Mazda powered equipment scored 11 podium finishes and three class wins on Friday during the opening day of the 57th SCCA National Championship Runoffs at Road America. Racing continues on Saturday and Sunday, with each of the remaining 17 races available live on SCCA.com.
Mazda Motorsports team members took advantage of the very first opportunity they were given at the 57th SCCA National Championship Runoffs, with Michael Lewis and Taz Harvey sweeping the top two positions in GT-3 on Friday morning.
Lewis led flag-to-flag for his 10th SCCA National Championship, moving him into a tie for third on the all-time list. Though Lewis has won multiple times in other classes, his last win in the GT-3 class came in 1997 in the same RX-7, which sat out of action until the 2019 season, when Lewis bought the car back from its previous owner.
“I’ve been trying for a while to get to double digits,” Lewis said. “I didn’t think about it much until I hit six or seven, and thought that would be kind of cool. I’ve been very fortunate to win those, but none more hard-earned and more satisfying than today.”
Taz Harvey survived to the finish to score the runner-up finish. Harvey made the GT-3 podium for the third consecutive year but earned the silver medal for the first time in his RX-7.
“Last year, I was pretty competitive and I got stuck in fourth gear,” Harvey said. “I think I dialed my way out this year instead of dialing my way in. You’ve got to finish these things. These guys worked really hard on my car, went through my engine, did a lot of work on the car for reliability’s sake. That really kicked in and helped me.”
Harvey inherited the second position when defending champion Jeff Dernehl’s RX-7 pulled off the course with a mechanical failure with just a lap and a half remaining. Prior to that, Mazda drivers were in position for a podium sweep.
Preston Pardus scored a wild win over a 77-car Spec Miata field, moving from seventh to the lead on the final lap in his No. 42 NB Miata.
Pardus snuck into third after leader Todd Buras was pushed wide in Turn Five, then pushed the NA Miata of Konrad Czaczyk into a three-wide run with Tyler Brown through Canada Corner. Pardus then went side by side with Brown through Turn 14, where Czaczyk and Rob Hines pushed Pardus up the hill to the checkered flag for his second-career win and an SCCA Super Sweep award.
“Coming through 14, it’s so hard because you’ve got to give people respect,” Pardus said. “I think I gave Tyler enough room there and luckily it lined me up perfect with Konrad on the exit.”
Pardus crossed the stripe just 0.079-second ahead of Czaczyk. The podium was the first for the Florida driver.
“Who would have thought that starting that lap fifth, sixth and seventh that we’d be on the podium?” Czaczyk said. “That’s Spec Miata racing. It actually was beneficial to us at the end of the day, we could take advantage of the mistake that they had made in five.”
Hines finished third, followed by Brian Henderson, Tyler Brown, Nick Bruni, Voytek Burdzy, Todd Buras, Danny Steyn and Michael Gagliardo.
Mazda drivers narrowly missed a win in F Production, but the Mazda Miatas of Sam Henry and Mason Workman finished on the podium in second and third in F Production on Friday, and Mark Weber scored his best-career finish in 61 Runoffs starts by crossing the finish line in fourth place.
While others in the race dealt with mechanical issues, Henry earned his third career Runoffs podium and matched his 2012 silver medal for his best finish with a flawlessly prepared Mazda.
“The Mazda car was so reliable,” Henry said. “We felt guilty right before the race when we lifted the hood to check the oil and, of course, it was fine. But that’s the only thing we touched on the car all week other than maybe messing with the alignment a little bit. So, I hate it for the other guys that dropped out with attrition, but our car was strong and under us the whole race. With a little bit bigger fuel cell, we could’ve run another 13 laps.”
Workman and Henry battled back and forth for their position on the track, which ended up being for the silver medal. Henry got the best of Workman at the finish, but Workman earned his second career Runoffs podium.
Tray Ayres crossed the finish line in fourth-place finish in his Mazda-powered Van Diemen ESR Mazda on Friday after challenging for third, but was elevated to the podium when a fellow competitor failed post-race technical inspection.
Ayres earned his fourth career Runoffs podium, taking home the bronze medal.
Spencer Brockman earned his first career SCCA National Championship, earning a 2.216-second victory on Friday afternoon as the sun set on the event’s opening race day.
Brockman’s win came in the older-generation Swift 014a chassis, retrofitted to be powered by the longer-lasting MZR engine. Brockman’s win included a Mazda sweep of the open-wheel podium, with Hans Peter and Richard Zober following behind in the 016a chassis.
Photo of Stacy Wilson’s GT-3 machine by Mark Weber