Brother’s “mission from god” as he pushed his way to the front with only Angelo Dinkov remaining in his sights at the end of lap three.

Mid-race Jim Craige over takes Angelo Dinkov for the lead after which Dinkov goes four-off in turn 10 and has to come in for a safety check. That leaves Herst in P2 and Thomas McGregor in P3. Bize is leading the “Indy Lights” battle in P4 with Chris Perera P5, Mathew Di Leo P6 and fighting back from his four-off in P7 Angelo Dinkov.

Good hard racing to the checker as Jim Craig walks away from the field with almost a four second lead over P2 Ward Herst. Eleven seconds back Angelo Dinkov set fastest lap of the race coming back from his four-off to claim the final podium spot nipping Chris Perera by half a second. Thomas McGregor, Lucas Bize and Mathew Di Leo were P5, 6 and 7 rounding out the Indy Lights group. David Steinschraber was P8, Pablo Cisilino P9 and despite light contact with the tire wall in turn five Bruce Robson recovered to finish P10.

Group 3 Race 1 – Summer Race Series
Race one had a serious fast start with double pops on the front straight into turn one. Trent Hindman held the lead over Dr. Mike Edwards for the first two laps with Brian Cook wrestling P3 from Greg Strelzoff on lap two. Strelzoff earned a black stick as he nudged McGregor with his front wing through Oak Tree and they both have to report for a safety check. Mike Nichol went too deep into turn one and took Paul Subject off with him. Mike was able to continue but Paul’s race was sadly over with too much damage.

Dr. Mike took sole possession of a lead he never relinquished on lap three with Trent in hot pursuit and Kevin Tittle nipping at Trent’s heels. Zach Silver had a clean run improving from P7 to P4 and Greg Strelzoff recovered from his contact for P5. Sergio Pasian was most progressive coming up from P13 to 6th (Nice job!) Thomas McGregor was P7, Brian Cook after a four-off in turn seventeen P8. Gus Doppes took P9 and Austin Dyne recovered from his late four-off in turn seventeen for P10.

It should be noted that after many years of racing while also supporting the development of his much younger but only occasionally faster son John, Dr. Mike Edwards won his first race in a Skip Barber open wheel car. Trent Hindman said “He was the fastest old guy I’ve ever raced!” and Todd Snyder presented him with “The most expensive first race checkered flag we’ve ever given out!” Bow downs and hats off to Dr. Mike for representing the Masters and Grand Masters with such crafty excellence!

Group 3 Race 2
Turn five had so much clay on it, officials had to put out the debris flag on the warm up lap. It looked like a dirt road WRC event through there. The green flag saw Dr. Mike take the lead with Thomas McGregor jumping from P6 to P2 on lap one with Kevin Tittle P3 Trent Hindman shuffled back to P4 and Greg Strelzoff in P5. Lap two saw Hindman re-establish himself in P2 behind Dr. Mike with McGregor and Tittle looming large in their mirrors. McGregor passed Hindman for P2 on lap three and set his sights on Dr. Mike. McGregor took the lead on lap 4 with Dr. Mike back in P1 on lap five. McGregor and Hindman drafted past Edwards on lap six dropping him back to 3rd while Tittle had P4 covered watching the action in front of him.

McGregor, Hindman, Dr. Mike Edwards and Kevin Tittle stayed nose to tail from laps six through nine when Dr. Mike got the run out of oak tree and snookered them both into turn fourteen to take the lead back on lap ten. They went to school on him though as both returned the favor on the last lap as Thomas McGregor took home his first win, Trent Hindman P2, Dr. Mike P3 and Kevin Tittle P4.

The Indy Lights battle had Brian Cook move up from P8 to finish P5. Zachary Silver was P6; Paul Subject was most progressive going from P12 to P8. Sergio Pasian was P9 and Michael Nichol recovered from a four-off to round out the top 10.

Group 4 Race 1 – MAZDASPEED Challenge
Lap one started with three abreast at the stripe going into turn one with Dubets, Herst, Wolfson and Brian Freiberg slotting into single file through turn two. Herst took the lead with Wolfson, Dubets, Bize and Jim Craig following after Freiberg pitted with an exhaust pipe issue. Craige got around Bize for p4 on lap three and those positions held until lap seven when Thomas McGregor got around Craige. On lap nine Dubets went four-off at turn seventeen, putting McGregor in P3 behind Herst and Wolfson and ahead of Cooke and Craige.

At the finish line Wolfson had a 4.5 second lead over P2 Herst, who was six seconds ahead of McGregor in P3 and about a second behind McGregor was Tyler Cooke in P4.

Jim Craige led Indy Lights 41 seconds back in P5 with Brian Freiberg (whose car sounded like an Indy Lights car with a failed super trap) less than a second behind Craig. Pablo Cisilino had a good clean run picking up P7 and Bruce Robson recovered from contact with Bize to finish P8. John Dubets and Lucas Bize completed the top ten.

Group 4 Race 2
The lead group of Wolfson, Herst, Freiberg, Cooke and Craige fought tooth and nail from lap one using the draft and each other to battle for position (Freiberg so over achieved that he earned a black stick). Jim Craige set fastest lap of the race from his P5 start and was challenging for a podium position at the end when an untimely four-off in turn four ended his hard fought bid. In the end, the four remaining lead drivers created more than an eleven second gap over the rest of the field.

After many swapped positions Wolfson, Herst, Freiberg and Cooke ended their race in that order from P1 to P4. Thomas McGregor won his battle with P6 Lucas Bize taking P5 on the last lap with less than a tenth of a second separating them. Bruce Robson came home as the fastest master and grand master with P7, Jim Craige after his safety check was P8. Pablo Cisilino had another clean run for P9 and Tom Baluk took the P10 spot.

Group 5 Race 1 – Summer Race Series
Just when you think you’ve seen it all… During the pace lap, turn five had an extra large helping of clay thrown on track by the MX-5’s in the previous race. Thomas McGregor didn’t want to run through that clay so he cut down in front of Pat Daly forcing Daly to stop. Unfortunately, Amos Givol wasn’t paying close enough attention and knocked his nose cone off on Daly’s gearbox forcing both Daly and Givol in for a safety check while the race was starting. Pity.

For those not in the pits during the start, Sebastian Ordonez got by Luigi Biangardi to lead lap one with Kevin Tittle leapfrogging from P6 to P2 and Luigi settling into P3 while Thomas McGregor snagged sole possession of P4. These four stayed in that formation for four laps until Kevin Tittle took the lead for laps five and six and Sebastian took the point back on lap seven. From lap eight to the finish there was all sorts of shuffling back and forth and even a black stick waved at all four bad boys as they ultimately finished exactly where they started with Sebastian on the top step, Kevin Tittle P2, Luigi P3 and McGregor P4. Daly scratched back from his P last pit lane start to P5 giving him the master win pie tin while Dom Mariani improved to P6. After a four-off and safety check Kyle Robertson bounced back to P7 and Michael Johnson took P8 after his four-off, Eric Metzger finished P9 and Amos Givol was P10.

Group 5 Race 2
A clean start with the field lined up nicely until Kyle Robertson late braked himself off of turn fourteen and had to pit-in for a safety check. Kevin Tittle led lap two as Thomas McGregor, Sebastian Ordonez, Luigi Biangardi and Pat Daly formed up the top five. McGregor took the point on laps three and four while Tittle and Ordonez traded P2 behind him. Lap five was led by Sebastian Ordonez, with McGregor, Tittle and Biangardi in tow then a gap back to Daly in 5th, Dom Mariani P6, Greg Strelzoff in P7 and Michael Johnson P8.

On lap eight Daly succumbed to the deteriorating conditions in turn five and backed it into the tire wall knocking off his rear wing. After a safety check he continued without the wing.

The top three cars separated themselves from Biangardi in P4 and Ordonez remained in P3 to the finish. Tittle and McGregor went back and forth with Tittle leading laps ten and eleven while McGregor made the last lap pass to take the win.

Greg Strelzoff worked his way up from a P last start to battle with Dom Mariani and ultimately took the P5 vacated by Daly over Mariani in P6 by a tenth of a second. Kyle Robertson came back from his off to finish P7, Eric Metzger P8, wingless Daly P9 and Michael Johnson wasn’t running at the finish in P10.

The Dr. Mike Edwards Losing Streak/Davey Crockett Memorial
The memorial race at Virginia International Raceway had some serious competition, but was nothing close to a serious event. What do you get when you bring together Skip Barber drivers, alumni, coaches, crew chiefs and Grand-Am drivers, to compete together for a memorial race? A lot of exciting on-track action and racing moves that normally wouldn’t be tolerated.

The technicians and inexperienced drivers up front… Fast and furious drivers at the back and nature took its course… Wait a minute?!… What’s Dr. Mike doing on pole and who the heck is Peter Dannan, Jr.?

The flagger closed his eyes, waved the green and when he opened them… turn one was empty… So we had a race.

It didn’t take Grant Maiman, Ashley Freiberg, Steve Welk and Peter Dannan, Jr. long to catch Dr. Mike who led the first four laps with Brian Cook tagging along behind. Swelk caught Dr. Mike on lap two but waited for the rest of the gravy train to arrive after which it was quickly noted how remarkably close together they all drove on the back straight. That sucking sound was Dr. Mike being passed by Swelk, Dannan, Jr., Freiberg and Maiman. This band of five merry men and women stuck very close together after that… as if almost chained together for the remainder of the race swapping spots occasionally.

Heading through the esses in the final lap, Welk went into the inside of Freiberg, resulting in Dannan Jr. going temporarily four-off. Dr. Mike took advantage of the situation, passing Dannan, and Welk led the troublesome pack into Oak Tree. Freiberg drafted by Swelk, and Dr. Mike worked his way back to the front, crossing the finish line first ahead of Ashley Freiberg, The Welkster, Dannan, Jr. and Grant (The Man) Maiman.

These rebels summarily ignored reports of contact and black flags, so a careful post race inspection revealed astonishingly consistent evidence of contact on nose cones and gear boxes. The entire group was penalized awarding the one million dollar prize including an all expense paid trip to Fiji to Luigi Biangardi. Luigi is running the full regional series this year and wasn’t able to accept first prize so it went to the P2 winner Dex Tuttle instead. Brian Cook was P3 and he received a lovely set of Glengarry Glen Ross steak knives. Everyone’s a winner at Skip Barber. 😀

No self-aware, humanoid customer/race reporters were harmed in the writing of this race weekend report.

The Stig’s New York Cousin

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