Sonoma Sunday – Regional 1 & 2

February 4th, 2020 by James Chartres


By Lynne Huntting

Sunday for day two of the weekend SFR Regional Races 1 & 2, and what a difference in weather from Saturday. It was bitter cold with a biting fierce wind which made it tough for the various volunteer worker crews. The corner workers had tough duty trying to display a proper flag and not be blown away – and as their work station is usually a confining turn box, there was no seeking shelter or getting out of the wind. It wasn’t great for any of the crews, and RE Tim Sullivan sent a nice email thanking all the workers.

The good news was that the day ended, on cue, before the coin toss at Super Bowl, and many were able to hear the game on the car radio on the way home. The bad news is that the outcome wasn’t as hoped. There’s always next year!

Sunday’s schedule had the five qualifying sessions and one half-hour race before an early lunch, followed by the other four races. Among the lunch topics was the rave about Saturday night’s tri-tip dinner enjoyed by all – Workers, Drivers and Crews.

Sunday’s races had fewer cars, some attrition due to mechanical or incident-related woes, and maybe some due to football fever.

Gene Peters, the new Paddock Marshal and self-appointed helper for the Social Crew was selected by the Announce Crew as Worker of the Weekend. He helped with the early setup on Thursday before the track test day, set up the paddock for the races, and did double duty being the Social Crew for the weekend. The Announce Crew made an exception in naming a second worker for her hard work all weekend – Jess Ann Link, Course Marshal Chief. Saturday she trained a newbie – her only crew; and Sunday she worked alone, and there was a fair amount of hot course cleanup. Turn 11 might well have been renamed Pigpen for the number of times a car hit the tires and spilled water and fluids causing rebanding and lots of sweeping. She worked alone getting the track setup and picked up equipment Sunday afternoon. The corner workers helped out at days end by bringing in their items.

Grid Crew setting up in the morning.

Driver of the weekend was selected by the F&C Crew, and it was a close voting among all of the corner workers. The winner was Will Schrader/No.87 SM Miata in Group 7 – the all Miata group. The Oregon driver had left the track for the rainy North before he learned of his honor. Schrader came in a close second in both races, behind Ken Sutherland in No.93 SM Miata, and Schrader turned the fastest lap in each race. The workers said it was great, clean racing as he fought hard for his finishing position. And he’s a great sport. The corner workers also were impressed by the Saturday SRF close racing between pole sitter Joe Briggs/No.9 and Brandon Lewis/No.66 who pulled off a photo finish win exiting T12 for the Checkered Flag, after running second the entire race behind Briggs.

Lunch time break with the corner workers.

Technology can be great, helpful and innovative in motorsports … when it works. When it doesn’t, it can present challenges. It happened this weekend, but SFR rose to the challenge of MSR, the Internet and Race Hero not properly working. It overall affected everyone, but mainly affected Race Admin, Timing & Scoring and Tech.

One new thing this year – no more Novice trophies for top placing Novices.

Race 1 was the only group with a split start. Eight classes were spread among twenty racers spread among eight classes, and eight DNS. The Safety Car was called out after a second lap problem in T1 with two F4 Ligiers. No one was hurt, but Gabriel Fonseca of Brazil in No.76. Ligier retired, and Varium Choskey of Atlanta in No.19 was able to continue. Pole sitter Jacob Able again won again won in his F3 Ligier, after leading every lap, with a lead of 10.242 seconds ahead of runnerup Vasili Stratton/No.26 P1 Wolf. There was such a speed differential among the group, which was made up of cars previously in three separate formula groups, that only the top seven finished on the lead lap in the 17-lap race.

The smallest race was Group 3, with four ‘big bore’ drivers. Pole sitter Bryan MacMillan/No.44 GT2 Mustang led for 14 laps, followed closely by Don Von Nortwick/No.8 T1 Mustang. Van Nortwick passed on the inside of T11 and went on to win overall and in T1 by 3.044 seconds. He also turned the fastest race lap of 79.009 mph. Meanwhile a bit further back, Lynne Griffiths/No.31 AS Mustang and Tim Sullivan/No.58 T1 Corvette were having their own race. Griffiths led for the first half, before made a nice inside pass in T11. All drivers but Sullivan won their respective classes. Joe Montana was among the DNS after having transmission problems in his No.88 GT1 Ford Fusion painted like a WWII bomber, not to mention the grass he tore up Saturday.

New Track Record for SSC5 by Tim Sullivan

Race 5 was the last race of the day, and had only 14 of the 22-car field. The group includes 18 classes, but the field consisted of mostly ITA/ITX Miatas, plus a SSC5 Corvette and a MC (Muscle Car) Camaro. Pole sitter Wa Huong/No.3 ITA Miata pulled away from the field, which was closely packed. Everyone finished on the lead lap, except Richard Pryor, who spent his last two laps seemingly cruising on a Sunday ride, before pitting five laps shy of the 16-lap race. Sullivan set a New Track Record of 1:59.077.

Race 6 for SRFs, mostly SRF3s, was the first race of the day, right before the early lunch, and it was a bit more a frisky race. Joe Briggs/No.9 was on pole and led for 12 laps until he spun in T11. Joe Viso/No.52 went from third to take the lead, which he held for two laps. Robert Breton/No.51 took the lead for the last lap and won by 0.178 seconds. Briggs turned the fastest race lap of 83.427 mph. Yehia Eissa/No.16 started the race off with a spin and stall in T2 on the first lap. He continued and spun again in T6. Saturday’s winner Brandon Lewis/No.66, Bill Jordan/No.7 spun, and then Lewis grazed the T12 wall. There were more spins, and then Bruce Richardson/No.5 -one of the two SRFs in the race spun and hit the tire wall entering T11. This brought out the Safety Car, but not before there was a lead change with Breton taking the lead in T2. It was fortunate lunch was scheduled after this race, as there was course cleanup and tire banding to be done. Briggs spun out while chasing Bob Breton. Then Joe Viso/No.52 passed Breton and led for two laps before Breton repassed on the last lap and won. There was friskiness and some possible body contacts. The new forward-facing camera requirement proved helpful in some Steward’s convos. All on-track finishers were were on the lead lap. Stephen Controulis/No.55 was the top SRF.

Course clean up at Turn 11.

Race 7 was three classes of Miatas, with 23 taking the green, and 10 not running. Ken Sutherland/No.93 had the pole and won, but he was given a run for his money by Will Schrader/No.87, who ran a close second much of the race. Schrader led twice. They were two of the four Oregon drivers who came down, and three of them finished 1-2-3, with Eric Jones/No.73 finishing third. The fourth Oregonian, Dave Dunning/No.13, didn’t fare as well. He drove into the tires at T11 on Lap . 13. The Safety Car came out, and as the course was completely blocked by all the rescue vehicles, the pack had to be led through the infield. Turn 11 had already seen a couple of spins. There was a bit of downtime after the race to do some serious course cleanup involving the E Crew and Course Marshal, who was working alone.

It wasn’t the largest entry for a regional race weekend, but there was some quality racing. The next event on the schedule is the annual Competition Licensing School at Thunderhill Raceway Park over Valentine’s Day weekend. What could be better than spending the time with your friends and family at a race track. See you there!

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