The 40th annual Valvoline Runoffs, SCCA's Club Racing National Championship event continued on Saturday afternoon with races 12 through 16 of the 24 single-class races over the weekend. The beautiful weather continued and a healthy crowd of fans...
The 40th annual Valvoline Runoffs, SCCA's Club Racing National Championship event continued on Saturday afternoon with races 12 through 16 of the 24 single-class races over the weekend. The beautiful weather continued and a healthy crowd of fans filled the hillsides of Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course to watch the fun.
The first race of the afternoon was a bit of a yawner, but that was as expected. John Heinricy had easily won the two previous T1 National Championships in his speedy Corvette and had the pole this time too. With only one exception, Robert Tunnell's BMW M3, the other Touring 1 class competitors had chosen a Corvette to try to unseat Heinricy, but the General Motors engineer showed them his heels once again.
Scotty White made the strongest attempt to beat Heinricy, but he was five seconds in arrears when his car "just shut off" at the exit of turn 1 at the midpoint of the race.
Heinricy crossed the line eight and one-half seconds ahead of Richard Gilhart, who had prevailed in a race-long battle with Thomas Oates, the third place finisher.
The GT-5 race was next, and similarly, the winner was expected to be the driver who had dominated the class lately. Joe Huffaker Jr. had won the GT-5 race each of the last three years with his high-tech Mini Cooper (eight championships total) and he won the pole by one half of a second over Doug Peterson's Mini.
Huffaker, as predicted, jumped off to a small lead over Peterson, and the two built up a good advantage over the rest of the pack. But Huffaker's speedy black Mini didn't follow the script and the car coasted to a stop as it crossed the start/finish line for the sixth time with a failed throttle linkage.
Peterson was never challenged after that and won his sixth career National Championship (but his first since 1989!) Local favorite Jack Baumgartner (in another Mini) passed fellow Ohio driver Jim Rauck's Nissan 200SX on the final lap for second place. Kirk Olsen finished fourth after an inspired drive. Olsen had qualified his Honda CRX in third, but spun on lap two and spent the rest of the race carving his way back from 19th place.
John Heinricy won his second race of the day in American Sedan, but it didn't start as the dominating drive he had in Touring 1. Heinricy, in a Camaro this time, qualified second and fell to fourth on the start when Andy McDermid followed polesitter Monte Cowles' similar Mustang into second place. Csaba Bujdoso got a great start in his Camaro, going from fifth to third.
Bujdoso faded fast though, allowing Heinricy to get third on lap two. McDermid was the man on the move, and he demoted Cowles on lap 4. Heinricy passed Cowles later the same lap. McDermid held the lead over Heinricy for a few laps but then his engine blew up in a cloud of smoke on the back straight.
Cowles spun off into a gravel pit with three laps to go, allowing Heinricy to finish with another dominating performance ahead of Brian Wallace and Robin Burnett.
Formula Ford was up next, a class which used to have a lot of drafting passes and large packs of cars, but that script wasn't followed this time. The front-runners paired up this time. Last year's FF champion, Justin Pritchard and previous winner John Larue had a nose-to-tail run at the front, Thomas Schweitz and Jason Byers disputed third place behind them, Todd Bardwell and Scott Rarick had a two-car battle for fifth. For a (slight) change, it was three drivers sparring for seventh: Tom Reinsel, Stan Townes and Brian Graham.
Larue stayed close to Pritchard's gearbox for the first ¾ of the race but eventually Pritchard pulled away to win by nearly 5 seconds. Schweitz held third for 16 laps until Byers took it away for good. Bardwell and Rarick exchanged fifth and sixth places several times, but Bardwell's spin on lap 15 sealed the place for Rarick. And to settle the "rest of the fast guys" race, Townes prevailed over Graham for seventh.
The final race of the day was a class dominated by "real race cars", the traditional roadsters that everyone recognizes as sports cars. Steve Sargis had the pole in his familiar red Triumph Spitfire, with Mike Pinney's Huffaker Midget alongside. Harold Flescher qualified third in an Austin Healey Sprite. Other sports cars in the race were a Porsche 356 "bathtub" roadster, Fiat X1/9s, several Porsche 914s, and even the modern interpretation of the concept Mazda's Miata.
Sargis took off to a large lead and looked to be on his way to his sixth National Championship, but on lap 11 (of 20), his engine soured when he drove up the hill to the Keyhole turn and his race was done. Pinney, who had pulled a similarly large advantage over Flescher, was handed the lead. He took the last checkered flag of the day five seconds ahead. It was his second championship, coming 25 years after his first!
Sixteen race down, eight more to go. The 2003 Valvoline Runoffs put the wraps on the season tomorrow. See you there!