Lexington, Ohio, September 26, 2016 —
The SCCA National Championship Runoffs Presented by Garmin VIRB returned to Mid-Ohio after an 11-year trip to Topeka, Road America, Laguna Seca, and Daytona.
From the fans' perspective, this is one of the best tracks to spectate at for such an event. Twenty-eight races of 23 laps each over the span of three nonstop days on a tough and challenging and sometimes crash inducing track gave the fans a thrill a minute.
A lot has changed in 11 years in how people watch this event. Though the Internet was quite prevalent in 2005, tablets, smart phones, and live streaming video were not. Information once packed into a printed program was now readily available for quick call up over cellular networks right at the track. Programs weren't even sold. Social media was encouraged.
Thus, I joined the fray ... or is it the lazy route ... of coverage. Instead of daily dairies, I took some video on my iPad like any other spectator, in all it's glorious amateurism with sight line obstacles, posted it here, and called it a (three) day's work.
Never has the Runoffs at Mid-Ohio seen such picture perfect weather for the entire week (Monday through Thursday was qualifying with races on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday). Not a single drop of rain fell the entire time. No snow either! Even the test days prior to that were nice. And some days, it was quite warm, even summer hot.
Choir Boys. The worst weather was Saturday morning when some light fog and mist in the air greeted the drivers. This left the track a bit damp, and the second race of the day was the notorious Spec Racer Ford. As one fan said, "Spec Wrecker Fords on a damp track ... what could possibly go wrong...?"
Well, nothing actually. The 27-car field made it through the "bullring" undulating esses, called Madness for a reason, with nary a bump. The video doesn't lie:
Todd Harris won the race from the second starting spot. Mike Miserendino, the pole sitter, took second. Scott Rettich started third and finished third.
Spec Mayhem. Last year, the Runoffs were at Daytona. Thus, the SCCA wanted to do something different. They decided to hold their most successful class, Spec Miatas, at night. Sixty-one cars lined up on the banking and everyone was expecting mayhem. However, the entire race ran without an incident to write home about.
Not so much at Mid-Ohio. As soon as the 44-car field got to the esses, trouble began:
The race turned out to be one of the most entertaining of the 28 even if Justin Hille led from green to checker and Michael Carter stayed in second place. Elivan Goulant moved up four spots to take the last podium position.
Flying Car. You don't expect to see flying cars in a full body class. That's usually reserved for the open wheel classes, but that's what happened in F Production. Shortly after 30 cars took the green, this occurred:
A fantastic battle amongst the lead pack with positions changing every lap ended in devastation. Joe Huffaker and Steven Hussey got together at the ultra fast kink on the long straight, causing a huge crash. Hussey's supposedly light Lotus Super Seven actually moved the concrete wall. This caused the race to be flagged early after 14 laps. It also caused the races after lunch to be delayed by half an hour due to the necessary repairs.
Pole sitter John Walker was the winner in a 65 Lotus Super Seven. Eric Prill and his 1990 Mazda Miata took second while Charles Campbell, in another Miata, a 1993, grabbed third.
Back to Normal. Spec Racer Fords are going through another change (after the original Sports Renault/Spec Racer changed to Ford power to become SRF) with a new Ford engine. So, for the second year in a row, fans were entertained by a second SRF race. In this case SRF3, for Spec Racer Ford GEN 3. These cars are lighter and nimbler than the SRF and much faster.
As a former Sports Renault/Spec Racer/Spec Racer Ford driver, I was quite smug when the SRF start was so clean. However, that smugness was quickly wiped out Sunday afternoon when the 40-car field couldn't even get to the first turn after the start (and that was after two wave offs) without cars going off. This continued in the esses as one car's nose started pointing to the sky. (This was my worst video as my positioning enabled the key view to be blocked when those in front of me stood up.)
The victory went from White to Black after the race ended under full course yellow with the time limit taking affect after 20 laps. Cliff White got the checkered flag, but was disqualified in the tech shed, giving the victory to John Black. However, the results are still not official. For now, Bobby Sak took second with Tordy Acker in third.
The Future. When the Runoffs left Mid-Ohio, they continued the trend of staying in one location for a period of time. Topeka had them for three years followed by five years at Road America. Then, the SCCA decided to move them around the country each year -- Laguna Seca in 2014, Daytona for 2015, and Mid-Ohio this year.
Next year, they will be at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, running the 14-turn, 2.439-mile infield circuit used by the IndyCar Grand Prix. It's a slightly modified version of the course used during the F1 days. The 2017 Runoffs will be held September 25-October 1.
The 2018 site has not been determined, but it is no secret that the SCCA is talking to the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.