2006-07 Western Series OpenerNov 02, 2006
Thursday, November 02, 2006
New, new, new, new, new… lotsa new! Track, drivers, winners, snow… The Western Series opened its 2006-2007 season at Miller Motorsports Park, the new ‘‘palace’’ of racing about 30 miles west of Salt Lake City. We ran the West Circuit, a 2.2-mile, 10-turn iteration of Miller’s 4.4-mile full course. Some fast fourth-gear corners, the ‘‘Devil’s Bowl’’ complex (T7), two hairpins (T5 and T10) providing classic passing areas – with a lot of room in the desert, this was a fun track to run…
Complete 2006-2007 Western and Southern Series schedules are here.
Michael Self was one of many drivers who made their first-ever Race Series start here at Miller – and then won!
Joining the West’s regular fast guys (Quentin Wahl, Jeff Kaiser, Tim Traver, Tom Roberts, Alan Baia et al.) were karter newbies Brett Smrz, Juan Carlos Sistos and Jessica Brunelli, plus USAC racer Beau Debard. Kyle Lawrence, at Miller for the Skip Barber National finale, also joined this group. Debard and Smrz took over the front row in qualifying, with Lawrence and Wahl in row two. Green-green-green and things were essentially clean, but up near the front David Riddle went four-off in Four, then Smrz and Wahl went desert riding in the Devil’s Bowl.(They served their due penance immediately, so the penalty for contact these two had on the last lap was for the most part inconsequential.) That put the #45 of J.C. Sistos in the lead, with Beau Debard P2 and Baia third. Lawrence pounced on Biai on lap six, then a lap later Traver took over fourth from Baia. With third, fourth and fifth (Roberts) running close but ultimately settled, what remained was the battle between Sistos and Debard. That was resolved on lap nine when Debard took over P1 and then finished 6 seconds up on Sistos; good job by both. The other first-timer, Brunelli raced well to an eight place.
Debard led the whole race despite having to fend off Traver and Smrz. Confirmation of contact between those two had to wait ‘til after the race, so they ended up classified eighth and ninth. That meant the entertaining battle between Kaiser and Baia for fourth and fifth on the track was really for second and third and they crossed the line nose to tail. Gary Manheimer and Matt Reynolds sliced forward from 12th and 10th, respectively, to wind up fourth and fifth. Sistos had recovered to P3 as he and Lawrence went at it, but contact was involved and they both did well to come home sixth and seventh. Wahl was 10th despite having to come back from a lap-six, T6 off.
In this group, the only driver to get into the 1:39s — :41s and :42s were the order of the day for the rest of the field — was one of the first-timers, karter John Thompson (fellow karter Juan Pablo Glover Contreras, plus Eban Bell, Travis Heinrichs and Justin Rausch, were the others) and when Thompson got around John Potter on lap five, he walked the rest of the way. Second-starting JPGC actually led the first lap but a spin in the Turn 10 hairpin killed the effort, though he would bring it back to sixth at the end. With Thompson winning handsomely and Potter finishing second, Bell, Sarena Traver and Don Van rounded out the top five. Of note was ‘‘Big Al’’ Delattre’s effort. Taking advantage of Pontiac’s patent from the 1960s – road-hugging weight – Al not only got down to the :42s but was knocking on the P5 door when, ‘‘ALl of a sudden,’’ he went rock hunting in T1. I bet we haven’t seen the last of Delattre and his quest for the podium…
Thompson tromped to the win, 14 seconds to the good on Potter while Traver – the pretty one – snatched third from Bell right from the git-go to haul in her first piece of podium hardware. On lap two, Van, Bell and Heinrichs had a meeting of metal and fiberglass in Turn Two, causing the one and only full course yellow of the weekend (laps two and three). The restart saw no change in the top five, but on lap nine, Justin ‘‘Jack’’ Rausch took over fourth when JPGC went off the roaf in Turn Four, which also elevated Max Riddle and Harsha Sen.
A very interesting race early on, with Michael Self (new), Sistos (doubling) and Potter (also doubling), but when Sistos had to pit for contact, Self started to run away with the race. After his pit stop, Sistos set his sights on Potter and hunted him down, getting him on the last lap to take second. Not-so-Gray Gregory was fourth and Dana Rock a couple seconds further back in fifth. And to that driver and his family (you know who you are) that displayed the utmost in sportsmanship? Thank you…
Sistos and Self had the crowd enthralled for the first three laps – until Self slid off in the Devil complex. Sistos scampered home to the win in front of Potter. On his way back after his stop, Self set fastest race-lap and by the last lap he was able to get past Shantanu Reddy to grab a podium. Gregory took fifth.
Congrats to all the race winners, especially the FTWs: Beau Debard, John Thompson, Michael Self and Juan Carlos Sistos. In fact, if memory serves, the Miller weekend was possibly the very first time that all the races were won by drivers all in their first Skip Barber Race Weekends! And even the Skip Barber National, which was running concurrent with the Regional, saw a first time winner. Kyle Lawrence on Sunday took his maiden National win (read about it here).
The Western Series sees rounds three and four at its ‘‘home’’ base, Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, December 8 – 10, but before that, the opening rounds of the 2006-2007 Southern Series are at famous Road Atlanta, November 17 – 19 (it’s sold out, but get on the waiting list if you really want to do it). The Road Atlanta weekend is also the season finale for the 2006 Skip Barber Masters National.
Is ‘‘Big Al’’ Delattre turning into ‘‘Super Al’’ Delattre? At Miller, he was quicker than he’s ever been. Now if he can just keep it on the road for a full race we could very well get a podium out of him. Al, you da’ man!
Words & pics, Rack Risotto