Late Saturday morning during a Hagerty Race Day at the 60th running of SCCA’s National Championship Runoffs®, E Production racer Greg Ira stood atop the victory podium and gleefully sprayed a bottle of Mazza Sparkling Wine, the Official Sparkling Wine of SCCA’s Runoffs. It was his third gold medal at the Runoffs, this one behind the wheel of the No. 2 Blue Oceans Yachting BMW Z3 2.5L.
Starting second to the Mazda RX-7 of Tire Rack Pole Award winner John Hainsworth, Ira settled in behind the polesitter after the green flag waved. Further back in third was Peter Norton driving the No. 5 Wilson Motor Company/Omer Norton 2000 Lotus/Caterham 7 America.
After the first lap around VIRginia International Raceway’s (VIR) 18-turn, 3.27-mile circuit, the front three racers had created a gap of 3.6 seconds on Jon Brakke and his No. 89 BMW Z3 2.5L back in fourth. Further back in fifth was Doug Piner driving another BMW Z3 2.5L, Heikki Silegren was sixth in a Nissan 240Z, and the Triumph TR8 of Jeff Young seventh.
On the second lap, a multi-car incident at the Snake portion of the circuit brought out a full-course yellow, which was quickly followed by a red flag as the circuit was fully blocked with debris. Cleanup took some time, so the race had to be shortened to only eight of the scheduled 15 laps.
At the restart, Hainsworth assumed the lead once again with Ira following. Norton was still solidly there in third, and Brakke had managed to keep connected to the lead pack. Behind the top four were Piner, Silegren, and now the Mazda RX-7 of Austin Bradshaw seventh.
It was lap six when Ira made his move to the front. He lined up on the outside of Turn 1 at corner entry, then moved beneath Hainsworth at corner exit to take the lead. An error by Ira in the Oak Tree Curve gave Hainsworth hope of reclaiming the lead, but Ira held tough down the long 4,000-foot Madison Avenue straight to fend off his challenger.
“I made the over-under move, which I’ve worked on for a long time,“ said Ira, of Fort Lauderdale, FL. “Hainsworth gave it everything. It was an awesome race.”
Hainsworth took one more shot at Ira on the last lap, but had a problem at South Bend and spun into the grass and out of contention. Meanwhile, Brakke had gotten by Norton’s bright yellow car for what ultimately became the runner-up position. That earned Brakke his fifth appearance on the Runoffs podium.
“It was a good race. Peter (Norton) is incredibly fast,” Brakke said. “I got a good run on him in the Esses. Once I got ahead of him, it’s hard to beat a BMW. But I saw a lot of yellow in my rearview mirror afterwards.”
Norton made one last valiant run on Brakke on the last lap, but ultimately had to settle for a third-place finish. From the giant grin on his face afterwards, the result didn’t bother him at all.
“I have such a great time racing with these guys,” Norton said. “It’s good, clean, fun racing. You couldn’t ask for better.”
Piner ended up finishing fourth, and Silegren held on to fifth after a great battle with Bradshaw. The Sunoco Hard Charger award went to Steve Eckerich, who started 20th and finished in the 11th position.
The 60th running of SCCA’s National Championship Runoffs®, the Pinnacle of American Amateur Motorsports, crowns Sports Car Club of America’s Road Racing National Champions this year at VIRginia International Raceway — in Alton, VA — during Hagerty Race Days, Friday, Sept. 29, through Sunday, Oct. 1.
Live, online video coverage of Runoffs races, presented by Mazda, is available throughout the three days of competition at SCCA.com/live, and at SCCA’s official YouTube and Facebook social media channels. Live timing and scoring for each race is also available at SCCA.com.
Below are official results for Saturday’s E Production race at the 2023 SCCA® National Championship Runoffs, with finish position, starting position in parentheses, driver, hometown, car, and laps completed.
1, (2), Greg Ira, Fort Lauderdale, FL, BMW Z3 2.5L, 8.
2, (4), Jon Brakke, Milwaukee, WI, BMW Z3 2.5L, 8.
3, (3), Peter Norton, Pelham, NC, Lotus/Caterham 7 America, 8.
4, (5), Doug Piner, Hampstead, NC, BMW Z3 2.5L, 8.
5, (8), Heikki Silegren, Stouffville, ON, Nissan 240Z, 8.
6, (6), Austin Bradshaw, Dundee, OR, Mazda RX-7, 8.
7, (9), Don Tucker, Memphis, TN, Mazda Miata, 8.
8, (12), Steve Rose, Mebane, NC, Mazda RX-7, 8.
9, (13), Sean Saggese, Jacksonville, FL, Mazda RX-7, 8.
10, (16), Matthew Fritz, Orlando, FL, BMW 325i/is (E36), 8.
11, (20), Steve Eckerich, Fletcher, NC, Mazda RX-8, 8.
12, (18), Ron Earp, Cary, NC, Ford Mustang, 8.
13, (21), Anthony Parker, New Ipswich, NH, Triumph GT6, 8.
14, (17), Michael Cooke, Burgaw, NC, Mazda RX-7, 8.
15, (19), Mark Bradley, Wake Forest, NC, BMW Z3 2.8L, 8.
16, (22), John Bell, Lake Mary, FL, Mazda RX-7, 8.
17, (15), Mark Weber, Saint Louis, MO, Mazda Miata, 8.
18, (1), John Hainsworth, Vineland, NJ, Mazda RX-7, 7.
19, (10), Lance Loughman, Bath, MI, Nissan 240Z, 7.
DNF, (7), Jeff Young, Raleigh, NC, Triumph TR8, 1.
DNF, (11), David Spillman, Forest City, NC, BMW 325i/is, 1.
DNF, (14), Greg Amy, Middletown, CT, Honda Civic Si, 1.
DNF, (23), Yuri Collazos, Homestead, FL, Mazda RX-7, 0.
DNS, (24), Steve Shelton, Estero, FL, BMW 325i/is (E36), .
Length of Race: 26.16 Miles
Overall Time of Race: 50:28.473 (avg. 31.097 mph)
Margin of Victory: 02.588 seconds
Fastest Race Lap: 2:04.050 (94.897 mph)
Lap Leaders: #95, Laps 1-5; #2, Laps 6-8
Sunoco Hard Charger: #18 Steve Eckerich
Photo caption: On Saturday, Greg Ira drove his E Production BMW to a third National Championship at VIR.
Photo by Jay Bonvouloir