A Glimpse Into the 2019 SCCA Runoffs Competition: Mazda’s View

Tricky and ever-changing conditions plagued more than 500 racers this past weekend at the Hoosier Racing Tire SCCA® Super Tour at VIRginia International Raceway (VIR), which will play host for the 2019 SCCA National Championship Runoffs® in October. While not every Runoffs contender competed at VIR this past weekend, and the conditions make it challenging to predict what may come of the Runoffs, the event did provide some insight.

Mazda’s takeaways from VIR:

GT-3 – This weekend’s GT-3 event was part of GT-3 Challenge presented by MPI, a series supported by Max Papis Innovations, Penske Racing Shocks (new addition to GT-3 Challenge and constant supporter of club racers), AiM Sports, Hoosier Racing Tire, and Mazda. The GT-3 Challenge consists of five events held around the country, culminating with October’s SCCA National Championship Runoffs®. As a class, GT-3 is gaining momentum. Stacy Wilson, driving the No. 47 Hoosier Tire/Mobil 1 Mazda RX-7, won both races, but not without a fight Sunday from Mazda driver Taz Harvey. If not for a daring pass attempt attempt by Wilson, the day could have been Harvey’s. Harvey, Wilson, and Jeff Dernehl are expected to compete for a championship in October. If Collin Jackson, Rob Warkocki, and Michael Lewis show up, it’s anyone guess how the podium forms. We may be biased (we are), but we do believe a Mazda is going to take the checkered flag this year.

F Production – We have a little more confidence in predicting the podium, or at least top five here. Charlie Campbell was the best driver of the weekend, even though the race wins eluded him. But come the Runoffs, we expect Eric Prill to challenge for the win again, with Ken Kannard in the mix. There are others.

E-Production – Simply, it’s hard to beat Matt Reynolds. But John Hainsworth did take the Saturday win in a Mazda RX-7. Congrats to John for the win!

Spec Miata – With nearly 80 cars competing each race in the challenging conditions, and many not getting a lap in qualifying, these races showcased some great talent up front – Brian Henderson, Danny Steyn, Nick Bruni, Preston Pardus and others – but also saw other very talented drivers have to drive from the back of the field. While these same top drivers that fought up front are likely to be fighting for the National Championship in October, we expect a significantly different grid, making predicting the podium similar to the odds of predicting the Final Four at the NCAA basketball tournament. The field is deep; anything can happen – and we shouldn’t be surprised how it turns out.

Super Touring® Lite – Danny Steyn is strong once again.  Unless he beats himself or has bad luck, we aren’t sure how the car/driver combo gets beat. Hats off to Danny and OPM Autosports for their hard work getting to this high level.

Super Touring® Under – Chris Haldeman makes it look easy. But with his talent level, we suppose it is, regardless of what he drives. (Please only race Mazdas, Chris.)

GT-Lite – This weekend didn’t go to a Mazda, but October is a new opportunity.

B-Spec – BoP help is needed, though not as much as two years ago.

Touring 3 – It could be a MX-5 Cup car this year with the new engine (the ND2 Miata). We need more parity in this class and will do our part here as well.

Touring 4 – The NC Miata’s are always up front (largely due to many excellent drivers piloting them), and the RX-8 provides excellent competition at VIR with Owen Schefer taking the win Sunday. Shout out to Nick Leverone for a great weekend too.

Formula Atlantic®, Formula Enterprises (and FE2), Formula Mazda, Prototype 1 & 2 – Each of these classes had multiple race winners (except FE1); the Mazdas: Richard Zober (FA), Todd Slusher (P1), Victor Seaber (FM), Mike Anderson (FM), James Libecco (FE1, winner twice), Scott Rettich (FE2) and Liam Snyder (FE2). These classes are too difficult to predict, so we won’t even try.

Mazda Support at the 2019 Runoffs: Coaching (Tom Long and Andrew Carbonell); parts and tech support (Steve Strickland, Josh Smith and James Painter); paddock parking support (on the skid pad; no tent, however); dinner banquet (Tuesday evening); SWAG and more to be announced.

Photo: Sunday’s GT-3 Challenge podium (left to right): Joe Kristensen, Stacy Wilson, Paul Young (with support from Hoosier Racing Tires)