Eight-time SCCA National Champion returns to race a Mazda
Michael Lewis has four GT-3 SCCA national championships, all won in a second-generation-bodied RX-7 (the last in 1997). He long ago sold that car to concentrate on GT-1, where he has five titles. But when the opportunity arose for him to get back into a GT-3 RX-7 – in this case Mike Henderson’s third-generation car – he jumped at the chance.
“I certainly have a great love for GT-3, always did,” Lewis explains. “I had seen this car be developed, and be fast, and I know all the people involved; we kind of raced as quasi-teammates all these years. So when Mike decided this year he wanted to concentrate on the [GT-2] Viper, and it became available, I suddenly perked up and thought, ‘Hey, maybe there’s an opportunity here.’ He was very generous to make a deal that was doable for me to make it realistic, and I’ve just loved every minute of it.”
Although GT-3 has long been a tubeframe class where bodies are easy to change as generations of cars do, what’s underneath often remains the same. However, the years of development have had an impact on the class, as Lewis has discovered.
“[This car] is fuel injected, so it’s got a lot more low-end, it’s not as peaky. As far as handling, it’s just very well sorted. It’s just a dream to drive – not that my car wasn’t, I just don’t remember it being this nice to drive. It’s a very precision instrument out there. It’s just a pleasure,” he says of Henderson’s car.
Lewis drove the RX-7 to a win at the recent Willow Springs round of the U.S. Majors Tour during the Saturday race before switching to his GT-1 car for Sunday as he attempts to qualify for the Runoffs in two classes. On Saturday, Lewis finished first overall in the rain, ahead of four other cars. Lewis also says he loves GT-3 and wants to see it thrive.
“GT-3 is struggling around the United States a little bit,” he says. “I certainly want to see it survive. They’re great little cars, and I’m happy to be able to sort of contribute to that as well. They’re a lot of fun to drive.”
Lewis says he thinks the car is capable of winning the Runoffs, and he has certainly shown with his eight championships that he is as well. But Lewis will face a tough test at Sonoma Raceway for the 2018 Runoffs. It’s a sure bet that whoever wins, it will be a victory well earned.