WILMINGTON, Ohio (Aug. 4, 2015) – Ben Wagstaff, of Pelham, N.H., drove hard to a Tire Rack ProSolo Super Challenge win at the Wilmington AirPark this past weekend. At the same event, Laura Campbell, of Paducah, Ky., was crowned the winner of the Ladies Challenge.
ProSolo is one part autocross and one part drag racing, resulting in a truly unique and exciting Solo experience. The event is run utilizing a pair of mirror-image courses arranged so that drivers start side-by-side. A ‘Christmas Tree’ borrowed from the drag racing world directs drivers when to leave the line, with staggered starts to equalize different classes of cars.
Competition on Saturday and Sunday morning utilizes the tree, but the driver with the fastest lap on each course is deemed the winner much like a normal autocross. On Sunday afternoon, drivers are seeded into a 32-car bracket based on margin of victory during the class-based competition. Once seeded, the drivers go head-to-head with one run on each course to determine the winner of each matchup. The last driver standing in each bracket is the winner.
As one of the more popular Solo locations in the country, this is the second ProSolo held at the Wilmington AirPark this season. One more event, a Tire Rack Championship Tour meet, is scheduled to be held at the location, Aug. 15-16.
Starting the bracket competition as the No. 15 seed, after winning the Street Touring Sport class by 0.289-second, Wagstaff (STS, Bridgestone Mazda Miata) was paired to face class winner Pat Salerno (Bump Class 1, Porsche GT3) in the opening round. Wagstaff took the win, allowing him to move to the second round of competition.
In the round of 16, Wagstaff met Greg Maloy (STS, Bridgestone Honda Civic Si). After besting Maloy in the class-based portion of the competition, Wagstaff was, once again, able to get the best of Maloy in the head-to-head format. That moved Wagstaff to the quarter finals.
In the quarters, class winner Sean Grogan (C Street, BFGoodrich Tires Scion FR-S) was the next to face Wagstaff. Following runs on the mirror-image courses, Wagstaff took the win. That moved him to a semi-final match with Josh McDonough (G Street, Ford Focus ST).
Wagstaff beat McDonough, moving him onto the final meeting with Christopher Lin (Street Touring Roadster, BFGoodrich Tires Toyota MR2).
Lin was seeded as the 25th of 32 drivers. That paired him with Adam Deffenbaugh (Street Touring FWD, Bridgestone Mazda3) in the opening round. Lin beat Deffenbaugh embroiling him in a second-round match with Andrew Pallotta (B Street, Toyota MR2 Spyder). Lin took down the reigning Street Touring Xtreme National Champion en route to the quarter-finals.
Lin scored a quarter-final win over top qualifier Rod McGeorge (Bump Class 4, Chevrolet Corvette), allowing him to move to the semi-finals. Lin then met, and defeated, Sam Karp (H Street, BFGoodrich Tires Ford Fiesta ST) moving Lin onto the Super Challenge Final.
Following a run by each driver on both sides of the competition site, Wagstaff proved it was his day as he sealed his Super Challenge win. Karp and McDonough determined the final podium position after going toe-to-toe in the third-place runoff. Karp came out on top after both drivers tripped the red light, however Karp left closer to the time he was supposed to. That allowed him to take the win.
“It feels great,” Wagstaff said. “This is my second Super Challenge appearance, and I never thought I would achieve the win. This is the first year I have campaigned my own car in ProSolo. I have always written it off as not competitive, but that has all changed. I am extremely proud of what I have been able to accomplish in my Miata because I have pieced the entire car together using spares and building everything by hand, including the shock absorbers and engine.
“The biggest hurdle I had to overcome this weekend was the drive to and from Ohio. The car felt great from the get-go, as I thought it would. I typically run on asphalt, and the car felt especially loose on my home turf. From past experience, this equates to a neutral car on concrete. My experience served me well as I was able to really exploit the front wheel drive Civic and CRX's weaknesses on the sweepers and slaloms at Wilmington. This win, simply means that I am going to the ProSolo Finale. I have to represent Mazda. I am going to Lincoln to show everyone that a Miata is STILL the car to have for STS, even if the STC Civics have jumped aboard.”
In the Ladies Challenge, Laura Campbell (Ladies Class 3, Hankook Honda S2000) began her run to the Challenge win from the second seed. That meant she would have an opening-round meeting with Vicki Ryan (Ladies Class 2, Toyota MR2). Campbell was able to take the win over Ryan and moved to the second round.
In round two, which also served as the bracket quarter-final, Campbell took down Heidi K. Ellison (L3, Honda S2000). With the win, Campbell pressed on further into the bracket competition with a semi-final match against Jackie Mutschler (L2, Hankook Chevrolet Camaro). After taking the win, Campbell was set to take on top-seeded Shelly Monfort (Ladies Class 1, Hoosier BMW 330), in the final.
Monfort got to the final by taking out Stephanie Reeve (L1, Hoosier Chevrolet Corvette) and Tammy Breece (L2, Ford Mustang GT) in the opening two rounds, respectively. Before moving to the final, Monfort notched a win over Kandy Johnson (L2, BFGoodrich Tires Chevrolet Corvette).
Once the dust settled from the final matchup, Campbell was the lone driver standing. In the third-place runoff, Mutschler completed the podium positions with a win over Johnson.
“I feel incredibly honored to win the challenge among so many talented ladies,” Campbell said. “I think that every Challenge win involves a little bit of luck, Jed [Peterson’s] car was able to do the rest.
“When I started revving the car to launch against Heidi [Ellison] in the Challenge, the car started shaking a lot more and sounded off. I felt like I was about to launch a diesel truck instead of a Honda. Luckily, Jed was able to check out the car and confirmed it was a busted motor mount, so the car still drove fine for my remaining runs and got him home OK. This year I am really enjoying jumping into all kinds of different cars. So far this year, I have driven five different cars at national events. Right now I'm undecided on what to drive at Nationals, but I'd prefer to be in something rear wheel drive and to be in one of the bigger ladies classes.”
Martin Kriz (Bump Class 1, BFGoodrich Tires Subaru WRX STi), of Troy, Virginia, was the Bonus Challenge winner.
“I'm happy and grateful to all my friends who helped me to achieve this,” Kriz said. “First and foremost, I am thankful to the the car owner, David Wampler, who has been developing this car for the last seven years. I also couldn’t have done this without the help of Mike ‘Junior’ Johnson and Evolution Performance Driving School for their valuable advice along the way. A big thanks goes to Lex Carson and Motion Control Suspension for turning the car around and making it handle like no other all-wheel drive car out there. Lastly, thank you to IAG Performance for tuning and preparing the car.
“The biggest hurdle was the setup. We came in with a good baseline, but had to deal with understeer caused by additional grip gained from brand new BFGoodrich Rival S tires that were installed before the event. Needless to say, those tires proved to be the right choice!”
Additional information on the Tire Rack SCCA Wilmington ProSolo, including full results, can be found here.
With the regular season events in the books, the only ProSolo left in 2015 is the Finale, scheduled for Sept. 5-6, in Lincoln. The event will serve as an opening act to the week-long Tire Rack Solo National Championships.
Image: From left to right, Laura Campbell, Ben Wagstaff and Martin Kriz were the three Challenge winners.
Credit: Perry Bennett