Western Series Opener
Wednesday, October 26, 2005 The first two rounds of the 12-race Western Race Series were at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, a great facility that always produces good competition and lots of fun. We saw first-time winners (and one of those wins was history making), a new track record (1:41.927) being set, and the first of the three special Triple Crown races. Read on to see what happened…
Alexander Rossi pretty much ran away with this one, starting from pole and finishing with a near-9-second MoV despite two laps of FCY to grab Quentin Wahl’s R/T out of the Corkscrew gravel thanks to some help from Gavin MacGregor. In Rossi’s mirrors at the green flag were Richard Heistand and John Scalmanini getting together in Two (and Tim Traver four-offing to avoid). Following the full course yellow for Wahl, and with Heistand and Scalmanini “having served,” it was Rossi up front, with Jeff Kaiser and Patrick Barrett disputing second and third. John Peterson and Dr. Mike Edwards had holds on P4 and 5, respectively. On lap 10, however, Barrett pulled off the pass on Kaiser in Andretti, and two laps later, the battling-back Heistand took over fourth place from Edwards. On the last lap, Rossi was secure in P1 but a lot went on behind him: Barrett spun and four-offed himself out of second in Turn Six while Robb Holland also had a four-off. At the checker it was Rossi — his first win — Kaiser, Heistand and Edwards (who had come from deep on the grid). Barrett crossed the line next, but he and Holland had their requisite 20-second penalties factored in, putting Peterson fifth.
Well, this was a 16-lap barnburner! The Race Notes tell this one best… After a no-start Rossi went four-off in Turn Two… was able to get back on to the pole for the start. At the green Heistand hit Rossi … Lap two Tim Traver passes Emil Sildos in Two. Mc Gregor goes four-off in T6, causing Scalmanini to also end up off the road… Duncan Ende went four-off in Turn 10… Lap three: In the corkscrew Quentin Wahl takes Sildos for P9… Lap four it’s Kaiser pressuring Tom Roberts for P3 [Rossi pits for his four-off and car contact on lap four]… Lap five Heistand reports for his car contact on the first lap with Ross and gives the lead to Roberts. Lap six and we see Rossi on the charge back to the front; passes MacGregor in Turn 4 but further on up the road Peterson, who spun in the Corkscrew and was in the middle of the track, forces Alex to go four-off … Lap seven, Kaiser all over Roberts in the Corkscrew… Lap eight, Sildos four-offs in T2… Kaiser tries to pass in the Corkscrew but gets wide and can’t make the pass… MacGregor goes four-off at the exit of Five… Lap nine: Kaiser is one car-length behind Roberts going through the Corkscrew and but then Roberts extends his lead. Barrett passes Dr. Mike in Turn Five for P3 . Lap 13, Barrett is on a charge… Leader Roberts spins and goes four-off in turn 10! (rejoins 11th)… Lap 14, after having to stop scoring Alex Rossi for two laps because he did not pit for his second four-off, he gets into Traver in Turns Nine and 11. Lap 15: Leader Kaiser spins in Six but does not go four-off — but goes three-and-a-half off in Corkscrew! The finish: Barrett, Edwards, Wahl, Kaiser and Heistand (whew!)
Sarah Wahl is the first woman since Susan Blodgett — in the rain at Bridgehampton, 1990 — to win a Skip Barber Regional race. She had taken the pole, almost 6/10s ahead of Shantanu Reddy, with Alan Baia gridded third. At the green, Baia didn’t get the best of starts and then it got worse; in Turn Four, he accidentally hit the kill switch (he soon re-fired). As they crossed the line to put lap one in the books it was Sarah, Gray Gregory and Davis Parr, while Sarena Traver, Dana Rock, Reddy and Craig Conwell were putting on a great show fighting over fourth place. But on the third lap Dan Cheadle did a spin-and-stick in Five, bringing out a very short FCY. The track went green at the start of lap four, and Baia got past Conwell in Turn Four — but a few turns later he got into Sarena in the Corkscrew, then just down the road she spun in T10. The next time around things got worse for Sarena as she got into the wall in Turn Three, bringing out a two-lap full course yellow. We went green at the start of lap eight with the order Sarah, Gregory, Parr. Then on lap 13 Rock finally found a way past Parr for P3, and a lap later, Reddy also got by Parr for fourth, Parr and Conwell rounding out the runners. Way to go, Sarah!
Everybody politely went single file through the first corner, Sarah over Rock and super-starting Sarena (she had been gridded eighth). In fourth was Reddy, who would lose the spot to Gregory in Andretti the next lap. On lap three, Sarena found trouble again in Turn Three — a four-off — handing third place to Gregory and fourth to Reddy. That didn’t last long as Reddy returned a favor to Gregory, taking P3 with a move in Two the next time around. So from lap five through nine, it was Sarah, Rock, Reddy & Gregory (that would be the running order, not the law firm). During this segment, Rock and Sarah had a tremendous dice going, with Dana right on Sarah’s gearbox the whole time. But on the 12th lap, Rock’s pressure caused a mistake by Wahl, as she spun and went four-off in the Andretti Hairpin (she would spin again eight corners later but stayed on the track). That put Rock in the lead, of course, where he would stay until the end, and Reddy into second. But Reddy wasn’t ready for P2, as three laps later he spun and four-offed in Six! That gave second place to Baia and third to Gregory. In those last six laps after her spin, Sarah dogged her way back to fourth while Parr took fifth.
The large Sportsman contingent at Laguna Seca meant a second group; this one comprised of mostly new or almost new drivers to the Series. In G3’s first race, karter Paul Bonilla led from his polesitting start but Mike Clarl was harassing Bonilla early on. Clark stayed close but the totally on-fire Vladimir Charchlyan came from waaaaaay back (he was 12th on the grid) gobbled Clark up for second place on lap 10. Vlad the Impaler was chasing after Bonilla but when Evan Malik caught the wall in Six, the race finished under yellow. Erick Hansen and Peter Husser rounded out the top five.
Vlad took the lead from his front row spot and was never really headed — especially since Clark and Bonilla were fighting so desperately hard for second! They swapped the P2 spot twice in the first couple of laps but then Bonilla made a mistake and fell off the road in Turn Three. He pitted on lap eight, rejoined fifth and passed Ross Jaffe before the end of the lap. With Clark firmly in second and Husser now in third, that would be the podium at the conclusion of this 17 lapper, though Husser gave Clark all he could handle. Bonilla had fourth-place wrapped up, too… At one point during the furious mid-pack battle, Allen Delattre took the time for a friendly wave to one of the coaches — and immediately went 3.5-off! But he thought he was four-off and came into the pits, where he was promptly waved through. When Delattre put a Turn 11 Hairpin pass on Jaffe, it gave him fifth place, the first of the lapped cars. For Charchlyan, it was an impressive first-time win.
Triple Crown Race
In a good race, nine players stepped up to the plate to run the Triple Crown event. Rossi was on pole, Barrett alongside, Kaiser and Dr. Edwards qualifying third and fourth. Down into the first corner (Turn Two), Baia and Sarena Traver had contact, enough to put Sarena in the beach, so we went FCY for two laps, with Rossi as the leader. Green for the start of lap three, Rossi held the point for two more laps, then Barrett snatched P1. He held on for two laps until Barrett took it away, your leader of laps five and six. Yet again Rossi attacked, taking the lead on lap seven. Barrett wasn’t done either, passing for the lead a final time on lap eight. Rossi stayed glued, and the final margin of victory was just one click of the clock. Third, fourth and fifth were fought with similar intensity, with Edwards and Traver hard on the heels of Kaiser. But Kaiser and Turn 10 had a disagreement three laps from the end, a four-off that killed his podium chances. The end result was Barrett, Rossi, Traver, with Edwards fourth, John Peterson fifth, Dom Bastien sixth and Baia seventh. Sarena was two laps down in eighth and Kaiser was scored ninth. Round two of the Western Series Triple Crown is December 10 at Laguna Seca, as part of the round three/four race weekend.
The “66-Minute Enduro” Memorial
With two and sometimes three drivers to a car, and a mix of Skippy instructors and Series competitors, endures end up being a boatload of fun. In this one, Todd Snyder (you might recognize him as the managing director of the Race Series…) started the #97 on the last row… and had P2 by the end of the first lap. About 14 minutes in, Patrick Barrett four-offed out of the lead. Quentin Wahl and Regional Chief Instructor Randy Buck shared the leader car with Snyder, while Richard Heistand and Instructor (and leading drifting competitor) Conrad Grunewald shared the duties in the eventually second-place #24. Barrett, Jeff Kaiser and Alexander Rossi took third, while Paul Bonilla and Instructor Grant Ryley were fourth. Mark Hamilton Peters was the instructor sharing the number 5 car with Robb Holland — and MHP set a new track record as they brought it home fifth.
Gandy Dancer Randy Buck — that’s his backside you’re looking at — was part of the “66-Minute Enduro” Memorial winning team. The guys were desperate to “Gatorade” him like you read about. And succeeded…
Well, that was a pretty good Western Series opener! Sarah Wahl made Skip Barber history (first woman winner in 15 years), Alex Rossi and Vlad Charchlyan were also first-time victors, and the opening Triple Crown race was a corker. Rounds three and four of the Western championship are coming up December 10-11, also at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. See you there!
Also coming up: The Southern Series 2005-2006 opener is at one of the most fun tracks you’ll ever race our RT 2000s race at: the Daytona 24-Hour Road Course. If you raced with us at Daytona antime in the past, you know what we mean (drafting on the high banks is not to be missed!). But it’ll be even better this year, since the good folks at ISC re-paved the entire infield road course this past summer. And of course, the first round of the Southern Triple Crown will be on Saturday. Call you series advisor if you’re interested!