Steve Forrer, of Milwaukee, Wis., survived a hairy last two corners to hold off Gumout polesitter Jean-Luc Liverato, of Alpharetta, Ga., for the C Sports Racing crown at the 49th SCCA National Championship Runoffs on Saturday. Jason Miller, of nearby Sheboygan Falls, Wis., finished third.
Forrer's No. 84 K-Hill Motorsports/Hoosier/Forrer Supply Ralt rt41/Toyota followed the No. 07 Phoenix/Innotech/Mazda/Hoosier Swift JMS17/Mazda of Jacek Mucha around Liverato at the start of the 13-lap, 52-mile race, with Liverato in tow. When Mucha pulled off in turn five on the second lap with mechanical problems, Forrer and the No. 0 K-Hill Motorsports/Hoosier Tire Swift 014a/Toyota were left to battle for the win.
Liverato kept Forrer in his sights for the full distance, pulling to his gearbox on a handful of occasions but not able to get by. Liverato even pulled alongside the Ralt in Canada Corner on lap 10, but without forcing the issue, didn't have a chance to slide by.
At the finish, Forrer was only 0.203-second ahead of Liverato, but it nearly went the other way. Forrer had stretched his lead to what seemed like a comfortable distance going into the final lap, but the two came up on a lapped car who seemed to be unaware of the battle for the lead behind him.
Trying to go past, Forrer was squeezed onto the rumble strip in turn 14 and lost his momentum in the final run up the hill, allowing Liverato to close the gap. With a full head of steam and moving to the checkered flag, Liverato then encountered the same lapped car. The two touched, and Forrer had just enough steam to get to the checkered flag. The final move to get to the finish earned Forrer the GoPro Hero Move of the Race.
“It's cold out there and the first two turns were slippery,” Forrer said. “The tires were cold. I like cold tires. I really do. I think I shine.
“That last lap, coming into Turn Eight I saw lapped traffic and I thought, oh boy. When I got to the start/finish line with one lap to go I thought I was pretty comfortable and do what I had been doing. We caught up to them and they [the corner workers] gave them the blue flag in 13 and 14. I don't know if their crew told them we were coming. I didn't know where to go so I went inside and he came down on me – smacked me really hard. I went over the rumble bumps and lost momentum.
“Now I'm going up the hill like ‘this is bad.' In this sport you can make one move and I made one move on Jean. I would have loved to make another move, but I didn't want to. I happened to win and that's great.”
Both Forrer and Liverato turned laps under the existing race record, with Forrer turning the Hawk hot lap in 2:01.230 (118.782 mph). Forrer averaged 116.743 mph through the race.
The runner-up finish was Liverato's first in CSR, and the second podium finish of his career.
“I think the race pretty much boiled down to the start,” Liverato said. “Steve had a fantastic start. It took me probably a lap and half or so for my tires to come in for me to be able to keep the gas down and get back on the gas when I needed to. The amount of distance Steve put on me, I had to put my head down [to make it up]. Probably three quarters of the way through [the race], I was able to gain it back. I believe Steve was watching his mirrors and saw I was coming up.”
Liverato's last chance came, of course, in the last corner.
“We going around the Carousel and into the Kink I could see we were catching up to some lapped traffic,” Liverato said. “Of course, I was pretty happy to see that because Steve had enough distance on me that last lap that there was no way I could catch that back. It was pretty exciting to see that. Sure enough, coming out of Canada Corner and going into Turn 13, one of the lapped cars did not see us coming and literally came in on Steve and made contact there. That caused Steve to lose some momentum.
“Then, coming into 14 and back up the hill, I had some good momentum. I thought I could squeeze my way through Steve to my left and the lapped traffic to my right. But, evidentially that lapped car did not see me coming through to his left. He came over on me to my right. There was some contact there. At that point, I still had a little momentum. Of course Steve saw me there and did what I would have done. He kind of moved over and did a nice little block. I think we finished two-tenths apart. It was great race.”
With the battle for the lead in front of him, Miller was left all alone in third place for his first podium finish at the Runoffs.
“From the start, it was quite exciting just watching what was unfolding in front of me,” Miller said. “The car was running really well. Unfortunately, we had some issues during the week. So, we didn't really have any time to get the car setup properly. For me, I needed to feel it out. I didn't want to challenge a spot until we knew what the capability of what the car could do. So, the setup wasn't quite there.
“I just started to feel it out, kind of get into a rhythm and watch the race. These guys [Forrer and Liverato] were going at it, having a lot of fun, and making it fun for the fans. It was certainly exciting for me. I knew if I was consistent and do what I needed to do in the car that potentially we would be in the hunt and hopefully on the podium. And, as a result, that's what happened.”
Brian French (No. 45 Motorsports Enterprises Ralt RT41/Toyota) and Bob Wheless (No. 09 Parts411.com/Viper Stohr WF1/Suzuki) completed the top five.
Chuck Bona, driving the No. 42 Campbell Dental Car/Kevin Mintz Motorsport Stohr WF1/Suzuki, earned the Sunoco Hard Charger after improving four positions to sixth place.
The live broadcast of all 28 National Championship races will be available through Sunday at www.SpeedcastTV.com/scca and later available On Demand from the same site.
Provisional Results from Saturday's C Sports Racing National Championship Race, with finish position, starting position in parenthesis, driver, hometown, car and laps complete.
1, (3), Steve Forrer, Milwaukee, WI, Ralt rt41 Toyota, 13.
2, (1), Jean-Luc Liverato, Alpharetta, GA, Swift .014a Toyota, 13.
3, (4), Jason Miller, Sheboygan Falls, WI, WynnFurst CSR Kohler, 13.
4, (6), Brian French, Sheboygan, WI, Ralt RT 41 Toyota, 13.
5, (8), Bob Wheless, Reidsville, NC, Stohr WF1 Suzuki, 13.
6, (10), Chuck Bona, Saratoga, CA, Stohr WF1 Suzuki, 13.
7, (9), Sam Souvall, Salt Lake City, UT, Stohr WF1 Suzuki, 12.
DNF, (5), James French, Sheboygan, WI, Ralt Swift 014 Toyota, 5.
DNF, (2), Jacek Mucha, Laval, QC, Swift jms17cp Mazda, 1.
DNF, (7), David Watson, Kleinburg, ON, Stohr WF1 Suzuki, 0.
Overall Time of Race: 26:43.516
Average Race Speed: 116.743 mph
Margin of Victory: 0.203 second
Hawk Fastest Race Lap: 2:01.230
Fastest Race Lap Average Speed: 118.782 mph
Sunoco Hard Charger: #42 Chuck Bona
Lap Leaders: #07 – lap 1, #84, laps 2-13