Rounds 9 & 10, Western Series

Tuesday, March 06, 2007 A great Race Weekend at Mazda Raceway: springtime weather, first-time winners, big field, some excellent races, a Traver celebrating her birthday (18? 21?) with a podium, even a Peter Dannan win that honored a dead fish. Plus, Tom Roberts and the inimitable Dean Moon, proud Dad of a bunch of race winnin’ mini-Moons, organized an awesome party at Baja Cantina on Saturday night. The Western Series mechanics did an awesome job, too…

Results, time sheets and qualifying are here

Western and Southern – plus the recently announced East and Midwest skeds — are here

Here the race group re-caps…

G1R1 (Championship)
The Moon Bros. (Justin & Jimmy) had the front row, with Jessica Brunelli and Tim Traver in row two. Everybody made it through the first few corners cleanly, even as we saw some terrific side-by-side through Four, with Jimmy M. leading Justin M., Traver in P3, followed by Tim George, Jr., and Dom Bastien. (On that first lap frontrunners Brunelli, Tom Roberts and Alan Baia had a short ‘‘meeting,’’ if you will, and all came in for their stops instantly.) By lap three things had stabilized a bit, but on lap four Bastien went four-off, which gave P5 to Max Hyatt. At the front, Jimmy had bro Justin all over his gearbox – but Justin was under attack from Traver bigtime. On lap seven Traver was able to make his move on Justin work, but the duelling and dicing had let Jimmy extend his lead a bit. The last five laps were essentially uneventful, with the exception of Hyatt who on the last lap fell from fifth to seventh as Dr. Mike Edwards and Brunelli went by (and crossed the line fifth and sixth within 3/10s of each other). Traver had closed on winner Jimmy, less than a second behind at the checker, while Justin was a distant third and George, Jr., seven seconds further back in fourth. For Jimmy Moon, it was his first Race Series win, after moving up from Sportsman to Championship. Well done!

G1R2 (Championship)
This one was an even more thrilling Battle of the Moons & Traver. They went side-by-side-by-side into Two… but by the exit they were single file, a small blanket sufficient to cover them, Jimmy the leader, Traver P2 Justin in third. The next time ‘round, Justin took a good look at taking over second from Traver, but no dice! Not the case on lap three, though, as Justin made his move on Traver in T3 stick. Laps four through nine saw the order stay the same –-Jimmy, Justin and Traver, juking and jiving — with Brunelli a lurking fourth. Behind them was more hot and heavy action between Hyatt, Baia and Roberts. On lap 10 Justin snatched P1 from his brother in Turn Four but with these three still nose-to-tail rocketing into Five, Jimmy took the lead back by the exit. With four laps to go, Jimmy made a brave move in Turn Six work and now he had the lead back, Traver still right there in third. The next to last lap proved to be the day-ender for Justin, however: After grabbing first place from Jimmy with his own Turn Six pass, at the top of the hill a half-shaft let go and he skated off into the dirt in the Corkscrew. Jimmy won again, with Traver just a half-second back, Brunelli getting a fine third, followed by Roberts and Baia crossing the line within a couple car lengths of each other. Hyatt was sixth, Bastien seventh, with Edwards and Gary Manheimer the last of the runners.

Jimmy Micro-Mini Moon moved up to Championship from Sportsman — then won not once, but twice. Very cool.

G2R1 (Championship)
This was a multi-class race, as Tim George, Jr., needed to get his second Championship-division race completed on Saturday. For the record, George started last, moved up to sixth by lap three – then promptly spun-and-continued in Turn Two and worked his way back up through the field, finally taking the overall lead in Turn 10 on the last lap. Good job, Tim… In the Sportsman division, it was all Michael Ramies, leading flag-to-flag. He had Gray Gregory all over him for the first six laps, but Gregory fell off the road in Two on lap seven and had to start all over again. Gregory’s mistake put John Potter in P2 and Sarena Traver in third. Then on lap 11, Greg Berdette also went off in Turn Two but he was unable to dig his car out of the gravel, so we went FCY for a lap. At this point the leaderboard was Ramies, Potter, Traver, Rob Grien, Josh Brolin and Carlos Medina. The re-start on lap 13 was wild… Potter and Traver both spin in Turn Two, Sarena going four-off, then later in the lap Medina and Grein both fly into the gravel in the Turn 11 hairpin; Medina got stuck, Grien continued. And all that action meant Ramies brought it home for the ‘‘win’’ five seconds up on the recovering Gregory. Then, in a tight pack came Fabrice Weill (from 11th), Brolin, Potter, Harsha Sen and Dan Bunn in eighth. By the way, Ramies had the fastest race-lap, quicker by a half-second than Championship-division driver Tim George…

G2R2 (Championship)
In the Sunday race, Ramies began to step away from the field early on, fashioning a 10-car length lead by the end of lap two, but it was close action for the rest. Here’s the blow-by-blow account from Kim and Kelly’s race notes… “Lap one: Four wide into Two – but ends up single file by the exit of Four. Pop for P3 in T5, but no, doesn’t happen. Lap two: Berdette passes Harsha in Two for P8, as Raimes starts to check out… nose to tail for P4. Lap three: Both Sarena and Potter get past Brolin. Lap four: Medina gets Brolin in the Corkscrew, and Potter gets by Sarena in the midst of a great battle. Lap nine: Brolin drops two in Two… side-by-side, Berdette and Median for P5. Lap 10: Medina spin, T6! Lap 11: Potter, four-off in Four… Medina and Harsha past Brolin. Lap 12: Harsha dive bomb, Medina ALMOST four-off, keeps one tire on… Oh, Harsha spins it in 11! Lap 14: Potter four-off.”

When all was said and done, Ramies was your winner (this was his second win of the weekend, since he also raced in Group 4; see below), Gregory followed him home by 2.2 seconds, Sarena got a terrific P3 podium, while Berdette gets kudos for racing from 10th on the grid to fourth at the checker. Medina rounded out the top five, followed by Brolin, Grien, Sen, Scott Panzer, Potter and Bunn, everybody on the lead lap.

G3R1 (Sportsman)
Juan Pablo Glover Contreras took command from a polesitting start and handily kept John Thompson and Gary Williams, Jr., in his mirrors. Adam Evans ran to a fine fourth, while Al ‘‘Just Al’’ Delattre stunned the throng with his brilliant 12th-to-fifth run. David Stubbs, Walter Kuhn, Brandon August and the father-daughter team of Joe and Lauren Koenig rounded out the top 10.

Tim Traver entered this race as singleton Championship driver and started DFL, but he worked his way up through the field and came home second on the track to Contreras, just nipping Traver for fastest race-lap.

G3R2 (Sportsman)
Ouch! Thompson had a lap one, Turn Five argument with the wall, so the first three laps were under yellow. When things got going again at the start of lap four, the order was Contreras, Williams, Evans, Stubbs and August. Contreras opened an immediate gap to Williams, who was very busy with Evans – they went side by side through Turn Two not long after the re-start, in fact. Finally, Evans got a run on Williams exiting Four and into Five and made it work. And that’s how they ran to the finish: JPGC the winner, 11 seconds up on Evans, just a 10th in front of Williams, Jr. August had taken P4 from Stubbs three laps after the re-start and held it to the checker, so sixth was Seth Manheimer (up from 11th) and seventh Walter Kuhn. Lauren beat her dad this time, for eighth, with Ross Jaffe in 10th.

This is first-timer Adam Evans, who brought home a P2 trophy from Sunday’s G3 race.

G4R1 (Sportsman)
Some races are processions and for the front of the field, this was one of those. Michael Ramies (doubling) started alongside polesitter John Potter (also doubling) but it was Ramies taking the lead on lap one and was never headed, with Potter P2 the whole way and Harsha Sen (doubling) in third for all 15 laps. This was the first Series win for Ramies: well done! Ed Nigro had fourth for one lap early on, but Vaughn Horvath was there from lap three onward (despite a Turn 11 four-off). Fifth was debated between Sarena Traver (yep – doubling), Fabrice Weill (doubling) and Dan Cheadle. When all was said and done, including pit stops and penalties for mid-race contact between Traver and Nigro, Traver got fifth, followed by Weill, Nigro and Cheadle. Just Al Delattre was just ninth and Scott ‘‘Tank’’ Panzer 10th..

G4R2 (Sportsman)
Jiminy Crickets, Ramies leads the first 14 laps, with Potter stalking in P2 the whole time. Was it simply patience on Potter’s part to stay locked in P2, then pounce in Turn Nine(!) on the very last lap? Or was it his only chance? Regardless, it was well done. Sen held third for a number of mid-race laps ahead of, variously Nigro and Horvath. But a Turn 10 trip into the dirt on lap 10 torpedoed Sen’s chance at podium, giving a chasing Horvath the spot. Nigro finished fourth, Sen hung on to fifth, with Cheadle, Nick Smith, Paul DeMeester, Michael Eigen and David Koster rounding out the field.

Harsha’s Brother Raja’s Dead Fish ‘‘Spreckels’’** Memorial
In the English speaking world, no race car driver is considered less skilled than Peter Dannan. End of story. But magically, mysteriously, momentously and, well, morbidly, somehow Dannan spanked the field in the fish race. Superimposing some semblance of sanity were Justin Moon, Gary Manheimer, Jessica Brunelli (these two just a 10th apart at the line) and Gray Gregory, all of whom who followed Dannan home. Additional sympathy to Harsha’s brother Raja, the first of the Sen Family to watch Harsha race; his apparently very cute and quite huggable pet fish, Spreckels, bit the dust – so to speak – just before the weekend…

Next up!
The sure-to-be-exciting 2007 openers of the BFGoodrich/Skip Barber National Presented by Mazda is just around the corner, supporting the 12 Hours of Sebring March 14-16. Then the Southern Series revs up for its rounds nine and 10 at Moroso Motorsports Park March 23-25, followed by the finale for the West March 30-April 1, at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

Harsha Sen got his first Race Series win in February at Sebring. As a winning race car driver, he was no longer happy with his plain-Jane helmet. So when Harsha came to Laguna to race, he made sure his lid was ”painted.”

At the Saturday Baja Cantina bash… The father-daughter Team Koenig (Joe & Lauren) and The Thompson Twins (we get celebrities in the Western Race Series all the time. Right, Josh?)

The Great Morley/MTV Sunglass Conspiracy at its devilish, dark birth… Coach Rob Slonaker and Ed Nigro (a 7th and a 4th in Group 4) concoct the plan to wage an open-bidding war (to aid the Mechanics’ Fund) for the sunglasses recently made famous on MTV’s “Road Rules: Up to Speed” reality show by coach Jon Morley. The winning bid of $400 was a bargain…

** Named after Spreckels, Calif., a company town near Laguna Seca that was created by the Spreckels Sugar Company in 1899. For the record, it was home to the world’s largest sugar beet factory for a number of years. Not only did famous writer John Steinbeck live and work in Spreckels, the town was one of the primary shoot locations for the filming of 1955’s East of Eden, directed by Elia Kazan and nominated for four Oscars and winning one. Today, about 500 people live in Spreckels… Here is Raja’s “thank you” for honoring the late Spreckels: To the racers, staff, and fans who participated in Skip Barber’s “Spreckels The Fish” Memorial Race on Sunday, March 4, 2007. Spreckels was my the dearly loved swordtail fish who died on Thursday, March 1 in our aquarium in San Francisco. Spreckels’ life had a special bond with Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and the Skip Barber Racing School. He was named after the small agricultural town located a few miles from the track when Karah and I were on our first trip to the race track. We came to see and support my brother Harsha in his races. We were a bit lost and saw exit signs for Spreckels and thought it was a great name for a pet. Spreckels is survived by three female swordtails, “The Girls”; four red phantom tetras, “The Beatles”; a neon tetra, “Pacfish 2”; and two catfish, “Thomson and Thompson.”

Thank you for honoring him with a most exciting race on a most beautiful day. -RAJA

Rick Roso, pix by “Eleven”

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