Two Mad Scrambles at Road America

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Saturday, August 20, 2005 ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Over the past six Skip Barber National Championship Presented by RACER races, Gerardo Bonilla’s points lead has shrunk from 31 down to 13. He finished sixth and fourth in the two races this weekend (rounds 11 and 12) at Road America. At Mont-Tremblant a month ago, he had two fourths. But it’s not that Bonilla is falling off the pace, or that he’s reacting badly to pressure, or that he’s had a spate of bad luck, or that he’s too vividly remembering his oh-so-close loss of the title to Marco Andretti last year. No, what Bonilla’s facing is a stark reality: Jordy Vorrath, Cole Nelson, Matt Varsha, Andy Rosseto and others upping their pace, as they learn the intricacies of the R/T 2000 and get used to the intense heat of competition in this championship. Bonilla knew coming into the season that he had to take big advantage of his experience in these cars and on these tracks early on; his big collection of points through the first eight races of the year is turning out to be critically important.

At Road America supporting the ALMS race weekend, the Skip Barber National had two almost ridiculously exciting races. Uncountable lead changes (two and three per lap; forget about “officially” across start/finish) among up to six drivers. Bent wings, dislocated noses. Drivers catching air — and still nearly making the podium. Two-, three-, and one time, even four-wide through the corners. Check this out: Cole Nelson, who finished second in both races, was a combined .255 of a second behind the winners.

And those winners? In the first race, Vorrath, this year’s Skip Barber Karting Scholarship winner, came out on top. It was a Mixmaster Blender of a race: Throw in Vorrath, Bonilla, Matt Varsha, Nelson, Andy Rossetto (the polesitter for both races) and Paul Albert, punch “puree” and stand back. Nelson came P2 and Rossetto third, each having officially led three laps or more. Albert, who had garnered some financial support over the weekend and finally felt free to really go for it (“I could crash and not have to get into a breadline!”), never put a wheel wrong and got fourth, Varsha was fifth and Bonilla sixth. This was not the result Bonilla wanted/needed. Vorrath had taken a healthy 10-point bite out of Bonilla’s 25-point stash.

The second race, somebody must have pushed “chop” on the Mixmaster. Nose nipples flying, front wings at angles you only see in geometry class, enough dust in the air to impress a Texan, it was huge fun to watch. The racing wasn’t what one would call dirty — but absolutely no quarter was given or taken. Again, bunches of lead changes, cars so close to each other through the high speed stuff the faint of heart were, well, fainting, and finally — shew! — Rossetto got to the line first, by the scantest of margins, .033 ahead of Nelson. Vorrath, Bonilla and Albert followed a few feet behind. For those of you scoring at home, Vorrath sliced two more points off the Bonilla lead.

Now the boys head to the last two races of the year, at Mid-Ohio September 5-7. Bonilla has 177 points, Vorrath 164 and Nelson 158. There’s a deliciously tempting $100,000 simmering on the stove for one of these drivers. It’s going to be pretty tasty fun seeing who gets to feast on it.

Round 11 of 14, August 19, 2005, Skip Barber National Championship Presented by RACER
Road America, 14-turn, 4.0-mile road course
Start position in parentheses

1. (2) Jordy Vorrath, White Rock, B.C., Canada, 10
2. (3) Cole Nelson, Atwater, Calif., 10
3. (1) Andy Rossetto, Grafton, Wis., 10
4. (6) Paul Albert, Ottawa, Ont., Canada, 10
5. (7) Matt Varsha, Atlanta, Ga., 10 laps
6. (4) Gerardo Bonilla, Orlando, Fla., 10
7. (14) Jonathan Goring, Norfolk, Conn., 10
8. (5) Garrett Zine, Rio Linda, Calif., 10
9. (9) Charles Anti, Pittsburgh, Pa., 10
10. (10) Jonathan Gore, Franklin, Tenn., 10
11. (13) Jimmy Holden, Tiona, Pa., 10
12. (10) Winston de Wardt, Steamboat Springs, Colo., 10
13. (15) Brett Fenske, Appleton, Wis., 10
14. (16) John Muehl, Sussex, Wis., 10
15. (19) Alain Roger Matrat, Annapolis, Md., 9
16. (18) James E.A. Rolin, Long Beach, Calif., 9
17. (12) Richard Heistand, Sunny Isles, Fla., 7
18. (11) Timmy Megenbier, Melrose Park, Ill., 1 (wreck)
19. (8) Casey Neal, Middletown, Ohio, 0 (wreck)

Race length: 10 laps of 4.0-mile, 14-turn road course for 40.0 miles
Time of race: 25 minutes, 46.688 seconds
Winner’s average speed: 94.219 mph
Margin of victory: 0.222 seconds
Lap leaders: Rossetto, 1 – 4; Nelson, 5 – 7; Vorrath, 8 – 10
Fastest race lap: Rossetto, 2:32.710 / 95.430 mph, lap 8
Fastest qualifier: Rossetto, 2:32.154 / 95.780 mph

Round 12 of 14, August 20, 2005, Skip Barber National Championship Presented by RACER
Road America, 14-turn, 4.0-mile road course
Start position in parentheses

1. (1) Andy Rossetto, Grafton, Wis., 10 laps,
2. (4) Cole Nelson, Atwater, Calif., 10
3. (8) Jordy Vorrath, White Rock, B.C., Canada, 10
4. (2) Gerardo Bonilla, Orlando, Fla., 10
5. (5) Paul Albert, Ottawa, Ont., Canada, 10
6. (12) Garrett Zine, Rio Linda, Calif., 10
7. (10) Charles Anti, Pittsburgh, Pa., 10
8. (9) Winston de Wardt, Steamboat Springs, Colo., 10
9. (13) Casey Neal, Middletown, Ohio, 10
10. (11) Timmy Megenbier, Melrose Park, Ill., 10
11. (16) Brett Fenske, Appleton, Wis., 10
12. (14) Jimmy Holden, Tiona, Pa., 10
13. (17) John Muehl, Sussex, Wis., 10
14. (18) Alain Roger Matrat, Annapolis, Md., 10
15. (19) James E.A. Rolin, Long Beach, Calif., 9
16. (7) Jonathan Goring, Norfolk, Conn., 4 (wreck)
17. (3) Matt Varsha, Atlanta, Ga., 4 (wreck)
18. (15) Richard Heistand, Sunny Isles, Fla., 2 (wreck)
19. (6) Jonathan Gore, Franklin, Tenn., 0 (wreck)

Race length: 10 laps of 4.0-mile, 14-turn road course for 40.0 miles
Time of race: 25 minutes, 48.084 seconds
Winner’s average speed: 94.256 mph
Margin of victory: 0.033 seconds
Lap leaders: Bonilla, 1; Vorrath, 2 – 3; Rossetto, 4 – 7; Nelson, 8; Rossetto, 9 – 10
Fastest race lap: Bonilla, 2:32.660 / 95.459 mph, lap 6
Fastest qualifier: Rossetto, 2:31.775 / 96.016 mph

081905e
Race 1: This is how close the racing was the entire race; this is lap nine of 10, exiting Turn Five.

081905f
Race 1: Last lap, Turn Five; Vorrath (#19) would be caught by Nelson (#68) by the time they reached Canada…

081905g
Race 1: Vorrath was presented the winner’s trophy by the esteemed Augie Pabst, one of America’s top sports car racers of the 50s and 60s, who won many a race at Road America.

081905h
Race 1: Rossetto (l.) goes for the gut, Vorrath (c.) shows off his behind the back skill set, and Nelson (r.) reloads…

081905i
Race 1: “Rubbin’ is racin’!” No, that’s not some avant garde paint scheme; Vorrath carved out his initial on someone else’s SuperTrapp. Another example of how close the racin’ was Friday afternoon.

082005a
Race 2: Just like Friday’s race, race two was close like this during the entire 25 minutes for everyone in the top four. Here, Cole Nelson (#68) and Jordy Vorrath (#19) cut it close through Five.

082005b
Race 2: Two 2005 race winners — Jonathan Gore in #8 and Matt Varsha in #71 — “found” each other in Turn Five while disputing P5, ending their runs prematurely.

082005c
Race 2: With positions changing multiple times during each lap — not to mention officially across start/finish — Rossetto (#38) had to fight back to first at least three or four times. Note the already skewed wings of Vorrath and Bonilla (#54).

082005d
Race 2: Here are your members of the Road America in August Podium Club. Jordy Vorrath (l.), winner on Friday and P3 Saturday; Andy Rossetto (c.), winner Saturday and third on Friday; and twice second-place Cole Nelson (r.), who’s combined time behind the winners was .255 of a second.

Photos & words, Rick Roso

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