Holtville Nationals report

This race report will appear in Motoracing magazine and other selected regional publications. National at Holtville Aerodrome International Raceway 2 Apr 95 copyright (c) 1995 John P. M. Dillon Geeze, when was the last time Holtville saw...

This race report will appear in Motoracing magazine and other selected regional publications.

National at Holtville Aerodrome International Raceway 2 Apr 95

copyright (c) 1995 John P. M. Dillon

Geeze, when was the last time Holtville saw three GT1 cars and a decent sized GT/Production field in a single weekend? Due in part to Cal Club's loss of the Sportsman series at Willow Springs, Southern Pacific interest in the ground pounding GT1 machines has seen a resurgence. Similarly, a herd (swarm? flock? pride?) of F440's showed up, though none could last the 31 lap distance that each of the Nationals provided. Six of the top seven Showroom Stock competitors were shod with BF Goodrich tires, including all of the first and second place finishers in each class. Regional Executive Mark Willliams thanked everyone who helped put on the race, including "the out-of-region drivers and all the workers." Then he said, "I hope next year's event is even better."

Craig Reeder felt that his Ford-powered Spec Racer "keeps getting better each time I go out." He admitted "I haven't been here in a while, so I'm trying to remember where the bumps aren't," noting too that he expected the other Fords as well as the Renault of Travis Ward to provide serious competition.

Reeder led the field from the git-go, but behind him the field scattered in avoidance of a characteristic confrontation between Ward and Karl Flessa in Turn 2. Ward retired from the contact, but Flessa was able to straighten out and continue, eventually finishing third in the Ford-powered class. Which is not to say Flessa's day smoothed out from that point.... With just three laps to go, he mangled his entrance to Turn 6 and missed the corner completely. "This is one of my favorite tracks; there's a nice atmosphere and not much to hit out here." A fortunate thing too, as it reduced his Turn 6 error to a simple "off-and-on." Nonetheless he met his goal. "This is a money race for Spec Racers and they pay down to third. Since there's three of us, I just hope to finish."

Immediately prior to the race, Ed Raby reported "I can't tell you how things are gonna go; I just replaced my engine and tranny." However, he successfully used his Renault motor to hold off Rick Hagen (SR, MJHH Support Services) and Hans Bentley (SRF, Bentley Interior Design). The battle between Hagen and Bentley gave Raby some breathing room that led to his eventual first in class finish, well ahead of Rick Hagen and Scott Webb. Webb, sponsored by Road Race Autosport, expressed delight with the podium finish; he'd struggled with a balky third gear all weekend. It took Bentley 13 laps to get around Hagen and another nine to pass Raby; by then any hope of catching Reeder was long gone. Bentley pointed out that "this track is a lot trickier than people think; you scrub a lot of speed in the 1-2-3 complex." Oh, did we mention that Webb overtook Hagen for second in class in Turn 6, but lost the spot again in Turn 2? It may have been a photo finish had not traffic entered the picture on the last lap. "My brain was late getting here," Hagen commented. "The new motor is still tight; I hope we get it loose and get our setup back soon."

Though Raby, Bentley, Hagen and Webb ran close and heavy most of the race, for additional dicing you watched Mike Beers and Merle Slater (of Slater Waterproofing.) Beers locked his brakes at the halfway point going into Turn 1, giving the position to Slater, but seven laps later the position swapped again, with only a last-lap incident with Webb causing Slater to lose touch with Beers. Slater's wife Sammy reminded her husband that "you've got to stay out of trouble 'cause I can't drive the motorhome home!"

Dave McMillan completed a third of the distance before the left rear tire gave up and bounded across the desert, leaving McMillan to three- wheel the car to a safe parking spot in Turn 2 for the balance of the session. Mike Holland tried his hand at Spec Racers to discover how easily the car can escape control. He came together with Dave Rice in Turn 1, looped it twice in Turn 6 and lost touch with the track completely in Turn 5 before the 31 laps were completed.

FC pilot Keith Park (OPhaRT) floated home on cloud 9 after winning his first national pole and race ever. He dueled with Ernie Becker (Pachanga Mexican Grill and National Brand Salsa) for eight laps before Becker took the lead and immediately opened a big gap. However, it proved a rough weekend for Formula Continentals, as Becker broke his sub-frame on lap 20 and Paul Marciano, Jr. parked his car five laps later in Turn 2, leaving Park to his well-deserved victory.

Sherman Simmons took home Formula Ford honors in the session, though Paul Wittrock challenged for a while. The latter actually led in the early stages, but on the fourth lap he twirled the car in Turn 2, letting Simmons get by. Wittrock regained the lead briefly on the last lap exiting Turn 4, but Simmons had the better drive out of Five to earn him the win. Simmons mounted new rubber after observing that "they waived the tire rule, which is pretty unusual for a National." This was Jim Bishop's first trip to Holtville--though he finished well down in the order, he remarked "this is a fun track to drive" and plans to repeat the long tow from Fresno in the future.

A good GT1 race threatened to be in store between Mike Lewis (Red Line Oil Mustang), Steve Anderson (Red Line Oil Firebird), and Tom Beattie (Royal Roof Camaro). On the grid, Anderson declared "It's time to get serious, no more fun and games. We wear a different hat on race days." However, Lewis seized an early lead over Anderson, then rested a wee bit once Anderson's car pitted at the halfway mark for dragging metal pieces. Anderson repeated the pit stop a while later before finally retiring with only 24 laps in the books. Though he finished early, he beat third-in-class Beattie, who started nine laps late! Back up front, Lewis lapped the field <italic>three times<normal> and set a new lap record of 0:55.930 on his way to victory. "We finally got the driver adjusted," said Lewis, "and we stopped winging motors."

Wolfgang Maike, normally Lewis's GT3 nemesis, won handily in class (and second overall) in his new Toyota Paseo, almost two laps ahead of the next GT3 car of Lewis' teammate Marsha Mason.

Rob Walker had no one in class to race so he raced the clock instead, setting a new lap record for H Production in his Scorpion Racing Nissan. He finished just behind GP winner John Snow (Fiat, Snow's Foreign Car Service) and well ahead of FP winner Kathy Rice (Alfa Romeo, sponsored by GRE). Despite spinning on lap 12 in turn 6, Bob Kirby's Quicksilver Porsche had an easy EP win over Rod Kent, the latter pitting several times to top off his oil supply. Yup, Kent drives a British car, a TR6 sponsored by The Roadster Factory. Chuck McKinney won in GT2 despite a completion of only 20 laps. By the way, it was erroneously reported that his motor failed at the January double National in Phoenix. "I've never blown a motor," he said, indicating the problem was instead a blown transmission seal, "causing the clutch to slip and making plenty of smoke." McKinney added "That's the same problem Kirby's having this weekend."

In American Sedan action, eventual winner John Palitz (Mustang, J. Bittle Performance) battled with Steve Kelso (Z28, Goodyear) for several circuits before Kelso's mechanical problems returned from their trip to Arizona, relegating him to third in class. "This is another test session for me; I'm not close to getting it sorted out yet," he said. Jeff Cawthorne slotted his Mustang into second despite an extreme lack of brakes for much of the session. "These new pads are supposed to be better but after five laps I can't stop."

Kerry Lee Rauch (sponsored by Traco) won the DSR/CSR/FV/F440 race overall, two laps ahead of FV winner Mark Edwards. Edwards, Peter Harris, and Mikus Sipos brought their 3-car Vee train to Holtville and didn't decouple once. "A meteor storm punctured our tires in qualifying," complained Sipos. Our plan is for us to stay out of each others' way until halfway, then go for it." He added that Harris is "using a lot of Sharland technology on his car." Harris pointed out that "it's easy to turn one quick lap--the trick is to connect 30 of 'em together." After the race, Sipos added "I told Peter I'm gonna stop prepping his car--he's driving too good!"

Galen Puccini (KBS) won in F440 though he, like the other F440 entries of Eric Christensen, John Lopardo, and father John Puccini, broke before the finish. It didn't help the pack to have Lopardo and Gunn make contact in the first turn, nor to have Galen Puccini and Lopardo meet a couple of laps later in Turn 6. Christensen complained that "this track hurts; it's bumpy out there!" after ignoring advice on the internet to wear a kidney belt. "I felt like a BB in a box car--my strategy is to try not to shake my car into little pieces." Prior to the race he'd already broken a panhard rod and a heim joint on the Kawasaki-powered machine.

Lone CSR of Charlie Kuhlman planned to run only half the distance, the minimum necessary for the class win. He gave himself a cushion by completing 18 circuits of the course.

Without SSGT cars running in the division, the SSA entries of Tom Brecht (Brecht BMW) and Bob Endicott (Honda, Sparco) have been setting the pace all season. This time Brecht claimed the top spot after finishing behind Endicott at the March National at Firebird. Larry Cress drove his Honda to third overall to plug SSA cars into the top three spots. Gail Baker (Nissan) trailed the trio a lap down for the SSB win, a dozen seconds ahead of Bill Harrison's new two door Dodge Neon. "Hey, it still smells and looks like brand new. Now if we could go as fast as the four door Neons we'd be happy. There's a lot of growing pains." Eric Morehouse raced the only Miata of the weekend to total SSC success, running ahead of the Neons of Paul Bonaccorsi and Rex Ramsey, and Bill Hagerty's new Nissan Sentra. "The car behaved well," credits Morehouse, "and I'm glad to see some competitors here."

In the first turn at the start, Richard Crites locked up the brakes on his Toyota MR2 and slid into Bonaccorsi, causing the former to retire with alignment problems and the later to spin. "After the hit I just kept going," said Bonaccorsi. "I got a second out of it--I just got lucky." Hagerty, after struggling all weekend to sort out the Sentra, ran third-in-class until lap 24 when Ramsey took the last podium spot while exiting Turn 5.

What would a National be without at least one regional IT race to provide some close action for the spectators and workers? Jerry Jones took home the overall win with his Datsun 280Z classified in IT Sport. Sponsored by All Z Auto Wrecking, he managed a 3 second gap over Roger Sather's new RX7, his only close competitor at the finish. This is not meant to imply, however, that his job was easy, since he had to contend with early leader Brian Winch (Cal-Pac Roofing). Jones remarked "It was a scary ride; I had no brakes after lap 10." Unfortunately for Winch, he broke both trailing arms on lap 5 and was forced to retire. "It would've been tough if Brian hadn't broken his panhard rod," noted Jones.

Speaking of which.... Bob Lawrence broke his steering wheel but kept racing with one hand! "What scared me worse was the guy behind me. I got by him once; I wasn't gonna let him get by me again!"

Roger Sather was pleased with the RX7's debut. "I won the Spec RX7 championship last year and decided I wanted to go faster." He thanks Dave Turner for his support and advice. He also points out "I've got one of the first AS-legal (now ITS-legal) eight point cages in the car."

Jim Haley put his BMW on the ITA podium, while Bryan Farnsworth and Greg Beron ran uncontested in ITB and RS, respectively. Farnsworth always enjoys Holtville, pointing out that "If you're not having fun at regional races, you've gotta be a scrooge and sourpuss all the time."

The closest racing featured the Spec RX7 class once again, with Jason Miner beating 5 others in a hotly challenged contest. Mark Blakley set a new lap record for the Mazda-powered class, though John Pentelei-Molnar finished ahead of Blakley, who spun in Turn 1 on the eighth go around and again on lap 19 in Turn 6. David Varco showed great avoidance skills of Blakley's first spin, but had his own looping problems at the halfway point in Turn 6.

Holtville's Twilight Enduro at the end of April has unfortunately been postponed, so their next race is not until the fall. The concrete slabs will be waiting for you until then.... We'll see you there!

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Series SCCA