The SCCA Western Conference Majors Tour opened up 2016 competition with Round One at Auto Club Speedway on Saturday, and Round Two on Sunday, in Fontana, Calif. Rain (Sunday) and shine (Saturday), the weather and drivers challenged one another with rare unpredictably in Southern California. In the end, Mazda competitors proved their mettle, taking four wins on Saturday and six on Sunday.
Following a Friday afternoon and Saturday morning qualifying session to set the grids, each of the 28 Runoffs eligible classes raced in 25-minute timed races on Saturday on the combination high banked oval and infield road course in the Southern California facility.
On Saturday, the track was fast, especially early in the day. Five drivers in the opening group reset their class track records, with Jason Isley (H Production), Oscar Jackson, Jr. (Super Touring Lite), John Bower (GT-Lite), Jeff Barrow (B-Spec) and piloting a Mazda RX-8, Tom Wickersham (Touring 4) taking home the honors. All but Bower also took a race win.
Spec Miata took advantage of drafting, with three cars remaining out front in the final half of the race, and with all three taking turns in the lead. The official leader on lap five was the No. 80 RM Autosports/Oakley/Crow Enterprizes Spec Miata, but Steven Powers used the draft to move his No. 45 Amerifirst Financial/miatacage.com/East Street Racing Miata into the lead a lap later. With Powers in front of the field, he and Clement Lee’s No. 33 RM Autosports Miata made side to side contact in a racing incident, with Powers holding the top spot.
Dean Busk’s No. 7 Commercial Brokers, Inc. Miata made the fight a four way battle at the white flag, with Lee now in front after making the pass stick with two to go. Lee, pictured above, led the way on the final lap, followed closely by Powers and Dickerson.
Formula Atlantic driver Howard Sklar, Sonoma, Calif., piloting the Formula Speed/Mazda-powered race took a class win; GT-3 class winner, Mike Henderson, Alpine, Calif., took the victory in his Mazda RX-7; and Tom Wickersham from Piedmont, Calif., drove his Mazda RX-8 to victory in Touring 4. (Full disclosure, Tom is so talented, he won even in a Ford Mustang in Touring 2, while also earning a spot on the overall podium against faster cars in which Touring 1 and 2 also competed. Simply, we are glad he also drives for us!)
While the track was fast on Saturday, Sunday brought the rain and an opportunity for drivers to demonstrate their full range of driving skills.
Spec Miata competitors may have given the best opportunity to show off their skills as they, perhaps, experienced the worst of the weather conditions. No fewer than four front runners spun while battling for the lead, including eventual winner Dean Busk. Busk looped his No. 7 Commercial Brokers Spec Miata early, but used others’ misfortune to work back to the lead. With two to go, Busk was battling a hard charging the No. 11 Mazda Miata of Justin Hall. Hall got side by side with Busk coming out of the final turn, but Busk got the run and to the checkered flag first.
While the Spec Miata drivers had their hands full, Mazda competitors in other classes rose to the occasion. E Production racer Anthony (Tony) Jimerson from Benecia, Calif., piloting his Mazda RX-7, took home the checkered; Formula Atlantic driver Howard Sklar from Sonoma, Calif., wheeling his Formula Speed/Mazda powered-machine, took the class win; Formula Mazda National Champ Mike Anderson from Anza, Calif., drove his Formula Mazda to a class victory. Champion Mike Henderson from Alpine, Calif. in his Mazda RX-7 took the GT-3 win; and the Touring 4 victory went to Scotty White, Auburn, Wash., in his Mazda RX-8. Mazda congratulates the winners and all the competitors for their grit.
The Western Conference Majors Tour continues with Round Three and Four at Willow Springs International Raceway, February 20-21. More information on the SCCA Majors Tour, including event results and race winner interviews, can be found at SCCA.com.