SKUSA: Team Willis South Bend race summary

Team has successful outing at South Bend Raceway Park. Team Willis/CRG Racing spent a successful weekend racing at the "new" South Bend Raceway Park in South Bend Indiana. Participating in the SKUSA Great Lakes Region races were Team Willis/CRG...

Team has successful outing at South Bend Raceway Park.

Team Willis/CRG Racing spent a successful weekend racing at the "new" South Bend Raceway Park in South Bend Indiana. Participating in the SKUSA Great Lakes Region races were Team Willis/CRG Racing S1 and K1 driver Chris Leonard, K1 and FIC driver Matt Melster and 80 Junior driver Donnie Bussell.

This was the largest overall field of entries of the young season. The S1, FIC and 80 Junior classes all had at least 12 entries while the K1 field was still at 6 entries.

First up on Sunday's race day schedule was K1 qualifying. 2001 K1 Champion Chris Leonard returned to the K1 field for this event and picked up the 2nd fastest qualifying time followed by Matt Melster in 3rd with both drivers on CRG Demon chassis. The two 8 lap heats would give Chris Leonard two wins and Matt Melster two seconds. This would put Chris on the pole and Matt on the outside of the front row for the 20 lap K1 feature event.

Unfortunately, Chris would suffer mechanical difficulties before the feature even started and would have to start from the pit lane while losing a lap to the field. Matt Melster took the lead at the drop of the green flag and led the entire race. Chris did manage to restart and was about to get his lap back when he spun and was done for the day.

A strong challenge on the last lap by the second place kart saw heavy contact from behind resulting in both Matt and the second place driver leaving the track briefly and than resume in the same order. Luckily, Matt recovered faster and would pull out a small lead to take the victory.

This is the second K1 victory in a row for Matt Melster and this continues the Team Willis winning streak in the Great Lakes SKUSA K1 division. The streak was started last year by Chris Leonard who was the 2001 K1 Champion. Team Willis has now won all the K1 races since the beginning of the 2001 season (10 in a row).

The next event up was S1 for Chris Leonard on his CRG Road Rebel chassis. Chris managed a top 5 qualifying effort and had a strong kart for a top 5 finish. Unfortunately he would again suffer mechanical problems in the 2nd heat that would force him to start in the 8th spot for the 20 lap feature. Chris managed to move up several spots by the end and would get a fine 6th place finish for his efforts. This was by far the biggest and most experienced field of S1 drivers to date at a Great Lakes SKUSA event and Chris has proved again, in his rookie season, that he can run with the best.

Next up was FIC which also had by far the biggest and strongest field of the year (15 entries) for this brand new SKUSA regional class. This would be Matt Melster's first ever FIC/125 race. He started with a bang by putting his CRG Road Rebel/Pavesi engine kart in the 5th spot after qualifying.

Matt had 3rd and 6th place finishes in the two 8 lap heat races and would gain the 4th starting spot for the 20 lap feature. Melster ran well early in the race and was forced to drop out of 6th place at the halfway point with shift linkage problems. Overall, this was a very encouraging start for this new Team Willis/CRG FIC program.

The final Team Willis/CRG Racing driver up was Donnie Bussell in the 80 Junior class. He too was able to put his CRG Demon/Honda in the top 10 after qualifying. This class had the second largest number of entries on the weekend.

Minor handling problems in the two heats put Donnie a bit farther back in the field than he wanted for the 20 lap feature event. Mid pack starting spots in the Junior class (or any class) are often not the best place to be. Again this proved to be the case as Bussell was taken out early on in the feature by another driver and was unable to finish the race.

Overall the weekend was a success. If we could have overcome the minor mechanical gremlins that plagued the Team this weekend, there would have been a complete list of top 5 finishes in all classes we entered.

This was the first of two visits for Great Lakes SKUSA to the "new" South Bend Raceway Park. Recently, a new lease owner has taken over the facility and begun improvements. Already, the comments were very positive for these changes. Look for South Bend to continue to improve its facilities and become one of top tracks in the Midwest.

The next event on the schedule for TeamWillis/CRG Racing is the SKUSA Pro Moto Tour event in Barrie Ontario Canada. All four Team Willis Factory drivers are scheduled to run this very prestigious national event on the streets of beautiful Barrie.

We will be sharing the circus tent again this year with our CRG friends from north of the border - PSL Karting. PSL is the Canadian importer of CRG chassis along with being one of the top karting businesses in Eastern Canada. PSL also has a great Factory Team program and we are lucky to have the chance to work and learn from them again in 2002.

Running at Barrie will be -
James Willis in Super Pro on his CRG Road Rebel/Bellew Honda
Chris Leonard in S1 on his CRG Road Rebel/Bellew Honda
Matt Melster in K1 on his CRG Demon/Bellew Honda
Donnie Bussell in 80 Junior on his CRG Demon/Woltjer Honda

Matt Melster is not scheduled to run the FIC class as this is an exhibition class only in 2002 on the national SKUSA Pro Moto Tour. SKUSA plans to make the FIC a regular points class in 2003 running under strict European CIK sanctioned rules.

-Team Willis/CRG Racing

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Series Kart
Drivers James Willis