WILLOWS, Calif. (April 12, 2014) – With an overflowing paddock and trailers parked outside the gate, the first SCCA U.S. Majors Tour event at Thunderhill Raceway Park opened Saturday under blue skies.
The doubleheader event, Rounds Five and Six of the Western Conference Majors Tour point championship, saw 284 cars race in the 27 Runoffs-eligible classes on tap for the weekend. Saturday featured morning qualifying sessions for seven groups, followed by 30-minute timed races just after lunch.
An early yellow bunched the field in a large and diverse group one, erasing Rylan Hazelton’s Super Touring Under lead. He was able to get away in his No. 49 Driving Ambition/BFGoodrich Tires/HPD Honda S2000 after the restart, stretching back out and working through to the checkered flag.
Behind him, however, the traffic was a factor in several races. Bruce Ackerman’s No. 13 McGee Motors Sports Volvo P1800 led a three-car battle early in F Production, with Brian Linn’s No. 4 Hoosier/RedLine/Carbotech Lotus Super Seven and Joe Huffaker’s No. 77 Huffaker Engineering MG Midget splitting a Mazda Miata on the opening lap restart and Huffaker moving up into second.
On lap seven, Huffaker fell back to fourth, behind Jess Heitman’s No. 47 Maz-Toy Auto Recycling/Competition Autoworks Mazda Miata, and Linn moved into the lead around Ackerman. The gap fluctuated through traffic, with each of the top three drivers hanging on within a couple of car lengths to the final lap. Huffaker turned the fastest lap of the race trying to chase the front pair down on the last pass, and Ackerman went for the lead on the opening part of the final lap.
Going into turn one, Ackerman went deep on the brakes, sliding sideways in an effort to get past Linn. Linn exited the corner in the lead, and held on to the finish for the win.
Jason Isley’s No. 99 TRD/Hoosier/OS Giken/Racer.com Toyota Yaris watched his H Production gap fluctuate throughout the race, holding the lead with an eye on the mirrors. His disaster nearly struck in the last corner of the race, when he moved to the inside of a lapped car. That car hit his left rear wheel, breaking the wheel and leaving him to limp up the front straight to the checkered flag.
After an according effect to their gap throughout the race, Derrick Ambrose moved his No. 71 CorkSport Mazda Performance Mazda2 in front of Kyle Keenan’s No. 44 Kia Motors/Dick Hannah Dealers Kia Rio on the final lap in the back part of the course, trying to break Keenan’s momentum. Keenan got the run out of that corner, but the two came to the checkered flag side by side. When Keenan shifted coming up the front straight, Ambrose thought he had a shot to sneak by, but Keenan remained in front by a bumper as they crossed the finish line.
Chris Farrell took the overall win in group two going away, but one of the most impressive drives was by 15-year-old Yufeng Luo in Formula Continental.
Luo’s No. 61 Van Diemen/Ford battled early with Bob Negron’s No. 8 Hoosier/Terri Negron Web Design Van Diemen RF99/Ford, running side by side after yet another early full course caution. Once in clear traffic, the youngster opened up a gap. Luo nearly tossed his first SCCA Majors victory away when he found oil on track, making what he called “a great save” to keep it on track and stay in front to the checkered flag.
David Ferguson sat behind John Basso’s No. 96 B&B Racing/RedLine Oil/Hoosier Fox RF3 early in the race, falling behind as faster classes slid in between the pair and separated the Prototype 2 battle. The two continued to push, and, with Ferguson’s No. 75 Veracity Racing Data/Hoosier Stohr WF-1/Suzuki pressuring Basso too deep into turn nine. Ferguson moved into the lead as Basso recovered off track and took the win.
A iconic sight in motorsports, a Porsche and a Corvette chasing each other briskly around the pavement, played out in an epic GT-2 battle. William Brinkov led early in the No. 78 TC Design/Synergy Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette, chased hard and thoroughly by Spencer Trenery’s No. 15 Fantasy Junction Porsche GT3. Exactly as expected, Brinkov’s Corvette could stretch out slightly down the long straights, with Trenery’s Porsche closing back up through the tighter sections of the track.
Still fighting closely, Brinkov was slowed, just slightly, as the pair made the run onto the back straight between turns eight and nine. That was just enough for Trenery to get side by side into the braking zone and take the lead under hard, hard braking. Once in front, Trenery held the lead to the checkered flag.
Spec Miata came in its traditional form, with six cars up front in the lead back through the early stages. Kyle Kaiser’s metallic blue No. 88 Miata was the first of the lead group to fall back when he spun, and with two to go it was down to Charlie Hayes, Tyler Vance, Brian Ghidinelli and Joey Jordan.
Hayes, in the 22 TFB/AIM Tires/RM Autosports Miata, and Vance, in the No. 85 TMG/RM Autosports/Sparco Miata, were racing hard to hold the top spot when they went side by side, and then off the track, in turn nine on the way to the one to go board. Both Ghidinelli and Jordan took advantage of the off to move into the lead and begin the final lap.
Ghidinelli kept Jordan behind him for the final circuit, and entered the last turn conscientiously reminding himself not to overcook the corner. With that in mind, Ghidinelli’s No. 12 RaceHero.io/MotorsportReg.com Mazda Miata probably slowed too much, and Jordan got a run up the front straight to the finish. It was too little, too late for Jordan’s No. 47 Minxnails.com/Protomotive Miata, and Ghidinelli crossed the stripe in front by less than a car length.
Group five was a redemption song, of sorts, for two drivers. After falling short earlier in the day, Huffaker, this time in his GT-Lite No. 77 Huffaker Engineering Huffaker Mini, and Brinkov, in the Touring 1 No. 78 TC Design/Synergy Motorsports/Abel Chevrolet Chevrolet Corvette, earned wins in a race that was shortened and finished under caution when a car blew a motor down the front straight and deposited oil in the braking zone of turn one.
Todd Harris, who has had the October SCCA National Championship Runoffs at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca circled on his calendar since the event was announced last September, continued taking steps toward a potential National Championship with a win on Saturday in Spec Racer Ford. Harris pulled out an early lead in his No. No. 24 Pro Drive Racing/HMS machine, and with Jonathon Allen (No. 40 Off Constantly Racing SRF), John Black (No. 17 SRF), Mike Miserendino (No. 11 MBI Racing SRF) and Steve Fogg (No. 21 Pro Drive/Flat Out SRF) battling for second through fifth behind him, got away for the win.
Thomas Merrill, making his first start in the Western Conference Majors Tour but no stranger to the west coast tracks, pulled away from the field at the start of the Formula F race in the No. 55 Piper Race Cars/Fast Forward Engineering Piper DF5/Honda. Merrill was slowed by a lap 2 caution, and passed on the ensuing restart on a great run by Chuck Horn’s No. 54 Hotel California/Porter Racing Swift/Honda. Merrill moved back around in turn three, however, and steadily picked his way through traffic and the field for the win.
Like Merrill, Terran Swanson did the same in Formula Vee. Swanson pushed hard early on cold tires to open up a gap, and then maintained that lead to the finish in the No. 86 toad Hall Enterprises/Swan Tech Graphic Co. Mysterian M4/Volkswagen.
Sunday features eight race groups hosting the 27 Runoffs-eligible classes beginning at 9:00 a.m. (PST). Sunday’s races are 16 laps or 40 minutes, followed by victory laps and podium ceremonies.
Live timing and lap notes are available on Sunday at SCCA.com/SCCALive.
Results, grids and more information is available at SCCA.com/ThunderhillMajors.
Willows, Calif. - Provisional race winners for Saturday’s BFGoodrich Tires Thunderhill Super Tour, Round Five of the Western Conference Majors Tour at Thunderhill Raceway Park. Drivers are listed by Class: name, hometown, and car.
American Sedan: Aaron Bailey, Shasta Lake, Calif., Chevrolet Camaro
B-Spec: Kyle Keenan, Vancouver, Wash., Kia Rio
E Production: Tony Jimerson, Benicia, Calif., Mazda RX-7
F Production: Brian Linn, Hermosa Beach, Calif., Lotus Super Seven
H Production: Jason Isley, Coto de Caza, Calif., Toyota Yaris
Formula 500: Lance Spiering, Beaverton, Ore., KBS MkVII/Rotax
Formula 1000: JR Osborne, Greenwood Village, Colo., Citation F1000
Formula Atlantic: Vince Gaddini, Auburn, Calif., Mazda PFM
Formula Continental: Yufeng Luo, Arcadia, Calif., Van Diemen
Formula Enterprises: Brandon Aleckson, Watsonville, Calif., Formula Enterprises/Ford
Formula F: Thomas Merrill, Salinas, Calif., Piper DF5/Honda
Formula Mazda: Mel Kemper, Toledo, Wash., Formula Mazda
Formula Vee: Terran Swanson, Petaluma, Calif., Mysterian M4/Volkswagen
GT-1: Rob Davis, Sonora, Calif., Chevrolet Corvette
GT-2: Spencer Trenery, Berkeley, Calif., Porsche GT3
GT-3: Collin Jackson, Langley, Canada, Nissan 240SX
GT-Lite: Joe Huffaker, Petaluma, Calif., Huffaker Mini
Prototype 1: Chris Farrell, Salt Lake City, Utah, Stohr WF1
Protoype 2: David Ferguson, Paso Robles, Calif., Stohr WF-1/Suzuki
Spec Miata: Brian Ghidinelli, San Rafael, Calif., Mazda Miata
Spec Racer Ford: Todd Harris, Portland, Ore., Spec Racer Ford
Super Touring Lite: Spencer Trenery, Berkley, Calif., Acura Integra
Super Touring Under: Rylan Hazelton, Santa Cruz, Calif., Honda S2000
Touring 1: William Brinkop, Merced, Calif., Chevrolet Corvette
Touring 2: David Ray, Danville, Calif., Ford Mustang
Touring 3: Tom Wickersham, Piedmont, Calif., BMW Z4
Touring 4: Lance Stewart, Miami, Fla., Ford Mustang