The Summer Series Start at VIR
Tuesday, May 06, 2008 As we all know, VIR is a great track to race on. The 2008 Skip Barber East and Midwest Combo opener was here, where 70+ drivers gathered. The weekend also saw rounds three and four of the 2008 MX-5 MAZDASPEED Challenge series…
Lap one was clean as 16 drivers took the green, Corey Lewis out front, Michael Furfari and Freddie Zebede on his tail. But lap two saw a big schamozzle in Oak Tree that involved Furfari, Zebede, Al Carter, Jim Norman and Bob Gogerty, with Furfari and Zebede done for the day. That put Court Vernon and Julien Gerbi second and third, behind Lewis as laps three, four and five were FCY to clean up. Green to start lap six, Lewis ran to the checker pretty much free and clear (eventual MoV of 5.4 seconds) as Gerbi and Vernon tussled over P2, swapping back and forth over the ensuing four laps. When Gerbi took over second from Vernon on lap nine, it was for the final time, as he held off Vernon at the flag by a scant 10th of a second. From the re-start to the end, Brian Skinner held station in fourth but fifth place changed as on the last lap, Carter, coming back strongly from his pit stop on lap three, put the move on Michael Melvin. Felix Serralles, Tom Goodhart, Ed Rowland and Bill Oliver rounded out the top 10. Carl Hober was running well – up to fourth after the Oak Tree incident — but his car vapor-locked on lap five to unfortunately end his day.
A wild and crazy one, as the largest field of the weekend – 20 starters – had the instructor walkie-talkies almost too hot to touch… Laps one and two were yellow as Luca Orlandi went off near the start of the Esses, with Vernon leading over Lewis and Gerbi. Then, from the re-start to begin lap three until the checkered flag on lap 10, there were six lead changes as Lewis, Serralles and Gerbi all had their time at the front. But there were also a grab-bag of spins, four-offs and contact over those eight laps – some pit stops were made, others were not — so how the field crossed under the checker was not going to be the official results. With time penalties assessed, when all was said and done the winner was Gerbi, followed by Zebede and Carter. Although Serralles crossed the finish line at front, he was classified fourth thanks to a four-off in T3 for which he didn’t stop. Vernon, Hober and Peter Ludwig were next, with Lewis and Rowland rounding out the top 10.
G2R1 (MX-5 Mazdaspeed Challenge)
Round three of this inaugural series had 12 starters, with Lyonel Kent on pole and Justin Piscitell alongside. During the first three laps they ran in grid order, except for fourth-starting Chris Topping putting Bill Haney behind him on lap one. On lap three, Piscitell went agricultural in Turn One. Moments later, Haney had to pull off with a mechanical so the field circulated for one lap under yellow, re-starting to begin lap five, Kent still leading, Topping P2 and Scott James in third. The next time around Kent succumbed to Topping, then a lap after that, Kent fell all the way to fifth as everybody gained a spot. Meanwhile Topping was hopping out to a big lead over James and would win by 10 seconds, but a nicely recovering Piscitell snatched third place with two laps to go. Fourth was Chris Brown, followed Carl Hober and Kent. Pax Lemmon was seventh, one of his better results, with Frank DeNicola, Dale Spradling, Ralf Ludwig and C.P. Mehne next, all on the lead lap.
G2R2 (MX-5 Mazdaspeed Challenge)
This one was an exciting battle between Topping, Kent and Piscitell as each took turns at the front during six official lead changes. Piscitell led laps one and two, Topping lap three, then Kent was out front for laps four and five. Topping again was atop for a lap, then Kent held the lead for three laps. But Topping got back out front on the last lap and came first under the checker, a fraction of a second over Kent and Piscitell. But during all the action, Topping and Kent had made some contact, so post-race they were given the appropriate time penalties. That math done, Piscitell got the win, with Haney second. Topping was classified third, Kent fourth and Brown fifth. Sixth through 10th were DeNicola, James, Lemmon, Mehne, Spradling and Ludwig, again all on the lead lap.
So with four races down and six to go, Scott James leads the MAZDASPEED Challenge points standing with 153, Lyonel Kent right behind at 134. Let’s see what happens at Lime Rock May 24 and 26!
Back to the open-wheelers, Ben Searcy led right from the gate and eventually got his first Series win, 4 seconds ahead of the entertaining dice between Julien Albarracin and Brent Milner that began on lap four, when Albarracin slotted into P3 after losing a bunch of spots (he started P2) on the first lap. Back near the front, Albarracing began hounding Milner and with three laps to go he got around Milner. Milner was not done and a last-corner charge into and through T17 came up just three one hundredths short. Mark Fee followed in fourth a half-dozen seconds later, trailed by Brian Skinner, Ashley Freiberg and Kevin Tittle, in seventh. Four-offs didn’t help the causes of Chris Oliver, Luca Orlandi and Al Carter, who came home eighth, ninth and 10th, respectively
A terrific dice all race long between Albarracin, Orlandi and Fee! Orlandi was very impressive as he had to come from the fifth row – he was into third by the second lap. (R1 winner Searcy made a mistake early on, going four-off in T1 and was eventually classified ninth.) While Albarracin and Orlandi swapped the lead every few laps, Fee stayed right with them in third place. Finally, at the line, Albarracin nipped Orlandi by the closest of margins, just .009 of a second, with Fee just a micro-tick behind them. Carter was running a solid fifth and came up a spot when Tittle went off in One. Also moving up were Jonathan Ryan, Milner, Rod Ryan and Jared Douglas, eighth. Ninth was the aforementioned Searcy, with Tittle rounding out the top 10.
Peter Ludwig gave no one else a chance in this one as he led every lap and ran a consistent string of 2:11s and 2:12s the entire race. In fact, only Felix Serralles also got into the :11s, but that was just once, on lap two. But give Serralles credit, as he had started way back in 12th but was up to third in just one lap, latched onto the gearbox of Quentin Wahl and just ahead of 2007 Skip Barber National Masters Division champion Dick Lippert. Serralles took himself out of the running with a four-off on lap four, elevating Lippert to third behind Wahl. Three laps after that, Wahl got it wrong in T1, which put Lippert into second and Deyne Bent (from 14th) into third. On the last lap, Serralles completed a very nice comeback by getting past both Wahl and Anthony Furfari for fourth. Wahl and Furfari finished fifth and sixth, while Robert Hill, Jr., John Peterson, Thiago Calvet and Mike Cascioli rounded out the top 10.
Lots of action up and down the entire field and up front, a marvelous display of wheel to wheel, draft-assisted dicing between Ludwig, Furfari and Serralles. For example, Serralles went third-to-first on lap five – then back to third two laps later. When it all shookout, Ludwig grabbed the lead on lap nine and held on for the win, Furfari second and across the line in third was Serralles. But Serralles had gone four-off in 11 and so after the penalty was added, he was classified fourth, Peterson’s good drive rewarded with the third place. Calvet rounded out the top five.
Young Sean Rayhall had the pole and led the first four laps but he overcooked T1 on lap six. That gave Roberto Dalton the lead, one he did not relinquish. In fact only he and Rayhall got into the :11s so Dalton was able to motor to a 10-second win. Brent Milner, Dennis Trebing, Bill Haney and Rayhall rounded out the top five, followed by Paul Subject, Gary Gerrad, Grant Krieger and Rod Ryan.
Rayhall started fifth but his SuperTrapp relinquished its hold on the header and the extra low-end torque helped him move to the lead. Dalton did very well to stay with Rayhall to finish second ‘‘overall’’ and ”first in class.” Milner again scored a podium, this time P3, with Trebing fourth and Brian Skinner, up from 10th, fifth.
Eight Belles Memorial
Cool. The three fastest laps in the Memorial – Peter Ludwig’s 2:11.323, ‘‘Garrado’’ Bonilla’s :11.461 and Corey Lewis’s :11.395 – were all done on lap three. ‘‘Garrado,’’ whom we think is Garardo’s much older brother, was 11th on the grid but snatched the lead from Doppler Dave on lap four. Two laps later, Ludwig went from third to first, putting ‘‘Garrado’’ to third with Fratt Manc keeping second. Lap seven, ‘‘Garrado’’ popped from P3 to P1 but could not shake Franc, who came up just .044 short at the line, with Ludwig third.
The East and Midwest championships head to rounds three and four at another great circuit, Watkins Glen International, May 23-25. And a moment of silence for Cam Argetsinger, founder of the original Watkins Glen street races and then the famous track up in the hills behind the storied town. He was the father of Peter, one of our best known and respected instructors. Mr. Argetsinger passed away in late April at the age of 87. He will be sorely missed…
The next Skip Barber MAZDASPEED Challenge races are at Lime Rock Park, also on that Memorial Day weekend. There’ll be a Saturday and a Monday race, likely in front of big crowds. Pretty cool stuff, wouldn’t you say?