SBRS: Maia and Ponder-Pistor are best in the west

The Formula Dodge Western Regional Championship wrapped up over the weekend at Laguna Seca Raceway with Leodardo Maia securing his first ever Skip Barber Race Series championship. Peter Ponder-Pistor won the Masters Championship narrowly over...

The Formula Dodge Western Regional Championship wrapped up over the weekend at Laguna Seca Raceway with Leodardo Maia securing his first ever Skip Barber Race Series championship. Peter Ponder-Pistor won the Masters Championship narrowly over fellow 40-plus racer Steve Sylvester. Other notable achievements in the Western Series are; Burt Frisselle takes Rookie of the Year honors; Brian Johnson is the Most Improved Racer and Al O'Connor receives the John Bingham award for drive, determination and dedication to the sport.

Conditions were damp, occasionally rainy, but spirits were up in a weekend filled with surprises, improved results and first time winners. In group 1 race 1, polesitter Andrew Colfelt registered his first series win with a seemingly easy flag-to-flag victory over Javier Gonzalez, who had started in third. Jim Mali rounded out the podium with a third place result. This is only Colfelt's second Skip Barber race weekend. John Adams ran hard from 14th to finish in seventh, earning him most progressive driver distinction.

Group 2 race 1 was set up as a championship group with only those drivers capable of a top-15 result invited to line up on the grid. Leonardo Maia, starting from second, overcame a sub-par first lap and battle with John Knudsen to assume the point on lap 4. Maia set a fast lap time of 1:42.583 sec. and held off all challengers en route to his first Western series championship. Knudsen, who would finish fourth overall in the series championship, ran a spirited race, darting from 12th on the grid to the second spot, where he challenged but never felled Maia over the final three laps. The popular Seiji Tojima recorded third place in this contest. John Mefford was awesome, advancing from 14th at the start to finish in the top-5.

Polesitter Nick Jones recorded a 10-sec. margin victory over Al Unser, who ran gamely and recorded a fastest lap time of 1:44.682 sec. Jim Mali took another third place result, his second podium in two outings. Midwest racer Paul Holeman made a West coast appearance and finished in seventh, from 10th at the start.

In group 4 race 1, Landon Yee recorded his first ever Skip Barber Series win from pole, managing to hold off Jonathan Bomarito in an extremely close contest. Bomarito's fastest lap of 1:42.682 sec. was the best circuit in the 17 lap contest. Jose Guzman finished in third. Jose Armengol was the most progressive driver of the bunch, moving up from 13th at the start to an eighth place finish in the day's last contest.

Race day two featured the threat of rain, though the day's first action was on a dry track. Andrew Colfelt won again from pole and lead all laps. He was hotly challenged by Javier Gonzalez, who couldn't pass for the lead but had Colfelt checking his mirrors regularly. Gonzalez would settle for second. Blake Rosser, participating in only his second race weekend, registered a podium finish with his third place finish.

Slicks made way to treads in rain-plagued group 2 race 2 action. The skies opened up, which brought out the black flag and resulted in a 45 minute delay in action. Still, the weather didn't seem to bother Maia, who started from pole and never relinquished the point. Tophie Stewart, the runner-up in the series championship, was characteristically strong and good for a second place result. Seiji Tojima would notch another third place finish. Rookie Burt Frisselle, sliced through the field with agility, making his way from 18th to finish in the Top-10. Another notable drive featured Tom Atherton, who with his tenth place finish, showed excellent progression in an extremely competitive group.

Al Unser and Nick Jones battled again in group 3 racing, with Unser prevailing this time around with a half-sec. margin victory. He volleyed the point with Jones most of the contest before securing the lead on lap 15. Jones illustrated great car control, maintaining decorum to recover nicely from a near-spin on turn-9 heading into turn-10. Chris Ortenburger, who started from third, kept his position for the last rostrum spot.

In group 4 race 2, Landon Yee won again from pole, his second consecutive race win in the Skip Barber Race Series. Jonathan Bomarito and Jose Guzman would follow in second and third. Nick Mavridis was the most progressive driver, moving from 13th up to finish in sixth. Skip Barber Race Series mechanic Richard Schmidt took a top-5 result in his first race.

Jose Guzman was "masterful" in the Masters Championship race, advancing from 11th to take the win. Guzman moved up to third midway through the race, then used the last eight laps to methodically plan his leap over accomplished racers Dave House, Richard Smith-Allen and Peter Ponder-Pistor. Smith-Allen would follow in second and House third. Ponder-Pistor, who led four of the 17 laps, secured the Master's crown with his top-5 result. Steve Sylvester, challenging for the title, was leading when he suffered an uncharacteristic miscue, went off track and dashed his hopes for a title. He dropped to 11th but rebounded nicely to finish in sixth.

In the Memorial, Andrew Colfelt, Bret Arsenault and Robbie Montinola were the 1-2-3 finish order in the weekend's last action. Arsenault, starting 19th, achieved a memorable pass of the swift Tom Woods. Woods had advanced from 22nd to finish in the top-5.

Congratulations to Leonardo Maia and Peter Ponder-Pistor on their respective championships and to all competitors! We hope you had a great time this season and look forward to racing with you again!

- Andrew Torres

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About this article
Series Other open wheel
Drivers Bret Arsenault , Leonardo Maia , Javier Gonzalez , Burt Frisselle , Skip Barber , Tom Wood , John Mefford , Jonathan Bomarito , Blake Rosser , Brian Johnson , Nick Jones , Tom Atherton , Al Unser , Dave House , Robbie Montinola