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Road Atlanta National – 03/31/01

My biggest issue leading up to the March 31, April 1 National at Road Atlanta was the weather. Depending on who you listened to, it was either going to be sunny and warm both days, rainy on Saturday and overcast Sunday, clear Saturday and rainy Sunday, etc. Ends up the weekend was overcast, cool and very windy, but it never did rain while cars were on the track.

As Atlanta Region Treasurer I had access to pre-registration data and was pleased (and surprised) to see eleven GT-1 entries out of the 40 cars entered in Group 4 (GT-1, GT-2, GT-3, AS, T-1 and T-2). Karl Schiffmeyer had made the trip from Chicago with his Cutlass to battle Joe Hooker’s Grand Prix, John Finger’s Mustang, Daniel Eastman in a Porsche 993, the Camaro’s of Joe Freda & Gerre Payvis and the Corvettes of John McNaughton & myself. We also had three Panii (is that the plural of Panoz?) show up – Brad Ward, Scott Loftfield and Kirk Riddle. That may not be a bunch in CENDIV, but that’s some quality rides and large numbers for SEDIV.

Claudio Burtin set the Road Atlanta race record at a 1:28.448 in June of ’98, but Finger was below that in both 15 minute qualifying sessions. John ended up on the pole with a 1:28.036, Bill Reid’s GT-2 Toyota was outside with a 1:28.843, I was third with a 1:29.660, Tom Patton’s "GT-1.5" Tiger was fourth at 1:30.809, Joe Freda fifth at 1:33.366 followed by Karl’s Olds with a 1:33.668. All those behind me would get to move up a spot, however, because near the end of the second session my engine decided to "dynamically reduce rotational mass". We all know that lighter is better, but ventilating the oil pan using pieces of connecting rod is NOT the best way to reduce weight. Bummer.

Final GT-1 grid:

 

CP

OA

Name

Car

Best Lap

1

1

John Finger

Mustang

1.28.036

2

3

Butch Kummer

Corvette

1.29.660

3

5

Joe Freda

Camaro

1.33.366

4

6

Karl Schiffmeyer

Cutlass

1.33.668

5

7

Joe Hooker

Grand Prix

1.34.019

6

12

Gerre Payvis

Camaro

1.37.407

7

15

John McNaughton

Corvette

1.38.320

8

16

Kirk Riddle

Panoz GTS

1.38.375

9

20

Daniel Eastman

Porsche 993

1.38.933

10

22

Scott Loftfield

Panoz GTS

1.39.705

11

23

Brad Ward

Panoz GTS

1.40.760

 

Watching Sunday afternoon’s race from the outside of Turn 1 wasn’t my first choice, but the spectators were treated to a pretty good show. Finger went as fast as he needed to and led every lap, but there were some interesting battles going on behind him. As expected, Patton was able to out drag Reid at the green and slotted in behind the Mustang. Unfortunately for the Toyota, Schiffmeyer also got by and held the third position for a couple of laps until the rice burner spooled up the hamsters and dove inside going into One. A Panoz (Riddle) in the gravel trap outside Turn Six brought out a full course yellow starting lap 6, so the safety crews used that pause to tow McNaughton from where he parked in Ten after lap 3. The yellow also allowed Reid to close up on Patton during the two laps it took to ready the track once again.

On the restart Finger again moved off to about a five second lead and Reid got inside Patton. Schiffmeyer was pretty much cruising in fourth (second in GT-1) while the "Joe’s" (Hooker and Freda) were having a tremendous battle for fifth (third in class). Twice they were dead even into the braking zone going into Ten (at the end of the back stretch). The first time Freda backed off early, but the second time he banzai’d the corner and made an outside pass for the position. He then set off after the red,white & blue Olds, but got a little too eager leaving Seven on lap 12, lit up the rears, tagged the inside wall and brought out the second full course caution. Even with the damage to his car he was pumped about his weekend – he said it was the most fun he’d had in years and it was great to have folks to race with again. (Note to Denver: Car counts are up. Don’t f**k with the rules!!!).

The green flew again with two laps to go and Finger again checked out. Reid was able to hold his second place (first in GT-2) through One, but Patton apparently got by on the straight because their positions were reversed when they came into my sight thru Twelve. Reid tried to outbrake the Tiger into One starting the last lap but lost it and spun into the gravel. Hooker also appeared to break a tie rod going thru the esses and impacted the concrete pretty hard. I don’t know the extent of damage to his car, but (according to Freda who was still in the Quack Shack at the time) he banged his arm up pretty well. Joe’s a good guy and I certainly hope he and the car are OK.

Final GT-1 results:

 

CP

OA

Name

Car

Laps

Best Lap

1

1

John Finger

Mustang

18

1.29.016

2

3

Karl Schiffmeyer

Cutlass

18

1.33.514

3

10

Daniel Eastman

Porsche 993

18

1.38.708

4

13

Scott Loftfield

Panoz GTS

18

1.39.181

5

14

Brad Ward

Panoz GTS

18

1.41.398

6

26

Joe Hooker

Grand Prix

16 (NR)

1.34.421

7

27

Kirk Riddle

Panoz GTS

14

1.38.681

8

28

Gerre Payvis

Camaro

13 (NR)

1.34.145

9

29

Joe Freda

Camaro

12 (NR)

1.33.675

DNF

 

John McNaughton

Corvette

3 (NR)

1.38.737

DNS

 

Butch Kummer

Corvette

   

 

Right now I’m faced with building a new engine, but luckily we’ve got two months until the next National ar Road Atlanta June 8-10. If things go well there, we’re also looking at taking in a minor little local event in central Wisconsin two weeks later (hint: can you say "June Sprints"?). Last year was our first trip to the Runoffs, so this year we’re gonna try and make both of the two biggest shows in the SCCA club racing season.

See y’all at the track…