RACE: Valvoline Runoffs conclude at Mid-Ohio

LEXINGTON, Ohio (September 23, 2001) - The final eight shootouts took place in front of another enormous crowd today at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for the 38th running of the Sports Car Club of America's Valvoline Runoffs. The culminating day of the ...

RACE: Valvoline Runoffs conclude at Mid-Ohio

LEXINGTON, Ohio (September 23, 2001) - The final eight shootouts took place in front of another enormous crowd today at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for the 38th running of the Sports Car Club of America's Valvoline Runoffs. The culminating day of the 24 SCCA National Championship events featured a racing surface ideal for speed.

The open cockpit, rear engine machines of the S2 class took the course for the day's first event. Polesitter and 1999 S2 Runoffs Champion John Fergus, of Powell, Ohio, piloted his Carbir CS2 to the finish line in dominating fashion. Fergus, winner of four of the last five American City Racing League races here at Mid-Ohio, led every lap of the sprint.

"We came out of the box swinging," said Fergus. "I wanted to maintain my pole position. We had everything warmed up, really ready for the start. We got hooked up right away. The race stabilized after about four laps and I just tried not to make a mistake."

The Grand Touring 5 race, dubbed the "Minis versus the world," promptly followed Fergus' remarkable performance in S2. Defending Champion Joe Huffaker, winner of the F Production race yesterday, started second and mirrored polesitter Jimmy Burke's every move early on. On lap eight, a lapped car held up Burke's Toyota Celica exiting turn one and Huffaker snuck his Mini through on the inside. Also benefiting from Burke's misfortune was the Mini of third-place runner Doug Peterson. Peterson powered by Burke cleanly and caught Huffaker, but never seriously challenged him for the lead. With the win, the SCCA Pro Racing Trans-Am Series for the BFGoodrich Tires Cup team owner secured his seventh Runoffs title.

"This feels great," said Huffaker. "After I won yesterday I felt very comfortable for today. I figured that it would be a three way battle and it was. I don't know if I could have done it if we hadn't all gotten caught up in traffic. That really cost Jimmy [Burke]."

The third race of the afternoon saw the older European sports cars of the H Production class take to the track. Polesitter and 2000 SCCA National Champion Ron Bartell (MG Midget) led flag-to-flag while Dan Collishaw (A H Sprite) shadowed him, but Collishaw failed to find the horses to make a bid for the lead.

"Dan [Collishaw ] was there all the time," said Bartell. "He was right on my tail a few times. The key was my motor. It held together and I could pull Dan down the straight. The car was a little loose in the corners, but I knew that once we got to the straight I could pull him."

After the break, the race for the "Sunoco Race Fuels GT3 Championship" was fought out for SCCA National Championship bragging rights. Polesitter Wolfgang Maike (Toyota Paseo) led early but lost the groove on lap 12, causing him to spin and relinquish the lead to John Saurino, who started second in a Nissan 240SX. Saurino held the point until lap 18 when Pete Peterson (Toyota Celica) closed in at the carousel. Peterson got inside of Saurino and made side-to-side contact, which put the raceleader into the guard rail in turn 15. Peterson limped to the checkered with front-end damage to record his fourth GT3 crown, while Maike recovered beautifully to finish second.

"The car was very loose early and I was pushing and pulling the sway bar adjuster like I was playing a slot machine," said Peterson. "I got inside Saurino in the Carousel. He was running a very high line there so I took the inside. He came down into me and we hit hard. It's too bad, but it's just one of those things."

The much-anticipated E Production race was number 21 of 24 on the schedule. But 1997 Champion Pratt Cole, of Salt Lake City, Utah, had more than enough motor to check-out in his Mazda Miata for the win. Grayson Upchurch finished second in his Nissan 240SX and Tony Rivera, of Littleton, Colo., came home third after rear suspension problems.

"This win is sweeter than the first," said Cole. "It's exciting to see where this class has come since I started in 1994."

The pure open-wheel race cars of the Formula Continental class followed E Production. The 26-car field showcased the 140 horsepower, 2-litre engine machines. From the drop of the green, Mike Anderson, of Green Pond, N.J., was gone in his Van Diemen RF. Anderson blew away the field and took the checkered, adding to his 1999 Runoffs title.

"I wanted to get out in front at the start and set the pace," said Anderson. "I was comfortable, and if I had to go faster I figured I'd lose the tires. After I got a gap I just didn't want to screw up."

The most exciting race of the day featured the purpose-built, highly modified machines competing in the "Fram Filters GT1 Challenge." Polesitter Jeff Ervin had a first-lap miscue and slid off track, but fought his way back through numerous on-track incidents en route to his second GT1 SCCA National Championship in as many years.

"I lost it at the start and dropped to fifth," said Ervin. "I saw the group ahead of me but didn't think that I could catch them. I worked my way back up, but would not have won the race without a full course yellow."

The D Sports Racer class put the wraps on the 2001 edition of the SCCA Valvoline Runoffs at Mid-Ohio. Jason Miller, of Plymouth, Wisc., got a great jump on the start, going three-wide into the first turn to take the lead. Lap 11 was Miller's demise though, as he was forced to pull off with mechanical difficulties. By that point, the top-three qualifiers had all retired and Marc Hoover was handed the lead. Hoover calmly piloted his Mazda Cheetah to the line for his first Runoffs win.

"I expected a battle with the guys up front, but they all dropped out," said Hoover.

The first annual "Eagle One Best Appearing Car Award" was awarded to Laura Olson, of Fountain Valley, Calif. Olson received $1500 from Eagle One for her Showroom Stock B Mazda Miata.

The SCCA continues to groom top-notch, world-class drivers in the most diverse racing organization in the world. As the SCCA enters its 57th year of existence, over 60,000 members within 109 regions across the country compete in almost 2000 sanctioned events per year.


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