TROIS-RIVIERES, Canada (Aug. 16, 2008) – Eric Foss, of Fort Worth, Texas, scored his second SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup win of the season in Round Five at the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivières. Todd Buras, of Melbourne, Fla., and Ara Malkhassian, of Sonoma, Calif., completed the podium.
Starting from the pole, Foss held off the rest of the field at the drop of the green flag and immediately set to work at building a gap to second-place Malkhassian. Aiding Foss’ cause was third-starting Buras, who was all over the rear bumper of Malkhassian from the start. The two began an intense battle for second as Foss continued to pull away in the No. 28 Team MER/Autobarn Mazda MX-5.
On lap eight, Buras pulled to the inside of Malkhassian entering Turn Eight and both cars ran wide. Malkhassian was able to hold onto second, but on the following lap, Buras got the job done for good in Turn Six.
“In the beginning, Ara was running great,” Buras said. “He was pulling me everywhere. He started to slip a little bit and I started to catch up. He slipped a little in Turn Six and he gave me the point. It was great driving. Ara did a fantastic job. He slipped a little in Turn Six, I was right on him and he said, ‘okay, go get’em.’”
By the time Buras moved into second, Foss had already built a lead of nearly three seconds, which continued to grow as Buras gave chase in the No. 56 Hooverspeed Pancreaticcure.org MX-5.
On lap 28 of the 32-lap, 48.672-mile race, Foss saw his sizeable lead vanish, when the No. 14 Hooverspeed/Mazda/Patron Tequila MX-5 of Brad Rampelberg made contact with the Turn 10 tire wall, bringing out the full-course caution. When the tow truck finally cleared Rampelberg’s car from the course, the time remaining was just enough for an exciting green-white-checker finish.
Despite a mirror-full of Buras, Foss never wavered. He closed the door on Buras’ last lap attempt for the lead and took his second win of the season by 0.373-second.
“I felt really confident,” Foss said of the restart. “I saw how good the car was on the start, when I was able to pull out a good lead. The car felt great. It was amazing how consistent the car was throughout the weekend. The brakes felt great, the tires felt great and I figured I might have a little more than Todd, but he gave me a lot of pressure at the end and if I’d made a slip he would have gotten me for sure.
“I want to thank Team MER, because the Autobarn Mazda MX-5 was phenomenal all weekend. This was a track I came to back in 1992 as a crew guy for a team and I just fell it love with it, so to come back here for my first street race, get a win and stand at the top of the podium is outstanding.”
The second-place finish was Buras’ third MX-5 Cup podium in-a-row, as well as his third-consecutive podium finish at Trois-Rivières. While the event is one of Buras’ favorite on the schedule, he was noticeably disappointed to be the bridesmaid once again on the 11-turn, 1.521-mile street circuit, instead of the bride.
“The weekend started good,” Buras said. “We were up front in both of the practice sessions, and I’ve got to thank Hooverspeed for putting together a great car. This is the third time I’ve been to Trois-Rivières, and the third time I’ve finished on the podium. We had the fastest lap on the last lap, and I could feel the car was coming back hard. I wish I would have had two more laps.
“This is a fantastic event. The whole town gets behind it. I had a great time and a lot of fun. The racing was truly incredible.”
Buras’ fast lap, a 1:16.093 (71.959 mph), was a new race lap record and earned him the Hawk Hot Lap award for setting the fastest lap of the race.
After a poor start to the weekend, Malkhassian was happy to finish on the podium, his first of the season in the No. 11 Alara Racing MX-5.
“We had a tough start to the weekend,” Malkhassian said. “We had a broken transmission in the first practice session and we lost a lot of track time. In qualifying we had some fast laps early on, which was good enough for the front row. Alara Racing’s been doing a great job all weekend. We were hoping my teammate Christian Franck would be able to join us up at the front, but he finished fourth.”
During the late-race restart, it was Franck, along with Ryan Schimsk, that Malkhassian had to hold off to keep his third-place finish.
“They never really got a good run on me. I knew that Christian wasn’t going to try any low percentage moves. I was just happy to finish as well as we did. We had good cars and were hoping to have a shot at the win, but these two guys [Foss and Buras] were flawless today.”
Franck, of Simi Valley, Calif., followed Malkhassian across the line in the No. 16 Alara Racing/Select Painting MX-5 to earn his best finish of the season thus far. Round Four winner Schimsk, from Austin, Texas, completed the top five in the No. 81 Team MER/Airco Mechanical MX-5.
Making a guest appearance in the No. 32 Hale Motorsports/Atlantic Series MX-5, Mazda North America Alternative Marketing Manager Jim Jordan finished seventh, just ahead of Deborah Loth and Randy Hale.
While Elivan Goulart crossed the finish line in sixth, the driver of the No. 70 GRE/Velocity-Club.com/RedLine/SCDA1.com MX-5 was issued a three position penalty for avoidable body contact during the race. As a result, Goulart dropped to ninth, promoting Jordan, Loth and Hale from their on-track positions.
In only his second MX-5 Cup race, 17 year-old Christopher Rhoades finished 10th.
Foss now extends his lead in the MX-5 Cup Championship to 22 points over Buras (298 to 276). Rampelberg is third with 245 points, followed by Schimsk with 243 and Robert Huffmaster with 222.
Round Five of the SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup at the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivières will air on DIRECTV, Dish Network and regional cable networks the week of September 22nd.
The series will head to Miller Motorsports Park, in Tooele, Utah, for Round Six, Sept. 19 – 21. Visit www.mx-5cup.com to learn more.
TROIS-RIVIÈRES, Quebec, Canada - Results from Saturday’s 32-lap 48.672-mile SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup Round Five race, part of the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres at the Trois-Rivieres street circuit, with finishing position, starting position in parentheses, driver, hometown, car, laps and reason out (if any).
1. (1), Eric Foss, Fort Worth, Texas, MX-5, 32.
2. (3), Todd Buras, Melbourne, Fla., MX-5, 32, -.373.
3. (2), Ara Malkhassian, Sonoma, Calif., MX-5, 32, -2.486.
4. (6), Christian Franck, Simi Valley, Calif., MX-5, 32, -2.675.
5. (8), Ryan Schimsk, Austin, Texas, MX-5, 32, -3.060.
6. (14), Jim Jordan, Irvine, Calif., MX-5, 32, -5.934.
7. (10), Deborah Loth, Fort Worth, Texas, MX-5, 32, -6.289.
8. (13), Randy Hale_III, Haddam, Conn., MX-5, 32, -10.535.
9. (4), Elivan Goulart, Shelton, Conn., MX-5, 32, -4.046.
10. (15), Christopher Rhoades, Dallas, Texas, MX5, 32, -11.589.
11. (16), Shannon McMaster, Fort Worth, Texas, MX-5, 32, -12.237.
12. (9), Robert Michaelian, Seal Beach, Calif., MX-5, 32, -23.752.
13. (18), James Rhoades, Dallas, Texas, MX-5, 31, -1 lap.
14. (19), Laura Olson, Costa Mesa, Calif., MX-5, 31, -1 lap.
15. (5), Robert Huffmaster, Clarkston, Mich., MX-5, 29, -3 laps.
16. (7), Brad Rampelberg, San Jose, Calif., MX-5, 24, Crash.
17. (11), Harrison Williams, Houston, Texas, MX-5, 22, Mech.
18. (17), Bill Sweedler, Westport, Conn., MX-5, 19, Crash.
19. (12), Tim Probert, Houston, Texas, MX-5, 16, Mech.
Time of race: 45 minutes, 29.566 seconds.
Average speed: 64.193 mph
Margin of victory: 0.373 Seconds
Lap leaders: Laps 1-32, #28 Eric Foss
Hawk Hot Lap: #56 Todd Buras, 1:16.093 (71.959 mph), New record
Fastest qualifier: #28 Eric Foss, 1:15.520 (72.505 mph), New record
Note: #70 Goulart penalized three positions for avoidable body contact per Chief Steward