Runoffs Contenders: Formula Cars and Prototype

Mazda powers two spec formula classes at the SCCA Runoffs, and several of the top drivers in Formula Atlantic and Prototype also choose Mazda power

The SCCA National Championship Runoffs features two classes where Mazdas are a given to win – Formula Mazda and Formula Enterprises. But being spec classes, they are especially hard to choose likely contenders at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

In Formula Mazda, Jarrett Voorhies qualified well last year but spun himself out of contention. He has vowed to not let that happen again, and SportsCar magazine, SCCA’s official publication, has picked him to win. The other two drivers they mention are Stuart Rettie and Mike Anderson. Anderson is the 2014 champ and knows how to win at the big show.

The Runoffs at Indianapolis Motor Speedway has brought out an FM field more than twice the size of last year’s, and there are a lot of drivers who have a shot at the podium, with many making their first, or first in a long time, appearance at the Runoffs. Look for Southeast champ Shane Doles, Western champ Larry Mason and Northern Conference champion Jason Vinkemulder to play a part in the race.

The Formula Mazda national championship race runs with Formula Continental (and will qualify with FC and FE, making a clean lap a challenge) at 9:35 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 30.

In Formula Enterprises, it’s no surprise that SportsCar picked Elliot Finlayson to win, followed by Quinten Nelson and Paul Schneider. Finlayson dominated the well-subscribed Northern Conference and was selected as a finalist for the TeamUSA Scholarship. It’s likely he’s learned a thing or two in the process of that field being narrowed down. The one driver who has challenged Finlayson this year is Dean Opperman. Nelson was the Southeast champ, where the competition seems a bit tougher, so that might give him an edge. Schneider and Justin Gordon have been right there with him and beaten him on occasion.

Others to keep an eye out for include Alex Scaler, Dennis Marklein, Leith McDonald, Joe Sammutt and, as a possible dark horse, Sabré Cook. Cook was also a TeamUSA Scholarship finalist and could be a threat if she picked up a few pointers from the pros to which the program gave her access.

Formula Enterprises racers face the same challenge as Formula Mazda, a big combined group for qualifying before the championship race at 8:30 a.m. on Sunday, Oct. 1.

Formula Atlantic is an interesting mix – mostly various generations of Swift chassis with the occasional Pro Mazda. The latest Swift chassis are usually powered by the Mazda MZR, and are the favorites. Sedat Yelkin and Keith Grant top the list of contenders running the Swift 016. Yelkin is a former champ in the class, and Grant has come close, finishing second last year.

Dudley Fleck is another racer to keep an eye on, as are Fabio Castellani and Bruce Hamilton, both running Mazda power in older Swift chassis. Two drivers are coming with Pro Mazda cars – Matthew Gendron and Larry Howard – but it’s hard to see them having much of a chance.

Formula Atlantic races with Prototype 2 in the second race of the Runoffs, the green flag flying at 9:35 a.m. Eastern Friday, Sept. 29.

Speaking of Prototype 2, there are a few Mazda powerplants in the field of mostly motorcycle-engine-powered cars. That includes a Formula Enterprises-based sports racers for Bill Johnson. Multi-time FE champ Scott Rettich is also bringing a Mazda-powered car.

Prototype 1 has a few Mazda-powered entries as well, including a few Elan DP02 cars. But our sentimental favorite in the class, and always a threat for a top-five finish, is Mazda stalwart Jim Downing. His Mazda rotary-powered Peach is always quick.

The Prototype 1 race is paired with Formula 1000 for the last race on Saturday, Sept. 30 at 4:45 p.m.