Ron Fellows finally found the winners circle in the Motor City 100 at Belle Isle Park, located between Detroit and Canada. "I'm still sore," said Fellows, speaking of his high speed crash at Lime Rock. "The car was ready before I was." But sore as he was Ron, his AER Camaro, and hard compound Goodyears were the dominant combination in the end.
Twenty-nine cars took the green flag led by 5th qualifier Brian Till. His team owner Greg Pickett, starting for the first time since his hard crash during practice for the opening race at Phoenix, lead the field into turn one from the outside of the front row. There didn't seem to be any of the jump start eagerness that caught Tom Kendall and Boris Said at Lime Rock, as the field got through the start cleanly.
The race settled early as Pickett was clearly the strongest car. He pulled out a sizable lead as the other front runners stacked up behind Till's RAL Group Camaro. Fellows, Paul Gentalozzi, Price Cobb, Dorsey Schroeder, Boris Said and Kendall all stacked up behind Till as Pickett eased away. Fellows finally got past Till and set out after Pickett.
That left Gentalozzi's Highway Master Camaro hounding Till. This didn't last long as Brian Till clipped the nose of Gentalozzi,s red Camaro while Paul was trying an ill-advised pass. Till spun as a result and the Gentalozzi car suffered bent suspention bits in the contact. Paul made several stops to straighten the car and Till rejoined the race without any substantial damage.
The race was starting to string out as Pickett held a good sized lead over Fellows who in turn had plenty of breathing room ahead of the heated battle for third. Schroeder was all over Cobb trying to get the Raybestos Ford past Cobbs Highway Master Camaro, as Dorsey's Tom Gloy teammate Boris Said lurked close behind. Tom Kendall was all alone in 6th place ahead of the train of Galles, Rizzo, and McAdam.
But Tony Ave in the Carlin Technologies Camaro was to make the whole race much more interesting. After spinning earlier, Tony spun and was parked broadside in the track. He re-fired his car as the leader Pickett came flying onto the scene. Pickett clipped the nose of Ave's car as Ave was slowly backing towards the apex of the turn. The impact broke the radiator on Ave's car ending his day. Pickett had significant damage to the nose of the Rain-X Camaro but continued.
The ensuing yellow flag laps let Pickett cool his tires, but the field, Fellows, Cobb, Schroeder, Said, Kendall, Galles, Rizzo, and the rest, were now right behind. At the restart it seemed like the leader had damaged his car slightly a pack of 10 cars bunched up behind. Pickett seemed to slow the entire group.
Tim McAdam spun harmlessly neither hitting or being hit. At that point Picketts confidence seemed to grow and he and Fellows started to draw away from the field. Dorsey, clearly faster, fought hard to get past Cobb as Said and Kendall lingered behind. This group started to pull away from Galles who was in turn opening up ground on Rizzo, Simo, Scott Sharp, and Chris Kneifel. Simo had started at the rear of the field due to tire changes and Sharp, running in a Pickett Camaro never really ran with the leaders.
Price Cobb suddenly fell off the pace and Schroeder rocketted off in search of the leaders, leaving Said to fight off Kendall. Tom Kendall's All Sport car, although the fast qualifier, never challenged for the lead. The race setup of Tom's Roush Mustang wasn't as fast as the trio of Pickett, Fellows and Schroeder. Pickett and Fellows got caught in traffic and Schroder made up 3 or 4 seconds in three turns. The number 12 Gloy Mustang was now attached to the bumper of Fellows.
Things got a little wacky at this point as Said spun into the wall and faded to finish 10th, and almost inexplicably Pickett pulled over and let Fellows past. "Ronnie really came to me," Pickett said in the post race interview. "Maybe he could go harder. I stayed in tight with Ronnie and really pushed hard." Pickett seemed ready to fall to third as Dorsey pushed him hard, but Pickett turned up the wick and seemed to regain control of second place.
Fellows now looked comfortably ahead although his lead was very slim. Pickett seemed to be holding second place from Schroeder. Kendall, in 4th, and Jamie Galles in the Glidden/ICI Camaro, in 5th, were running all alone with out any chance of going in either direction. All the makings of a boring finish.
But these SCCA Trans-AM races never seem to end in a boring fashion. Tim McAdam spun hard, in his own fluids, into the turn one concrete bringing out the pace car with three laps remaining. The corner workers did a stellar job and Fellows took the green and white flags together for a one lap dash to the checker. Fellows finished safely in first and in a masterful display by a grand-master driver Pickett held off Schroeder for second place. Kendall followed in fourth. Galles faded badly on the last lap when a failing clutch caused him to spin.
The race didn't end with the checkered flag though. Brian Till punted Robert Rizzo's Roush Ford into the same patch of concrete formerly displaying McAdam's Camaro after the duo had passed the finish line. Although it was hard to tell from TV coverage, it sure didn't look like coincidental contact. There was no action taken by SCCA after officials talked to Till.
Rizzo wasn't seriously hurt, but he was taken to the hospital due to dizziness and short term memory loss. Rob had little memory of the race or the crash. He was released the following morning.
During the post race interviews with Dorsey and Greg Pickett they both complemented each other for driving hard and clean. As Shroeder said. "Nobody hits me, I don't hit anyone else."
Although he has qualified first or second for every race, Tom Kendall's Roush Mustang hasn't won a race. Dorsey Schroeder has had moderate success qualifying but his Gloy Mustang has won two races and been strong at the end every race. Kendall had maintained a relatively large points lead based on bonus points for qualifying times. My issue here is that 5 points and 3 points for the top two Fast Five performers is way too much. It should be 3-2-1 for qualifiers one through three.