Gauper Splashes To First SCCA National Championship in H Production
Greg Gauper took a hometown win in H Production (Weber photo)
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ELKHART LAKE, Wis. (Sept. 25, 2011) – Local driver Greg Gauper, of Hubertus, Wis., used his local knowledge to splash around a wet Road America circuit and win the H Production National Championship at the 48th SCCA National Championship Runoffs on Sunday morning. Dick Gagliardi, of Arlington Heights, Ill., and Jason Isley, of Coto De Caza, Calif., completed the podium.
Gauper’s No. 15 Rana Mort Racing Honda Civic started third on the grid, but was quickest during Monday’s qualifying session during a downpour. With overnight rains soaking the track, Gauper’s rain set-up would come in handy for the 13-lap race.
The eventual National Champion started the race behind Gumout polesitter Mike Moser, of Milwaukee, Wis., in the No. 01 ETE Reman/Goodyear/Alchemy Honda CRX and Chris Albin, of Maryland Heights, Mo., in the No. 3 Hoosier/247-parts.com/AMT engines Volkswagen Golf GTI. Moser and Albin were joined by Ron Bartell’s No. 4 Hoosier Tires MG Midget up front in the early laps, before Albin fell out of the race with mechanical issues after the first lap. That left Moser and Bartell to battle for the lead.
Gauper and Gagliardi’s No. 0 Loop Racing/Tel Systems Volkswagen Scirocco both moved past Bartell on lap three, and Gauper moved into the lead past Moser in turn eight on the same lap. Moser and Bartell both spun off later in that lap, taking them out of contention.
With Gauper in the lead, he spent the remaining 10 laps holding off a charging Gagliardi, with Jason Isley’s No. 99 Racer.com/Goodyear/AST-USA/Toyota Toyota Yaris pulling to the rear of that battle on a handful of occasions.
Gauper, using strong runs through the Carousel on every lap, held off charges from Gagliardi to finish the 13-lap, 52-mile race exactly three seconds in the lead.
“It still hasn’t sunk in,” Gauper said. “I really expected today I’d be battling for possibly the third spot at best behind Mike and Chris. I didn’t think rain was going to be as much of an advantage because those guys are very good in the wet as well.
“The most nerve-wracking thing was trying to decide what the weather was going to do today, was it going to rain or was it going to dry. These are the absolute most frustrating conditions to decide. My stomach was just butterflies this morning, am I making the right choice or not? We decided to go out with intermediates on the front and unfortunately, I only have six sets of wheels so the rear had slicks on the back and it turned out to be a handful. But it worked out for me.”
Being so close to home made the National Championship even more special.
“Two years ago we lost a real good, close friend of the family and my long time crew chief, Vern Fitch,” Gauper said. “I’d like to dedicate this win in his memory.”
Gagliardi, making his first Runoffs appearance, finished second and turned the Hawk Fastest Lap of the race in 3:11.959 (75.016 mph).
“The track was really slick,” Gagliardi said. “It would vary during the race. Sometimes it was slicker through some corners than others. At the start, a lot of guys got by me but I thought it’s a long race, let’s not be hasty here. It was a great race, it was fun following Greg. I was glad to have Greg to follow him around because it was hard to tell where the traction was on the track.
“I always hope for a dry race, but we had watched yesterday and it was almost identical conditions. We knew from early in the year that the Goodyear intermediate tires should be the proper tires to use in this situation and it seemed to work out real good. We’re happy.”
Isley, a four-time SCCA Solo National Champion, started 12th and used his car control to bring the Yaris – SportsCar Magazine’s project car for the past two seasons – through the field and into the lead battle. In his first time road racing in the rain, Isley lost touch with the leaders in the later laps and then fell back to James Rogerson’s No. 66 Hoosier/MSR Houston/Over 50 Racing Honda Civic. When Isley locked up the tires on the final lap going into turn five and ran wide, Rogerson moved into third place.
The Toyota got a run down the backstraight to Canada Corner, moving back into third and holding the gap to the checkered flag for his first Runoffs podium finish and the Sunoco Hard Charger Award for improving nine positions.
“On the prior lap, I got held up through the kink, and gave up a bunch there because I think that was one of the spots I was fast today,” Isley said. “I just started having problems, because that was the first time I’d road raced that car in the rain and the only car I’ve ever raced without ABS brakes.
“I just started locking the brakes up and botching some down shifts once Rogerson got on my back. I’m not sure what happened, he gave it up real early going into Canada Corner. I had really good corner exit, that seemed to be my advantage today. I pulled away from him there and he didn’t have a chance to catch me. He got close at the stripe, cause I didn’t have the legs – we put a stock motor in the car a month ago. If it were dry I wouldn’t be standing here because I didn’t have anything on the straightaways.”
Rogerson, of Pearland, Texas, finished fourth, followed by Mat Brannon‘s No. 2 Midwest-Bayless Italian Auto Fiat X 1/9.
Now in its 48th year, the SCCA National Championship Runoffs annually crowns Champions in the Sports Car Club of America’s Club Racing classes. The live broadcast of all 28 National Championship races will be available throughout the weekend at www.SpeedcastTV.com/scca and later available On Demand from the same site.
Follow the action on Twitter @SCCAOfficial or the SCCA, Inc. Official Facebook page at facebook.com/sccaofficial. More information is available at www.scca.com.