Willcox Wrangles Another Masters National Title

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Monday, September 05, 2005 The second to the last Masters National weekend was at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and we saw absolutely picture-perfect weather. Sunny with out hardly a cloud in the sky. Low humidity. Temperatures that ranged from 65 in the a.m. to the low 80s in the afternoon. The racing was awesome from front to back, and several drivers got to be part of the official Skip Barber in-car radio coaching test. We wired six of the drivers with helmet mics and push-to-talk buttons and gave them their own coach/spotter for the weekend. The program needs some tweaking, but overall it was a success. Also new for this weekend was that the most familiar name associated with the top podium spot in the Masters National failed to see it all weekend.

But he clinched the title anyway. Yep, Chris Willcox, the fastest of the Masters over the past three years, finished third on Saturday to take yet another Masters National title.

But, as Paul Harvey would say, read on for the “rest of the story.”

Qualifying 1
Pretty interesting qualifier. Dick Lippert and Jimmy Locke (and occasionally Chris Willcox) traded fast laps for most of the session. Toward the end of the session, when Lippert’s spotter told him he had the pole, Dick proceeded to put his car in the gravel trap in Turn One… Hmmm… This brought an end to the session, but Dick swears that he didn’t learn that from the Champ Car events where he has seen the same thing happen time and time again.
1. Dick Lippert
2. Jimmy Locke
3. Chris Willcox
4. John Mayes
5. Peter Tucker
6. John Peterson
7. Yon Yarab
8. Dom Bastien
9. Jeff Kaiser
10. Murray Marden
11. David Harris
12. Jim Lowe
13. Lorin Gill

Qualifying 2
Q2 was almost identical. Locke, Lippert and Mayes traded fast laps for most of the session. Mayes’s spotter tried to get John to do the same thing as Team Lippert, but the plan failed as the Chief Steward (now ex-flying friend of the Mayes family) covered it with a local yellow and let the time run out. This resulted in Mayes dropping to P3 on the grid.
1. Jimmy Locke
2. Dick Lippert
3. John Mayes
4. Chris Willcox
5. Jeff Kaiser
6. Peter Tucker
7. Dom Bastien
8. Murray Marden
9. Jim Lowe
10. John Peterson
11. David Harris
12. Ron Yarab
13. Dario Cioti
14. Lorin Gill

Race One:
Lippert got the perfect start down the long back straight to lead the field into Turn 7 for the first time. Locke tucked in second, Willcox third, and Mayes fourth.

For the first couple of laps the top four were nose to tail and pulling away. Lap two and Locke passes Lippert into T7 for the lead. This allows Willcox and Mayes to stay right with them. Next lap, Lippert returns the favor on Locke. Behind these four it was anyone’s guess for P5 as the field was bunched together, Peterson at the point. Lap four, and Bastien has a hard four-off coming out of turn 11, one of the many off-camber, blind exit corners here at Mid-Ohio. This cost Bastien three positions and he is back to P10. This also breaks the field up. Peterson and Tucker are left to battle for fifth. Marden and hard charging Cioti (who missed qualifying) battle for seventh; Kaiser, Yarab, Harris and Jim Lowe battle for ninth.

Lap five and again Locke gets by Lippert for the lead, Willcox and Mayes hanging right with them. About the same time Tucker puts the move on Peterson for fifth. Further back Lowe has gotten around Harris and is trying to reel in Yarab. Lowe (and Harris) get it done easily on lap 14, when Yarab goes four-off in the carousel. This relegates Yarab back to P13 just ahead of Gill.

Back up front, the top four are still in a train with Locke leading. Lippert’s spotter has gotten Dick to hold position and let the laps run down before passing for the win. And with two laps to go that is exactly what he does. Lippert was better than Locke on the brakes in T7 and gets the pass done. Willcox and Mayes are still holding on in the cat bird seat, but as they come around for the white flag, Mayes overcooks it into the Carousel and goes four-off! Quickly he gets it back on track, but not before Tucker gets by for fourth.

Hard-charger award to Air Dario as he started last and gained seven spots to finish seventh!

090505a
Dick Lippert got his first Masters National win of 2005 in a stellar effort on Saturday.

Race One results:
1. Dick Lippert
2. Jimmy Locke
3. Chris Willcox
4. Peter Tucker
5. John Mayes
6. John Peterson
7. Dario Cioti
8. Dom Bastien
9. Murray Marden
10. Jeff Kaiser
11. Jim Lowe
12. David Harris
13. Ron Yarab
14. Lorin Gill

Race Two:
Up front it’s the same players, but different order. Locke is on the point, Lippert outside. Lippert times it perfectly and has the nose on Locke in to T7. He completes the pass (from the outside!) and leads going over the hump in T8. Willcox makes it by Mayes for P3 and it looks like we are in for the same race that we had on Saturday. Or are we?

Mid-pack on the start is ugly. Peterson gets into the back of Harris and bends one of his wings up. Kaiser “Roll,” who started fifth, has trouble on the first half of an unofficial lap and slides back to 12th by the time they get to the pit straight. On the other end of the spectrum, Cioti, who started 13th, has it up to seventh by the line. Ironically Dario’s car number is 7, so it must be a lucky number 7 thing…. or something about odd numbers.

090505b
Western Series stand-out Jeff Kaiser had a great Sunday, winning his first-ever Masters National.

Lap four and things are looking repeatable upfront. Lippert leads over Locke, Willcox and Mayes close behind. Then Mayes spins! He rejoins in seventh. This allows the “Dominator” to get by Tucker for fourth, and Dario is running sixth. Back in the pack Peterson and Kaiser are working their way back up through the field.

Lap five and Locke takes the lead from Lippert. Yarab and Peterson have moments in Turn 7 and unfortunately Yarab rips a radiator and can’t continue. Further back Lowe has played it conservative, but has fallen towards the tail end of the field. This lets Gill get in to the mix and is up to 11th.

Lap nine and Willcox puts the move on Lippert and takes second. He is not close enough at the moment to challenge for the lead… but almost. Lap 10 and Tucker gets by Bastien. In an attempt to retaliate, Bastien overcooks T1 and gets stuck in the gravel. After two laps we get the restart. Still Locke in front, Willcox second and Lippert third. Kaiser, as does Mayes, gets by Cioti and takes fifth.

Three to go and in an attempt to get the win, Willcox goes off in the Keyhole and has light contact with the tire wall. Same lap and Kaiser, man on a mission, gets by Tucker which now puts him in third!

Two to go and the pressure is on. Locke gets out of control in Turn 1 and spins out of the lead! Lippert does an awesome avoidance job to keep from hitting him, but goes four-off. This gives Kaiser the run and he passes for the lead in to the Keyhole! This is how they stay for the last lap and the finish. Great job by Jeff Kaiser to make the most progressive drive, from 12th on lap one to take the WIN!

Race Two results:
1. Jeff Kaiser
2. Dick Lippert
3. Peter Tucker
4. John Mayes
5. Murray Marden
6. Dario Cioti
7. David Harris
8. Jim Lowe
9. Lorin Gill
10. John Peterson
11. Jimmy Locke
12. Chris Willcox
13. Dom Bastien
14. Ron Yarab

090505c
Jimmy Locke gets feedback from John Murphy. “L” got P2 on Saturday. Dario Cioti and Willcox are in the background.

090505d
Peter Tucker had a solid weekend, getting a fourth and a third.

Congratulations to Chris Willcox for yet another “masterful” display, taking the 2005 Masters National Championship. Second place in the chase is still up for grabs, so let’s see what happens at Lime Rock Park mid-October! The Masters National awards banquet will be part of the Eastern Series finale banquet and all will get their respective kudos…

Words and Photos Todd Snyder

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