FCS: Sears Point race notes

NEW WINNERS AT INFINEON FERRARI F430 CHALLENGE EVENT (SOMONA, CA, APRIL 16) The Ferrari F430 Challenge, longest running series of its type in North America, moved west to the California wine country and the Infineon Raceway for the second ...


(SOMONA, CA, APRIL 16) The Ferrari F430 Challenge, longest running series of its type in North America, moved west to the California wine country and the Infineon Raceway for the second event in its 14th season. It was a highlight weekend in many ways -- the Shell Historics, FXXs, and Corse Clienti F1s were part of the event, several new drivers joined the series with their F430 Challenge racers, an experienced driver took his first pole position in the series, and two drivers scored their first-ever Challenge wins.

Three drivers qualified at under 1:48 on the tricky 2.53 road course, and when that session ended Joel Quaid, racing for the Auto Gallery team, had scored his first pole position. John Horejsi (Ferrari of Beverly Hills) would start alongside, with Scott Tucker (Boardwalk Ferrari) and points leader Lawrence Stroll (Ferrari of Quebec) sharing the second row. Larry Bowman (Ferrari of Orange County), making his first-ever start in the series, qualified seventh in the 29 car field.

Qualifying had been dry, but on Saturday morning rain thoroughly soaked the track. A strong wind helped dry the surface before the race, but while every car started on slicks, there were still damp spots and puddles to trap the unwary. One of these damp spots likely cause a first-lap melee involving Stroll and Michael Louli (Ferrari of Ontario) among others, allowing the field to get by before Louli was able to restart. (He would work his way from 28th up to 13th by the finish).

Quaid led only the first three laps before Roberto Fata (Ferrari of Long Island) took the lead from his sixth starting spot; this was the first time Fata had ever led. Three laps later Larry Bowman passed Fata for first -- another first-time leader -- and led for another 13 laps, turning the fastest race lap in the process.

Tucker appeared to have been driving a conservative race until two laps from the end, when he cleanly passed Bowman, who dropped back to seventh by the checker. Horejsi had always been in the top group and finished second, 16 seconds behind Tucker, with Fata in third followed by William Cotter (Ferrari of Seattle), Quaid, and rookie Skip Bennett (Ferrari of Washington).

The win was the first for Tucker, in only his second year in the Ferrari Challenge, and for his Boardwalk Ferrari team. The young driver dedicated his win to his mother, Norma.

Tucker's win also gave him pole for the second race, on Sunday, with Horejsi alongside and Fata directly behind. This race ran under classic wine country weather, with warm sun and a nice breeze.

Horejsi's tradition is an original airbrushed portrait of a different musician or actor on the hood of his 430 at each race. Janis Joplin decorated Horejsi's car at Infineon, and Janis saw a clear track ahead as Horejsi took the lead from Tucker on the first lap. Mike Zoi (Shelton Ferrari), who won the season's first race at Homestead, started eighth after problems on Saturday. Zoi and Stroll (starting tenth) battled through the pack and steadily gained positions, but with some very aggressive driving at times.

Horesji was untouchable, and while he slowed slightly at the end, his margin after leading every lap was five seconds over Zoi for his first win. Stroll was another six seconds back in third, rounding out the podium. Skip Bennett was credited with fourth after Tucker was penalized one spot for short-cutting the course; Bennett again was the highest-placing rookie. Bowman, Louli, John Farano (another rookie and Louli's Ferrari of Ontario teammate) rounded out the top eight.

Peter Castellana, another Ferrari of Long Island driver, was presented a special award at the podium ceremonies for his "tireless efforts to gain positions cleanly" in the race. Castellana started 18th and finished tenth.

The Ferrari Challenge is organized by Ferrari North America, and sanctioned by the Grand American Road Racing Association. Drivers compete in specially built racing versions of the Ferrari F430, with preparation and race support handled by teams formed by authorized Ferrari dealers in North America. Preparation rules are very specific, and the series is intended to emphasize driving skill among lady and gentleman drivers. Sponsorship and support for the series comes from Motorola, Piaggio Aero, Pirelli, Sabelt, and Shell.

The Challenge will next compete at VIRginia International Raceway in Virginia on May 18-20, where the series will again be joined by the Shell Historics. For more information on the Ferrari Challenge please visit www.ferrarichallenge.com.

-credit: fcs

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Series Road racing
Drivers Joel Quaid , Michael Louli , William Cotter , Scott Tucker , John Farano , Roberto Fata