BRASELTON, Ga. (May 3, 2008) – Polesitter Eric Foss, of Fort Worth, Texas, won the first SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup race of 2008, part of the Classic Motorsports Mitty at Road Atlanta. Hooverspeed teammates Todd Buras, of Melbourne, Fla., and Brad Rampelberg, of San Jose, Calif., completed the podium.
Car setup became a guessing game at Road Atlanta, after rain blanketed the 12-turn, 2.54-mile road course during the lunch hour. The shower ceased just as the group before the MX-5 Cup race took to the track and the teams watched on as a dry racing line began to form.
Last minute decisions meant several cars were late to the pre-grid and the No. 70 GRE/Velocity-club.com/Red Line Oil/SCDA1 Mazda MX-5 of Elivan Goulart, from Shelton, Conn., opted to change from wet to dry tires while waiting on the grid, forcing the third-place qualifier to start from the back of the field.
At the drop of the green, the No. 56 Hooverspeed/Pancreaticcure.org/Pancan.org Mazda MX-5 of Buras got a great start, taking over the early lead.
“It’s notoriously slick at Road Atlanta in the rain,” Buras said. “We knew that, so we softened the car up. We made the right adjustments, because the car was great. At Turn One I was in second and by 10A and B I was first.”
The first lap was the only lap Buras would lead though, as polesitter Foss motored back into the lead. Two laps later, Foss’ MER teammate and fellow front-row starter Ryan Schimsk, of Austin, Texas, took over the lead in the No. 81 Team MER/Airco Mechanical Mazda MX-5.
From there, the top four: Schimsk, Foss, Buras and Rampelberg, settled into a tight, but comfortable pack and broke away from the field. When Schimsk bobbled on lap 15 of the 23-lap, 58.42-mile race, Foss seized the lead. Schmisk held onto Foss’ bumper for several laps before falling back through the field.
Just as Foss began to pull a gap on second and third place, the full-course caution came out for the No. 32 Hale Motorsports/Patron Tequila Mazda MX-5 of Ian Ziering, which was in the tires at Turn Three. Without enough time to clean up the corner, the race, which averaged 80.732 mph, ended under yellow. Following the pace car across the start-finish line didn’t take away any of Foss’ excitement for his first MX-5 Cup win.
“I’m elated,” Foss said. “I’ve got to thank everyone: Team MER, Autobarn and Brook Co. It was a great race. Ryan [Schimsk] is an amazing teammate and we really worked well together. I was bummed that he had a little miscue that set him back. In my mind he was the guy to beat today.
“We guessed on the setup like I think all the teams did, because we didn’t know what the conditions were going to be. We just happened to hit on a decent setup, but I would say it was optimal. Everyone was fighting the same issue. I got a little break toward the end with about three laps before the yellow. Maybe my home track experience helped me out, because I noticed I was able to pull on everyone in Turn One to Turn Seven, and I was finally able to break the draft and get away progressively.”
Despite some serious nose-to-tail racing with his teammate, Rampelberg, Buras was able to bring his car home in second.
“It was a great race,” Buras said. “Everyone ran really clean and did a good job. Brad was fantastic. I slipped up once or twice and he got up there on my bumper instead of trying to go around. You couldn’t ask for a better teammate than Brad, I mean, he’s a National Championship driver. I think we’re going to be a force to be reckoned with.
“I was really hoping we were going to go back to green, because I had my teammate behind me and we could have drafted [Foss] down the back straightaway. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen, but you can’t knock the result.
“We’ve got a new sponsor, Pancreaticure.com, and we’ve got a great contest going: guess how many points the No. 56 car will have at the end of the season and you could win a two-day Skip Barber school. We’re trying to raise awareness for pancreatic cancer, so visit us at researchracing.com.”
In his first MX-5 Cup race, SCCA Spec Miata National Champion and winner of the Mazdaspeed Driver Development Ladder MX-5 Cup shootout, Rampelberg finished third in the No. 14 Hooverspeed Mazda MX-5.
“We made the call to put dry tires on and obviously that was the right call,” Rampelberg said. “I slotted into fourth on the start. Then we had two MER cars followed by two Hooverspeed cars. At that point, it was just a waiting game to see who was going to fall off, who put the biggest wet setup on. Schimsk ran well, but then I think his tires got away from him. The Kumhos on my car worked great. At the end I thought I had something for Eric and Todd, but that just didn’t happen.
“Getting on the podium is awesome anytime you do it, but especially being a shootout winner. Mazda has given me a great opportunity and I really want to do a good job for them this year as well as Jason Hoover from Hooverspeed, and P3 is a great place to start.”
Although he led an impressive 10 laps in his first-ever MX-5 Cup race, Schimsk would finish fourth. Also competing in his first MX-5 Cup race, seventeen-year-old Christian Franck, of Simi Valley, Calif., finished fifth in the No. 16 Alara Racing/Select Painting/ICC/CC7 Mazda MX-5.
Following a race-long battle, Anders Hainer beat out last year’s winner Ara Malkhassian for sixth place.
SCCA Touring Three National Champion Robert Huffmaster, of Clarkston, Mich., finished seventh and earned the Hawk Hot Lap for turning a new race lap record of 1:40.707 (90.798 mph) in the No. 27 Team MER/Huffmaster Co. Mazda MX-5.
Brad McAllister and Neal Sapp completed the top ten.
Round Two of the SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup moves north of the border to Mosport International Raceway, May 16 – 18. News, photos, live timing and lap notes are all available at www.mx-5cup.com.