SOUTH HAVEN, Mich. (Aug. 28, 2007) - Mother Nature didn’t make-30-
it easy to stage the inaugural Bert Olson National hosted by the South
Bend Region at GingerMan Raceway in South Haven, Mich. Friday night was
marked with high winds and heavy rain, plus a power outage at the
track. By early Saturday the power was back and a light rain ended
before qualifying began. While there was some standing water on track,
it dried during the morning as qualifying proceeded as scheduled.
Being the final SCCA Club Racing National race of 2007, drivers arrived
from 16 states in search of points or starts needed to become eligible
for the 2007 SCCA National Championship Runoffs Presented by AT&T.
Drivers from Texas, West Virginia, Connecticut, Alabama, Minnesota,
Iowa and Kansas were some of the more distant entrants. Most, however,
were from the Great Lakes Division or neighboring Central Division.
The first race of the weekend was scheduled for Saturday afternoon,
leaving plenty of time to run the other five races on Sunday, despite a
two-hour “quiet time” created to avoid disturbing the neighbors during
The 24-lap Race Group 1 included Spec Miata, Touring 2 and Touring 3,
and Showroom Stock B and Showroom Stock C. Nineteen drivers took the
green with Jason Henderson's T2 Nissan 350Z on the pole and the T2
Cadillac CTS-V of John Buttermore beside him. The Spec Miatas started
on row four, with David Bednarz and Jeff Luckritz. Starting at the back
was Shawn Slattery whose SM qualifying times had been disallowed.
In short order the Butterworth “Detroit Muscle” Cadillac was at the
front and pulling away, eventually lapping all but the top six cars.
Joe Aquilante moved his T2 Pontiac Solstice into second place for a
General Motors 1-2, while Henderson hung on to the last podium step in
the Nissan. Behind the T2 cars, Rob Huffmaster led the T3 cars in his
Mazda RX-8, followed by the Honda S2000 of Chad Gilsinger and the
Cobalt of local driver Kevin Fendozzi.
Slattery carved though the field from last to win Spec Miata and finish
seventh overall. Luckritz placed second in SM while Benarz finished
third. Brian Peele led SSC all the way and the Honda Civic of Chase Lin
was uncontested in SSB.
After the race a driver/worker party was held in the La Dolce Vita
pavilion with plenty of goodies. Cash generously donated by the
drivers, was raffled to the workers and drivers were informed that each
class winner was eligible to pick up a bottle of GingerMan Championship
Wine, a present from track owner Dan Schnitta. Literally everybody was
a winner! It was also a time to remember Bert Olson, a long time racer,
gymkhana and rally contestant and quintessential worker for whom the
race was named.
The weather report for Sunday was warm and dry. Unfortunately, it
didn’t mention the heavy fog which shrouded GingerMan, making it
impossible to start racing until the corner workers could see their own
stations and adjoining track. This was Mother Nature’s final trick as
the remainder of the day was very pleasant.
The first Sunday race group included Formula A, B, C, E and Mazda plus
Sports 2000 and C and D Sports Racing. Seth Ravndal was on pole in his
FA Swift, with Jason Byers alongside in his FA Ralt. John Larue was the
fastest FC car on the second row, just edging Tom Schweitz in the only
FB. The first of the Mazdas was on row three driven by Juan Marchand
who had the advantage of being on his home track.
The 24-lap race went by in just 32 minutes on the 1.9-mile track and it
was Ravndal's FA Swift leading from flag-to-flag, followed by Byers in
the FA Ralt and Larue in the FC Citation for the class win. Marchand
moved up to fourth overall to lead the Mazdas to victory with Mark
Brayles taking second in class. Tony Sleath was first in S2000 followed
by Mark Hardymon, both in Carbirs. Doug Schumacher took the CSR class
win, while Barney Powers in his Bobsy collected the DSR trophy. Tom
Mihelich barely edged Corey Dalenberg to win the Formula Enterprises
Still running behind schedule courtesy of the fog, Race Group 3, which
included GT-1 and GT-3, American Sedan, Touring 1 and B Prepared, was
off on its pace lap as quickly as possible. Phil Lasco in his big
Mustang was on the pole with Bryan Long beside him in a Camaro. GT-1
cars took up the first two rows followed by the GT3 cars of Mike
Cyphert, in a Celica, and Paul Young, in a Ford Probe. Andy McDermid
was the first AS Mustang.
Only three laps were in the books when Lasco dropped out with car
problems, leaving Long in charge for the rest of the race. He was
followed by three GT-1 cars with Rick Dittman in second and Ryan
McManus third in class. A lap behind the overall winner, Rob Warkocki
took the GT-3 win over Young and Cyphert. Jason von Kluge inherited the
AS lead and win when McDermid had to retire with an oil leak with just
four laps to go. Kevin McVicker and David Ours were second and third in
AS. Kris Von Sydow took BP while John Buttermore was the T1 winner.
The fog only delayed the start of the “quiet time” by about 30 minutes,
but the day was back on schedule for Race Group 4 after lunch. Cars
lined up for Group 4 included E, F and H Production , D Prepared and
GT-Lite. Sam Halkias was on pole in his EP Triumph TR6 with Michael
Sturm beside him in a Honda Prelude. Mark Carpenter brought his Acura
Integra from Burlington, Conn., to lead the FP cars from third on the
grid, while Ray Huffmaster’s Mazda RX-8 was the first DP car. Halkias
and Sturm finished in the same order they started, while Carpenter won
FP over Michael Moser and Roy Carrera. Ray Huffmaster faded to eighth
overall, but still won DP. Joe Kristensen took GTL and Robert Bax was
the HP winner.
Group 5 included Formula 500, Formula Ford and Formula Vee. On pole was
the very quick F5 Novakar of Brian Novak with the FF of Lewis Cooper
III beside him. Novak led every lap, averaging over 77 MPH. Other top
F5 cars were Michael Vacek and James Weida. Coming from sixth on the
grid, Russell Ruedisueli finished second to take FF over Cooper III.
Joseph Bertolucci was the FV winner.
The final race of the day was all Spec Racer Ford. On the pole was
Jeffrey Barrow from Clover, S.C., while Ohio drivers Sandy Satullo and
Nick Evans plus Michigan driver Scott Treat completed the first two
rows. In a hard a fought battle, Nick Evans won by more than 10 seconds
with Satullo in second, just 0.3-seconds ahead of Barrow.
There was very little car-to-car contact at this year's Bert Olson
National and very few DNFs, making it an enjoyable race for everyone
involved. The season is over. Let the Runoffs begin!