LEXINGTON, Ohio (Sept. 21, 2003) – When second-qualifier John Fergus broke out early and grabbed a three car-length lead off the start of the Sports 2000 race, his chances of earning his second consecutive S2000 championship looked pretty good.
However, pole-sitter Steve Johnson had other thoughts.
After falling behind early on, Johnson turned up the juice and blitzed Fergus and the other 22 cars in the field, steaming his way on to his first S2000 National Championship on the 13-turn Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course at the 2003 SCCA National Championship Valvoline Runoffs®.
Johnson turned the fastest lap time of the race (1:27.449) on lap nine and consistently turned laps in the 1:28-1:29 range over the race’s last 10 laps to swell his final margin of victory to a whopping 8.884 seconds, averaging 89.608 mph per lap.
“Fortunately I had done all my race distance testing and race setup so I knew what the car would do,” said the Deerfield, N.H.-resident. “I just said to myself, ‘If John can be there, I have the equipment to race with him all day, but if not then that’s okay too.’”
While Fergus, of Powell, Ohio, fell short of his fourth gold medal, he was still impressive in his silver medal run, finishing 17.648 seconds ahead of third place Mark Mercer.
“We knew Steve would run hard,” Fergus said. “I saw him coming and he pulled off a beautiful pass. He just drove the wheels off the car. I tried to hang in it for a while, but it became apparent that I was going to drive my car into the ground, so I just tried to hustle and wait for (Steve) to drive his into the ground but he didn’t.”
Mercer, of Aurora, Colo., had a firm hold on third place for most of the race’s first 12 laps but was overtaken by Hans Peter, of Overland Park, Kan., during that lap. Peter opened up a sizeable lead over the next five laps, but on lap 18, pulled off the 2.258-mile pavement course with mechanical problems and Mercer once again took the third spot, this time for good.
“I started losing my tires, I picked the wrong compound, they were too soft,” Mercer said. “About halfway through the race I was doing all I could to hold my line and finally said, ‘okay Hans, you go ahead.’
“Then his motor broke and I’m not sure what happened there, but after that I just finished the race.”
Dan Dubrovich, of New York, N.Y., and Mark Hardymon, of Delaware, Ohio, finished fourth and fifth, respectively.