Northern Majors Tour Begins In Illinois
SOUTH BELOIT, Ill. – Patiently waiting for Spring while the three other SCCA U.S. Majors Tour Conferences worked through their seasons, the Northern Conference opened up on Saturday at Blackhawk Farms Raceway.
Drivers in 25 classes made their own run for the roses on Derby Day, racing in 25 minute sprint races at the 1.950-mile circuit on the Illinois-Wisconsin border. The race was the first of two this weekend, and 12 in the season-long championship.
Spec Miata kicked off the sprint races with a big win by Voytek Burdzy in the No. 41 Advanced Autosport Mazda Miata. Burdzy started on pole but fell behind Tom Brown’s No. 27 Advance Autosports Miata at the start.
Brown led the opening two laps, but downshifted into the wrong gear on lap three, losing the lead to Burdzy and nearly crossing up in front of the chain of cars behind him. Though Brown made the save for himself, Burdzy had an opening, and once in front was gone for a six-second win in the 18-lap race.
Michael Novak emerged from the pack of four behind Burdzy with his No. 9 Roush Caldwell Race Prep Miata in second place at the finish, with Brown in third. Bruce Andersen fell out of the podium battle on lap 16 when he pulled to pitlane with an overheating No. 17 SenSon Racing Group machine.
Scott Rettich opened the Northern Conference season with a Spec Racer Ford win in the No. 17 Alliance Autosport/Springboro Car Wash Spec Racer Ford. Rettich started from pole and, after Jim Marinangel tried to move his No. 5 McHenry Saving Bank machine from third into the lead on the opening lap, set sail for the win.
Behind Rettich, Adam Gottlieb was content to leave his No. 7 Flat Black Racing Spec Racer Ford in third position and collect a trophy while chasing Jeff Beck. With grease leaking from the left rear of Beck’s No. 31 Lindell/Ryan machine, however, Gottlieb went through two helmet shield tear-offs and started to look for a way around.
The grease also appeared to be hurting the grip on Beck’s machine, and Gottlieb got a run out of the final corner and down the front straight to move into second on lap 10. Gottlieb stayed in front to the checkered flag for a runner-up finish, with Beck third.
Jon Brakke opened his season with an E Production and overall runaway win in the No. 89 Margaret Peterson Bars Mazda Miata, and Steve Sargis stayed in front of the GT-Lite field in his No. 1 SBS Batteries/Hoosier Tire Triumph Spitfire despite breaking his shift knob early in the race and running in third gear only, but three other classes covered the hottest action in the group.
After side to side contact with Michael Hart’s No. 36 Deefield Engineering Turner 1500 and Michael Sturm’s No. 48 Sturminator Design/Hoosier Mazda Miata at the start, Hart ran the opening laps in front of the F Production battle. Sturm stayed close, applying pressure lap after lap, until Hart spun on lap 14. With the opening, Sturm was able to get to the finish for the win.
Aaron Kaplan’s No. 18 Kaplan Racing Systems BMW M3 led Kevin Fandozzi flag to flag in Touring 3, but not without effort. Fandozzi kept the pressure on from his yellow No. 96 Insight Driven Race Engineering Chevrolet Cobalt SS, pulling side by side at one point, but couldn’t find his way around and Kaplan earned the win.
The Touring 4 race looked like it was similar to its Touring 3 brothers, until the final lap. Greg Vandersluis tried all race long to poke his No. 93 Carbotech/BFGoodrich Tires/Ford Racing Ford Mustang in front of the No. 32 Hoosier Racing/Tire Barn BMW Z4 of Ralph Porter, but wasn’t able to find a large enough opening.
Finally, on the last lap, Vandersluis went into the last corner hot. With maybe a brush of contact, the two came out side by side and were in a drag race up the front straight. The Mustang was just in front of the BMW, side by side, at the finish, giving Vandersluis the win.
The small open wheel formulas featured some dominating performances. Michael Mueller ran away with the Formula 500 race in the No. 24 MJ Mfg/Fibeco/Hoosier Red Devil/Rotax, slowed only slightly mid-race when he was surprised by a large piece of debris on a corner apex. Michael Varacins was unchallenged in the Formula Vee race, running away in the No. 65 Speed Sport/Veetech/Hoosier Speed Sport AM-5/Volkswagen.
Jeffrey Bartz, the 2013 recipient of the Kimberly Cup for most improved driver in the SCCA SafeRacer Club Racing program, got clear of some lapped traffic and was able to stretch his margin of victory to more than 10 seconds in his Formula F No. 33 Hoosier/SBS/Two Doggs Van Diemen/Honda.
The wings and things group had an early full course caution period when the No. 12 Lake Effect Motorsports Formula Mazda of Jason Vinkemulder spun in turn one, clipping the wing on the No. 17 Alliance Autosport/PDI Communication and sending Rettich to mop up the race cruising around at the back of the field.
Dean Offerman, who narrowly avoided the carnage in the No. 27 Formula Enterprises machine, was able to stay in front of a stout field to win his class after the restart.
Jason Miller’s No. 8 Kohler/Millenium WynnFurst got a great restart from second overall and in the Prototype 1 class, but Dudley Fleck dove his No. 74 Mazda/Hoosier/Coors Light Van Dieman/Mazda hard into turn one to protect his lead. Miller followed Fleck around the course on that first lap, then caught a draft out of the last corner and motored by up the front straight. Once in the lead, Miller stayed in front to the checkered flag for the group win.
Bryan Long was the overall winner in the GT-1 class in the group, but GT-2 and American Sedan provided the closest races to end the day.
In GT-2, John Kachadurian was out in front, setting the pace in the No. 80 Chicago Motor Cars Porsche GT3. Craig Anderson followed close behind in the No. 83 Hoosier/Cobalt Friction/Blackdog Chevrolet Corvette as the two weaved in and out of traffic around Blackhawk. Kachadurian kept the Porsche in front to the finish for the victory.
A similar scenario played out in American Sedan, with Chris Pederson’s No. 67 Ford Mustang playing the role of the rabbit to Scott Sanda’s No. 73 Tro Manufacturing Cadillac CTS-V. As the race wound down and the traffic got heavier, Pederson stretched out, taking the win.