Mazda power helped three more drivers to National Championships at the 57th SCCA Runoffs at Road America on Saturday and Sunday, and 10 drivers landed on the podium over the weekend. Among the highlights:
Touring 4: Michael Borden came into his first Runoffs as the regular season Hoosier Super Tour point leader and on the cover of SportsCar Magazine, SCCA’s official publication. Even with that target on his back, he outran a field that included one 15-time National Champion and the class’s defending champion to take the gold medal.
Borden’s NC MX-5 was in the chase position by the mid-point of the race, but ran down the leaders and moved into the lead with two laps to go.
“Anything can happen at the Runoffs,” Borden said. “I know we’re getting everything we can out of our engines. I had a pretty big gap (in third place). I was able to take both of them going into five, and basically, I started driving away. It was a really good race, and a lot of fun.”
Steve Bertok’s MX-5 and Richard Dickey’s RX-8 also made the top five in the first race of Sunday morning.
Formula X: Formula X is the new playground for multiple open-wheel classes, but on Saturday afternoon at the Runoffs in 2020, it was dominated by Star Formula Mazda cars, with a lone Mazda-powered USF2000 car sprinkled in.
Jacob Loomis outran the field for a 27-second victory, the first driving championship for the young man who also serves as engineer for Snyder Brothers Racing.
“It felt so good, man,” Loomis said. “I knew I had to get a good start and just check out. It’s been a long time coming.”
Robert Wright brought the lone Elan DP08 home for the silver medal.
“It’s always nice to be on a podium,” Wright said. “I lost second briefly, got it back, and was basically by myself the rest of the time. I had nothing for Jacob.”
Jason Vinkemulder out dueled Dale Vandenbush to the bronze medal, while Jarret Voorhies finished fifth with his rotary power.
Formula Enterprises 2: Liam Snyder and Max Grau battled back and forth in Formula Enterprises 2, with Snyder getting the best of Grau at the finish to take the title in the Mazda-powered spec open-wheel class.
Snyder led the opening lap, lost the lead to Grau on lap two, fell behind again in the middle of the race before reclaiming the lead for good on lap nine and driving to a 0.786-second victory. The win was the first of Snyder’s Runoffs career and an improvement on two previous silver medals.
Charles Turner was stalking behind the lead pair, but never found the opportunity to challenge for the lead.
All three dodged opening corner chaos that began when polesitter Scott Rettich spun and the field scattered. He recovered to finish seventh.
“I was just as surprised as anyone else at Scott moving back, as he did,” Snyder said. “Max got ahead of me and started moving ahead, and I got a little worried for a second. But then I put my head in it, and just stuck with it. I had one really good lap where I caught up.”
“I’ve been doing the Mazda MX-5 Cup Challenge and I needed to learn the formula car back again for the first few practices. I pulled it together and got faster every session.”
E Production: Mazda drivers scored two of the three podium positions on Saturday afternoon in E Production, with Matt Reynolds earning a silver medal in his NB Miata, and John Hainsworth earning his second Runoffs podium in an RX-7.
Reynolds started fourth and pushed the eventual leader for the race distance before settling for second place.
Reynolds hung close until the finish, but wasn’t in position to make a final pass for the lead.
“The gap was a little too large at that point,” Reynolds said. “Once he got the gap, I couldn’t close up close enough to him to have anything on the last lap.”
Hainsworth ran with the lead back early in the race, but lost touch with one small tire lock up early in the race.
“I’m not really one to lock up tires a lot, so that caught me off guard,” Hainsworth said. “After that, it was just trying to play triage and bring the best finish home that I could.”
The E Production race was strong for the Mazda Motorsports team across the board. Jon Brakke’s Miata finished fourth and, after a challenging week of qualifying, Aaron Downey drove his RX-3 from the back of the grid in 20th place, all the way to seventh.
Super Touring Lite: Danny Steyn pushed his NC MX-5 to the limit, both before and after a full course caution, but ultimately fell short of a Super Touring Lite (STL) Runoffs win Sunday morning at Road America with a silver medal.
“Anytime you’re on the podium in any class you have to be thrilled,” Steyn said. “This is as good as I expected to be able to do. The full course yellow helped me, because it allowed my tires to cool down.
“Overcoming 500 pounds of weight just ends up being a tire management issue. I’m hoping they’ll equalize it slightly differently because it will always be an issue in these kind of races. No detraction from what he did, though. I always love racing against him.”
Prototype 1: Todd Vanacore earned a silver medal in the final race of the 2020 Runoffs, scoring his first career podium finish in his Mazda-powered Elan DP02.
Vanacore inherited the position following a spin by a competitor that caused a full-course caution, and held on unchallenged to the checkered flag.
Darryl Shoff and Todd Slusher landed fourth and fifth in the race, both in their own Mazda-powered Elan DP02 prototypes.
“It’s an incredible feeling,” Vanacore said. “It’s just an honor to be on stage with drivers of this caliber. This class isn’t a stock or spec class, it’s as much the car as it is the driver. It’s a rocket ship, and she did great. I’m just so happy.”
Elsewhere: Rick Harris was the first Mazda2 across the stripe in B-Spec, finishing ninth overall. Jon Goodale and Michael Lewis were battling for the GT-Lite podium with a third car when the trio crashed under the bridge entering the carousel on the final lap.
2021 SCCA Runoffs: Next year’s Runoffs are scheduled for Indianapolis Motor Speedway, currently scheduled for September 25 through October 3, 2021