The 2023 Hoosier Racing Tire SCCA® Super Tour (HST) trip to Thunderhill Raceway Park in Willows, CA, was designed to be an epic contest. Hosted by SCCA’s San Francisco Region, the May 5-7 event is the second of three West Coast stops on HST’s calendar this year, and the first time the series put Thunderhill on its schedule. The weekend features three different track layouts, two HST points races, and one Western Shootout Championship to be decided after a Regional race Sunday.
Western Shootout Championship winners will be those who produce the best combined results over three days of racing. On Friday, the first third of the challenge was completed after 25-minute races around a three-mile circuit that included Thunderhill’s Turn 5 Crow’s Nest. The next third of the challenge took place Saturday during HST races around another three-mile layout, this one being a little different as it included the Turn 5 bypass.
Saturday’s action began in the morning with all seven run groups receiving 20-minute qualifying sessions under partly cloudy conditions with temperatures in the mid 50-degree range. In the afternoon, competitors went out for what were supposed to be 35-minute or 18-lap races where Hoosier Super Tour Nationwide Points were again awarded. Inclement weather, however, ended up playing a role in the length of several contests on Saturday.
Returning a Favor: Friday’s GT-3 race was led most of the way by Larry Hansen in the No. 9 Nissan 350Z. The other GT-3 driver in the field, Guy Laidig, started at the rear of the pack in his No. 52 Goodyear Mazda RX-7.
Throughout Friday’s event, Laidig slowly closed in on Hansen. However, it looked unlikely he’d be able to take the lead. But on the final lap, Hansen looked into his rearview mirror and mistook Laidig’s car for a Ford Mustang competing in another class. He accidentally let Laidig by without a challenge, which was an unfortunate display of fantastic sportsmanship.
“I actually waved Guy by, thinking it was a Mustang,” Hansen said the day afterwards. ”He probably could’ve got me still.”
On Saturday, it was Laidig’s turn to lead most of the race, with Hansen filling up his rearview mirror from time to time. While the duo worked through traffic, it looked like Hansen could possibly make a move for the lead, but Laidig’s car always came on strong and held the top spot. But on lap 12, Laidig’s car experienced a problem and he fell out of the race, gifting victory to Hansen.
“He was battling the Mustangs Saturday, and that gave me a chance to stay close to him,” Hansen said about racing with Guy. “I pulled up alongside him once, but I didn’t have enough to get around him. It was a lot of fun today.”
Shocking Development: The open-cockpit cars in run group three had a really wet race on Friday. After that event, everyone was hoping for a dry race Saturday. They got their wish, but should’ve been more specific with their request.
Included in that run group was Prototype 1 (P1), which was led to the start by polesitter and Friday race winner Jim Devenport in the No. 23 Cranbrook Group Inc. Elan DP02 Mazda. Chip Romer was alongside at the start, but experienced difficulties on the opening lap and fell back.
Romer, the reigning P1 SCCA Runoffs champion, didn’t give up and started to charge back in his Elan DP02. Unfortunately, Mother Nature had other plans. A thunderstorm formed quickly just northwest of the track, and lightning brought racing to a halt. With the need to get workers to safety, the race was checkered after 10 laps.
As a result, Devenport won P1 again on Saturday. Tim Day Jr., driving the No. 8 Goodyear/GDRE/Summit/Hawk/HRP Stohr WF1, won Prototype 2 after taking the class lead from John MacIntyre a few laps before the race was stopped. Caleb Shrader, in the No. 99 Bulldog Motorsports/Liquid Death car, took his second victory in Formula Enterprises®2; Joe Briggs won Formula Atlantic® again in the No. 9 Briggs Consulting/Bob Cabral Wines/Healdsburg Distillers Pro Formula Mazda; Daniel Swanbeck won Formula Continental® in the No. 7 DSM/The Last Coat/Bell/Alpinestars/BigWheels.net/Drive 4 IBD Van Diemen RF01; and John Ertel swept the weekend in Formula X in the No. 20 Formula Star Mazda.
Unfortunately, the third run group’s victory podium celebration had to be cancelled. The storm was approaching so fast and looked so menacing, drivers and teams were told to leave their cars at impound and head for shelter.
The Storm Hits: All credit should be given to event organizers for making the smart decision to get everyone to safety, because what occurred for the next hour was almost scary. Beginning around 2:30 p.m. local time, the skies opened up with lightning, thunder, rain, high winds, and so much hail that it looked as if the track was covered by snow. Debris was blown everywhere, and lots of mangled pop-up canopies were scattered across the paddock.
But as soon as the dark clouds moved on to wreak havoc elsewhere, SCCA volunteers and Thunderhill Raceway Park track staff set to the business of cleaning things up. By 4:30 p.m. local time, racing resumed with the remaining four events shortened to 15 minutes each.
Back on Track: After the storm, the fourth run group consisting of many Touring classes headed out on a circuit that looked to be drying pretty quick. However, there were some puddles and wet spots. Those caused an issue for drivers on the first lap, and the field fell under a full-course yellow almost immediately. That race was unable to be restarted, so many drivers can’t wait for Sunday to roll around for another shot at having a great race.
Spec Racer Ford Gen3 was next on track, and they did a bit better. Up front it was Caleb Shrader and John Black who continued their battle from Friday, with Black coming out on top again in the No. 17 Flat Out Racing machine.
The Production cars of run group six had a successful go at it, with the track staying green the entire time. There were a couple repeat winners in that group, but the news of note was in E Production (EP). After a dreadful Friday, Glen McCready came back to win EP Saturday in the No. 4 TC Design Mazda MX-5.
To cap off the day, the Formula F pilots put on a show for several laps. Charles Horn, in a Swift Honda DB6, and Denny Renfrow, in a Piper/Honda DL7, were mixing it up before both spun at Turn 8. That promoted David Jalen to first in his No. 50 OverBudgetRacin' Mygale SJ-09. That last race of the day then finished under a full-course yellow, giving Jalen the win.
Sunday’s Western Shootout, Then Off to Portland: Hoosier Super Tour points races have now wrapped up at Thunderhill. But the series jumps right back into action next weekend – May 13-14, 2023 – at Portland International Raceway (PIR) for an event hosted by SCCA’s Oregon Region. That will be HST’s third and final West Coast stop of the year, and the 1.977-mile circuit with 12 turns always produces some great racing. Register today to be part of the action.
However, the fun isn’t completely done yet at Thunderhill. Sunday is when weekend winners will emerge for the inaugural Western Shootout Championship. Top performers across Friday and Saturday HST events, as well as Sunday’s Regional race around Thunderhill’s massive five-mile circuit, will claim a championship in their respective car class. No HST points will be awarded Sunday, but Western Shootout Championship trophies waiting to be won are pretty magnificent.
Each of the weekend’s seven run groups will have 20-minute practice sessions on the full course starting at 8 a.m. Pacific Time Sunday. Starting positions for Sunday’s race will actually be determined by the fastest lap recorded for each car during Saturday’s qualifying or race. After practice, 30-minute contests will be held to see who comes out on top of each car class.
All the action Sunday from Thunderhill will again be broadcast live, online and free with the Hoosier Super Tour enhanced video and audio presentation. Brian Bielanski and Larry MacLeod will provide the play-by-play call, and DriversEye Live delivers video from upwards of 12 cameras around the circuit.
Finding the broadcast online is easy. Coverage is streamed at the SCCA YouTube channel and SCCA Facebook page. Post-race video interviews with some Friday winners, and victory podium celebration videos from Saturday and Sunday, can be viewed at the SCCA Road Racing Facebook page. As always, live Timing and Scoring is available at www.scca.com/live.
Saturday Race Winners: Below are provisional race winners from Saturday’s Hoosier Racing Tire SCCA Super Tour at Thunderhill Raceway Park with Class: Name, Hometown and Car. An asterisk (*) denotes drivers who swept HST points races in a class during Friday and Saturday competition.
*American Sedan®: Roger Eagleton; Burlingame, CA; Ford Mustang
*B-Spec: John Tritsch; Tigard, OR; Mini Cooper
E Production: Glen McCready; Redwood City, CA; Mazda MX-5
*Formula Atlantic®: Joe Briggs; Healdsburg, CA; Pro Formula Mazda
Formula Continental®: Daniel Swanbeck; San Jose, CA; Van Diemen RF01
*Formula Enterprises®2: Caleb Shrader; Tigard, OR; SCCA Enterprises FE2 Mazda
Formula F: David Jalen; Alameda, CA; Mygale SJ-09
*Formula Vee®: Quinn Posner; Camas, WA; Protoform P3
*Formula X: John Ertel; Half Moon Bay, CA; Star Formula Mazda
*GT-2: Tony Colicchio; Campbell, CA; BMW M3
GT-3: Larry Hansen; Redding, CA; Nissan 350Z
*GT-Lite: Brian Linn; Hermosa Beach, CA; Nissan Sentra SE-R
*GT-X: Casey McLoed; Placerville, CA; Ford Mustang
*Spec Miata: Jason Rawlins; Gaston, OR; Mazda Miata
*Spec Racer® Ford Gen3: John Black; Olympic Valley, CA; Spec Racer Ford Gen3
*Prototype 1: Jim Devenport; Alamo, CA; Elan DP02 Mazda
*Prototype 2: Tim Day Jr.; Scottsdale, AZ; Stohr WF1
Super Touring® Lite: Ryan Gutile; Madera, CA; Mazda MX-5
Super Touring® Under: Nathan Pope; Fremont, CA; Honda Prelude
*Touring 1: Clark Nunes; San Jose, CA; Chevrolet Camaro
*Touring 2: Roger Eagleton; Burlingame, CA; Ford Mustang
*Touring 3: Sean Lovett; Petaluma, CA; BMW E46
Touring 4: Izzy Sanchez; San Mateo, CA; Toyota FR-S
Photo: Prototype 1 driver Jim Devenport got a win Saturday when his contest at Thunderhill Raceway Park in California was shortened due to an incoming thunderstorm during the second day of Hoosier Super Tour competition.
Photo by Randy Jones