Andrew Charbonneau, of Delray Beach, Fla., took over the Spec Miata National Championship lead just before the final full-course caution period ended the race, earning his first ever title at the SCCA National Championship Runoffs Presented by Subway at Road America. Steve Gorriaran, of Providence, R.I., and Tony Coello, of East Troy, Wis., completed the Spec Miata podium.
Coello led the field into the first turn in his No. 17 Pouredfoundations.com Mazda Miata from his second spot on the grid, slipping to the outside of Gumout polesitter Gorriaran. Gorriaran's No. 44 Gorilla Racing/Driven Performance/Racer Motors Mazda Miata pulled back to the front in turn three, and just as the promising battle was taking shape, a multi-car accident in the kink brought out a full-course caution.
The field circulated under yellow until the lap-five restart, where Gorriaran pulled away from the pack with Charbonneau and Coello. The three set sail on a breakaway from the field, running side-by-side through several corners. Official records show that Gorriaran led the first eight laps because he held the lead at the timing stripe each lap, but each driver took a turn at the point.
On lap six, Charbonneau made a pass for the lead into turn 5 in his No. 67 Jacked Up On Mountain Dew Mazda Miata, but gave way to Gorriaran again in turn 12. On lap seven, Gorriaran again took the lead but ran wide in turn five and fell to third. On a three-wide run into turn six, Charbonneau took over the top spot on lap nine for the third time.
The timing of Charbonneau's pass couldn't have been better, as soon after his pass for the lead the No. 80 Grey Fox Racing/Fall-Line Miata of John Kachadurian hit the wall at turn 10. The ensuing caution brought the field to the 40-minute time limit attached to each Runoffs race, shortening the race to 10 laps of a scheduled 13.
Charbonneau averaged 61.535 mph on his way to a 1.231-second margin of victory and his first National Championship.
"Running in this class is the best. Running mirror-to-mirror isn't unusual," Charbonneau said. "The first four or five laps you're wondering who's going to come plowing through and how you're going to get to the front so you don't get caught in the back. You have that anxiety. That said, everybody did a good job not piling on top of each other.
"We got into some oil in Turn Five and I was already deep braking, because I was a little farther back. I literally slid off, onto the rumble strips. At that point, I just focused on hitting my marks and I had really good speed through the Kink. I think that's where I was picking it up on both of these guys [Gorriaran and Coello]. I just had to stay in it."
Gorriaran and Coello were left to wonder what might have happened had the race gone the full distance, leaving Gorriaran unable to defend his title from a season ago.
"Any of us could have won and that's what makes Spec Miata racing exciting," Gorriaran said. "I've been racing these things for a while and I think it's better if you can break away. With the three of us, it just seemed like we kept going back and forth and part of that was my fault. The car, going into Five, kept cutting out. It's an electrical problem we've been having all week. Andrew would go by me and then Tony would go by me. So, part of that was my fault, that we couldn't just get in line and get away from everybody. Had we, I think we could have checked out easily. That would have been the smart way to run it.
Coello saw a caution end his Runoffs for the second season in a row without a win. In 2009, Coello was battling for the Formula F title on the race's final corner when contact ended his day and left third-place to claim the crown.
"First of all, my car was perfect the whole way from the beginning to the restarts," Coello said. "My family does a great job as a group getting the car ready. I came back from Formula Ford to race Spec Miata because Mazda does a great job with their support program. It doesn't get much better than this-being able to race with 60-something cars and really go at it."
Chip Van Vurst, of Pompano Beach, Fla., kept his No. 02 Autotechnik/Matthew Van Vurst Miata in front of a train of nearly 10 cars in a battle for fourth position. Aaron McSpadden, of Round Rock, Texas, finished fifth in the No. 75 Teamsillustrated.com Miata.
Matt Reynolds, Blake Clements, Jeff LaBounty, James York and Shawn Slattery completed the top 10.
The Spec Miata race began with 60 cars taking the green flag, the largest single field in the history of the SCCA Runoffs.
Now in its 47th year, the SCCA National Championship Runoffs Presented by Subway annually crowns Champions in the Sports Car Club of America's Club Racing classes. The live broadcast of all 28 National Championship races will be available throughout the weekend at www.Speedcasttv.com/scca and later available On Demand from the same site.
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More information is available at www.scca.com/runoffs.