Western Race Series at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca

Saturday, December 19, 2009 A small but hearty group of Skip Barber Race Series drivers, instructors and crew converged on a cold and soaking wet Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for Rounds 3 and 4 of the 2009-2010 Western Race Series, the last Race Weekend of 2009.

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

Group 1, Race 1
The weekend’s racing got off to an inauspicious start as the cars of Luigi Biangardi, C.J. Wilson, Tyler Wolfson and Henry Chen got together under braking for the Andretti hairpin shortly after taking the green flag. The incident brought out the full course yellow and resulted in Wilson’s and Chen’s cars being withdrawn with damage. All drivers were okay, with Biangardi and Wolfson able to continue after their safety checks. When racing resumed on Lap 4 it was the Battle of the Kyles with polesitter Kyle Kaiser leading Kyle Gimple with Curt Berg first of the non-Kyles in third.

The race settled down for several laps as drivers found the rain line came to grips with the lack of… well, grip. That was until Lap 8 when Lee Kaiser spun off and got hung up in the kitty litter in Turn 5, bringing out the second full course yellow of the race so that the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca track crew could pull him out. Kaiser was able to continue but lost a lap waiting for the hook.

Racing resumed on Lap 9 with Kyle leading Kyle and Matt Rooke, who got around Berg for third. At the finish it was a Kyle 1-2 with Kyle Kaiser picking up the win by a little over four seconds over Kyle Gimple, who barely held off Matt Rooke for third. Tyler Wolfson and Luigi Biangardi both recovered from the Lap 1 incident to finish fourth and fifth respectively, ahead of Curt Berg and Andrea Zurek, the last car on the lead lap in seventh. Lee Kaiser lost that lap and was the last car running in eighth while C.J. Wilson and Henry Chen, taken out in the Lap 1 incident, were credited with ninth and tenth respectively.

Group 2, Race 1
Not to be outdone by Group 1, the drivers of Group 2 put on a little show of their own. Stephen Hill and Scott Anderson led the field to green with polesitter Hill opening a big lead early, only to surrender the lead to Anderson a lap later when he went out-of-bounds. Group 2 showed remarkable restraint considering the conditions as they went three laps before Gus Doppes chucked it into the sand trap in Turn 3, bringing out the first full course yellow of the race. Again the Mazda Raceway track crew was on the scene and quickly pulled Doppes from the gravel so he could resume.

When the race resumed a lap later, the reason for Hill’s earlier run out-of-bounds became apparent as he pulled off-line between Turns 2 and 3 before bringing the car into the pits. As he limped his car around the track the second full course yellow of the race came out, this time again for Gus Doppes, who found the sand trap in Turn 9. The Mazda Raceway crew pulled Doppes out of the gravel for a second time, after which he decided that discretion was the better part of valor and withdrew from the race. Hill would soon follow with what was later diagnosed as a water logged master switch.

Racing resumed for good on Lap 8 with the leader Anderson spinning in Turn 3, followed by Kenton Koch and Walter Kuhn. All three would continue, but these and several other spins and sympathy spins through the field allowed a trio of drivers who started mid-pack, Greg Strelzoff (5th), Connor Ford (7th) and Luigi Biangardi (6th) to assume the top three positions late in the run. At the finish it was Strelzoff edging out Ford by .965 sec. for his first Skip Barber Race Series win with Biangardi a comfortable third ahead of C.J. Wilson. Ed Nigro rounded out the top five, ahead the trio of late spinners, Scott Anderson, Kenton Koch and Walter Kuhn. Stephen Hill was credited with ninth after his mechanical DNF while Gus Doppes rounded out the field in tenth.

Group 1, Race 2
Race 2 got underway with the All-Kyle front row of Kyle Kaiser and Kyle Gimple. The deteriorating conditions took their toll on the field as first Kaiser spun in Turn 3, followed by C.J. Wilson and Henry Chen with Matt Rooke going four-off to avoid. Wilson got his money’s worth for the safety check as he spun for a second time in Turn 8 while on his way into the pits.

The first full course yellow of the race came out for Andrea Zurek, who put her car into the gravel in Turn 6 on Lap 5. The crack Mazda Raceway crew pulled Zurek’s car out of the gravel and she returned to the action after her safety check, one lap down on the field.

With the green flag waving on Lap 6 Matt Rooke went for his second spin, this time in Turn 3. He was continued and rejoined at the back after his safety check. Another spinner was polesitter Kyle Kaiser, who began fighting an increasingly evil handling car. Green flag racing continued until Lap 10 when C.J. Wilson found himself stuck in the gravel outside the Andretti hairpin, bringing out the second pace car period of the race. After being pulled car and stopping for his safety check, Wilson returned to the fray a lap down.

Racing resumed on Lap 12 with Kyle Gimple leading over Tyler Wolfson and Curt Berg, and that was the way it finished two laps later with Gimple taking the win and by just under two seconds over Wolfson and three seconds over Berg. Luigi Biangardi’s consistent weekend continued with a fourth place over Matt Rooke with Lee Kaiser in sixth. Henry Chen held onto seventh despite a time penalty for late contact with Andrea Zurek, while C.J. Wilson was a lap down in eighth. Kyle Kaiser’s handling woes relegated him to ninth, two laps down while Andrea Zurek rounded out the field in trying conditions.

Group 2, Race 2
Sometimes it takes until the last race of the weekend for everything to fall into place and this weekend was no exception. When we last left Scott Anderson, he had finished seventh in Race 1 after spinning out of the lead. This set up another one of those classic come-from-behind races that we seem to have at least one of every Race Weekend.

From seventh on the grid, Anderson started picking off competitors; working his way to fifth in two laps where he battled with C.J. Wilson before taking fourth on Lap 6. Out front, polesitter Greg Strelzoff and Connor Ford were engaged in their own battle, which was joined by Stephen Hill from his ninth starting position. Hill and Anderson moved up another spot after Ford spun out of the lead on Lap 9, allowing the duo to catch up with the new leader Strelzoff.

After dispatching Hill with a pass in Turn 5 on Lap 10, Anderson completed his run to the front with the same move on Strelzoff in Turn 5 a lap later. And that was all she wrote, as Scott Anderson picked up his first Skip Barber Race Series win over Greg Strelzoff with Connor Ford taking third after his spin. Stephen Hill brought his car home in fourth ahead of C.J. Wilson and Walter Kuhn. Kyle Kaiser started tenth and finished seventh while Luigi Biangardi had his lowest finish of the weekend in eighth. Ed Nigro finished the race in ninth while Kenton Koch rounded out the field.

With two Race Weekends in the books for the 2009-2010 Western Race Series, Kyle Gimple holds a 13-point lead over Emil Sildos (who transferred points into this weekend) with Scott Anderson an additional ten points back. In the Masters division it is a Grand Master, Walter Kuhn (sixth in overall points) with a scant two-point lead over fellow Grand Master Curt Berg (seventh overall).

After a break for the holidays and the Karting Scholarship Shoot-out, the Skip Barber Western Race Series heads east to join the Southern Race Series and MAZDASPEED Challenge Winter Tour on the road course at the Homestead-Miami Speedway the weekend of January 23-24.

Jim Altemus

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