Western Race Series opener at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca

Saturday, November 07, 2009 The drivers of the Skip Barber Western Race Series began their 2009-2010 campaign at The Official Track of the Skip Barber Western Race Series, Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Salinas, Calif. The weekend featured two large formula car groups, a race between two members of the media in MX-5, lots of green flag racing and three first time winners.

Click here to see images from the weekend
Click here for complete results
Click here for points standings

Group 1, Race 1 – Western Race Series
Quentin Wahl and David Cheng led a field of 16 to the green flag for the first race of the weekend (and season). They were joined by Emil Sildos and Walter Kuhn in a four-way tussle for the lead. Contact between Wahl and Sildos in Turn 2 on the opening lap sent the pair to the pits for safety checks. The stops were early enough to allow them time to work their way back to the front. So much so, that by Lap 10 Sildos and Wahl occupied positions two and three behind leader Cheng. Emil Sildos completed his comeback, taking a .849 second victory over David Cheng with Quentin Wahl, who almost duplicated Sildos’ feat by working his way back up to third. Stephen Hill and Walter Kuhn rounded out the top five, followed by Seiichiro Kita in sixth and Lee Kaiser in seventh. Luigi Biangardi (now there is a racing name!) came home eighth ahead of Dana Rock while Andrea Zurek rounded out the top ten.

Group 2, Race 1 – MAZDASPEED Challenge Winter Tour
A ten-strong field of MX-5s took the green flag behind the front row of Tyler Wolfson and Coulter Mulligan. Wolfson led every lap to take a somewhat comfortable win over Mulligan; the margin of victory clocked in at just over six seconds. Jack Baruth, Performance Test Editor for < a href="">, finished third in his first Skip Barber race after starting sixth. Brian Makse, automotive writer for Canadian men’s magazine Sharp, came in fourth ahead of Greg Strelzoff. Rhys Williams finished sixth ahead of Dana and Dennis Rock, with Walter Kuhn and David Stubbs rounding out the top ten.

Group 3, Race 1 – Western Race Series
Group 1 winner Emil Sildos captured pole and led Group 3 to the green with Kyle Gimple alongside. Sildos took that lead at the start as Gimple filed into second, followed by David Cheng and Scott Anderson. The full course yellow came out on Lap 3 for an incident involving Greg Strelzoff, who hit the curbing awkwardly in Turn 6, damaging his car too much to continue. Strelzoff climbed out okay, his race run.

When racing resumed so did the battle between Sildos, Gimple and Cheng. Gimple assumed the lead with a slick move in Turn 11 on the ninth lap and never looked back. Meanwhile, Sildos tried to battle back, only to drop positions late in the race. At the finish it was Kyle Gimple picking up his first Skip Barber Race Series win by two car-lengths over David Cheng. Ben Jopling claimed the final spot on the podium in third, ahead of Zac Sherman and a fading Emil Sildos. Scott Anderson finished sixth, followed by John Scalmanini and David Stubs. Curt Burg came back from early contact to score a ninth place finish while Dennis Rock rounded out the top ten.

Group 1, Race 2
Race 1 winner Emil Sildos took the lead from pole, followed by David Cheng and Quentin Wahl. Cheng and Wahl took turns in second for the majority of the race; the pair never more than a few tenths from the leader. The lead trio opened a considerable advantage over a second pack consisting of Walter Kuhn, Luigi Biangardi and Lee Kaiser.

Down the stretch, the first to fall to the wayside was Wahl, who spun coming out of Turn 11 on Lap 10. He would pit for his mandatory safety check and resume in eighth. This left two drivers, Sildos and Cheng, to battle for the win.

The battle got a little messy for the leaders as contact between Sildos and Cheng in Turn 11 on the final lap led to time penalties for both after the fact. Fortunately for the pair, they were far enough ahead of the rest of the pack that they maintained their positions in the final results with Emil Sildos picking up his second win followed by David Cheng in second. Walter Kuhn completed the podium with a third ahead of Luigi Biangardi, while Quentin Wahl recovered from his four-off to round out the top five. Lee Kaiser brought his car home in sixth, followed closely by Gus Doppes and Randy Sturgeon while Dana Rack rounded out the top ten.

Group 2, Race 2
Once again Turn 11 played a role in the outcome of a race when the MX-5s took to the track for Race 2, led by the front row of Tyler Wolfson and Coulter Mulligan. TTAC’s Jack Baruth got the drop at the green, taking the lead for the opening lap before surrendering it to Sharp magazine’s Brian Makse. The quartet battled for the top four positions, with Makse leading 11 of the first 13 laps before Wolfson regained the point. The battle between Wolfson and Baruth came to a head as the pair got together in Turn 11 on the final lap, after which they crossed the finish line 1-2 with Wolfson maintaining his advantage over the charging Baruth.

After the race was checkered, the lead cars were inspected and once contact was confirmed the drivers were assessed time penalties equal to the time required to report for a safety check. Those post-race penalties meant that Brian Makse picked up his first Skip Barber win by seven-tenths over David Stubbs with Coulter Mulligan another seven-tenths back in third. Walter Kuhn came in fourth with Dana rock rounding out the top five. The time penalties dropped Tyler Wolfson and Jack Baruth to sixth and seventh respectively, with Rhys Williams in eighth. Dennis Rock made contact with the wall in Turn 11 (see the theme here?) on the second lap, retiring with damage he was credited with ninth.

Group 3, Race 2
The final race of the weekend was all about Kyle Gimple. Gimple, starting on pole after picking up his first win in Race 1, took off and hid from the field. This initially set up a race between Ben Jopling, David Cheng and Zac Sherman for second. Emil Sildos, having himself a strong weekend, dug himself a bit of a hole, going four-off in Turn 10 on the opening lap, sending him to the pits and down to18th early in the going.

Cheng’s and Sherman’s runs at the front ended with contact in Turn 8 on Lap 11 while battling for second. The contact ultimately knocked Cheng out of the race a lap later while Sherman was able to continue after a visit to the pits for his safety check. It was all Kyle Gimple needed as he cruised to a comfortable 9.354 sec. victory over Ben Jopling. Scott Anderson earned third place ahead of a charging Emil Sildos, who came from 18th on Lap 2 to fourth at the finish. John Scalmanini rounded out the top five, ahead of Curt Berg and Greg Strelzoff. David Stubbs finished in eighth ahead of C.J. Wilson while Zac Sherman clawed his way back up to tenth after the contact and safety check.

Up next
The Western Race Series returns to action the weekend December 12-13 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, the Official Track of the Skip Barber Western Race Series. After the MAZDASPEED Challenge race, it was announced that the South and West schedules are being merging into a single MAZDASPEED Challenge Winter Tour. Drivers who raced this weekend at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca will have their results transferred over to the recently completed season opener at Carolina Motorsports Park. The MAZDASPEED Challenge Winter Tour visits Georgia’s Road Atlanta the weekend of November 14-15.

Jim Altemus

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