Thunderhill: Western Series Rounds 7 & 8
Tuesday, February 13, 2007 Despite the Friday and Saturday rain, everybody had a lot of fun at Thunderhill Park. The drivers told us they loved driving the circuit, and the facilities were first-rate. Plus, the Thunderhill people were extremely helpful and eager to please. If you missed it this year, make sure you sign up for our next visit to Thunderhill…
Here are the race group re-caps…
In the rain, outside frontrowman Max Hyatt took the lead from poleman Tom Roberts but ‘‘Oops!’’ fell off the road in Three, so the order after the first lap was Roberts, Jessica Brunelli and Tim Traver. And that’s how they finished. But Brunelli was all over Roberts like ice cream on a kid’s face the whole race and crossed the line just 6/10s behind. Traver was hustling too, and actually spun on the last lap but it didn’t lose him third place. A bit further back, Curt Berg and Alan Baia had a nice dice going, with Baia getting by Berg on lap five to take over, then keep, P4. Two laps later Hyatt, recovering from his T3 off, also got past Berg to grab fifth place, with Gary Manheimer coming home seventh. Hyatt set the fastest lap, a 2:25.285.
Under Sunday sun, this was a fun one. Roberts led flag to flag but behind him Hyatt, Brunelli and Baia put on a show… Single file after the start, it was instantly nose to tail top to bottom: Roberts, Hyatt, Berg, Manheimer, Baia, Brunelli. On lap two, Brunelli got a run out of Six and made the pass on The Man in Turn Seven to take over fifth. On lap three we saw Hyatt all over Tom Roberts, but no position change. Next lap, it was three wide in T14, the net result was Brunelli getting herself around Baia for fourth. Alan fought back and there was a cool pass/re-pass … Just past halfway was when Brunelli made the move on Berg and took over third place for good. Two laps later, Berg succumbed to Baia’s advances, then two laps after that, Manheimer made the move on Berg in Nine to grab fifth. When the checker fell, Roberts had his second win of the weekend, followed by Hyatt, Brunelli, Baia (fastest lap, too: 2:00.852), Manheimer and Berg – and all six crossed the line inside of 12 seconds.
Tom Roberts (r.) is a top-notch racer — two wins this weekend — and a pretty darn good party hostess (and special thanks to “Barb,” for organizing a private shindig at her awesome coffee shop, “Common Grounds”). Murph, meanwhile, shows he pretty good at something, too…
New guy Gavin Ernstone was the surprise polesitter, having put up a 2:31 in the wet qualifier. But at the start it was P4-starting Gary Williams who got to the front, also getting around Jimmy Moon and outside frontrowman John Potter. So the end of lap one saw it Williams, Potter, Ernstone, Moon, Sarena Traver and John Thompson your top six. But Williams spun – into pitlane! – and would re-join sixth. That put Potter P1, which he would not relinquish, and with Moon over Ernstone we had a top three that would stay steady for just three laps. That’s because on lap four, Ernstone went four-off in Five and the required stop dropped him to seventh. So guess who was now third? All the way up from 12th on the grid, ladies and gentlemen, a round of applause for Mr. John Thompson! Thompson was just behind The Moon – but Moon got his orbit wrong, spun and four-offed, so with lap six in the books it was Potter, Thompson and Williams your top three, and that’s how they finished, each about 15 seconds up the road from the other. (Congrats to Potter on his first Series win!) Seth Manheimer did a good job, bringing it home fourth, while Moon got busy after his spin and worked his way back to fifth at the flag. Nicholas Spencer and Michael Ramies were sixth and seventh, while Dana Rock, despite some early race contact, salvaged an eighth. Ernstone didn’t have the best of races, with two four-offs, so although he was a lap down, he still got 10th and set fastest race lap (2:30.208).
In the dry, Williams made a great start and popped out from P3 to snatch the lead from poleman Potter (who fell to third) and second-starting Thompson, so Williams, Thompson and Potter ran in front of Ramies, Ernstone and Spencer. But Ramies spun at the exit of One to begin the second lap and that put Ernstone fourth and Spencer fifth, with Moon Job right behind. In fact, Moon wasted no time and quickly put Spencer behind him to take over P5. Things settled for a bit, although Thompson was giving hell to Williams, even taking the lead briefly in Turn One on lap seven. The pass/re-pass allowed Potter to close on Thompson – the top three looked very racy. It looked like it was going to come down to the last lap… and it did, as Thompson did the deed on Williams in the long, lefthand Turn Two and then galloped off to a 3-second MoV over Williams, with Potter, Ernstone and Moon rounding out the top five. S. Manheimer, Spencer, Ramies, Dana Rock and Danny Bunn were sixth through 10th.
Anna Nicole Smith/”White Trash” Memorial
Brunelli went from fourth to the lead on lap one, chased by Gary Manheimer while behind them Mikel Miller was rocketing up from DFL. On lap three Miller was already up to P2, then gobbled up Brunelli on lap four for the lead. But because Miller had ordered a burger from the drive-thru and then broke Series regs by eating it in the cockpit, race officials had no choice but to black-flag Miller for his sin. That put Brunelli back in the lead, Manheimer second. Moon had rollercoasted from third-to-fifth-to-fourth-to-fifth-to-fourth-to-third, and Alan Baia was quietly climbing the ladder from sixth to third. Meanwhile, Jimmy Moon’s Big Brother Benny put himself into fifth on lap seven and sat there, waiting to pounce at the right time. On lap 11 he moved up two slots when Manheimer slipped from second to fifth and he put the pass in Little Bro, then on the last lap B. Moon eyed up Baia, now P2, and took the spot. Good job, Jessica!
Right back at ya! The Southern Series is at Sebring this weekend (Feb. 16-18) for rounds 7 and 8, followed by the Western contingent heading back to home base, Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, for rounds 9 and 10 (March 2-4). Then, the newly reconstituted National opens the 2007 season supporting the 55th Annual 12 Hours of Sebring, March 14-16.
There’s still time to sign up for the Skip Barber National the Sebring 12-Hour. The National has a separately scored Masters division for competitors over the age of 40. Check it out here…