ALTON, Va. (Oct. 3, 2009) - Todd Lamb, of Atlanta, Ga., took his eighth-consecutive race win and strengthened his lead in the SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup Championship in the first half of a doubleheader weekend at VIRginia International Raceway. Todd Buras, of Melbourne, Fla., and Lyonel Kent, of Powell, Tenn., completed the Round Nine podium, part of the Bosch Engineering Octoberfest weekend.
Starting from the pole in the No. 84 AMG/Traqmate/Luna-C Racing MX-5, Lamb held the lead through the opening laps, as teammate Buras slotted into second. The rear-view mirrors of the AMG teammates were filled with yellow MX-5s, however, as a swarm of three ALARA Racing drivers were hot on their heels. On lap eight, of the 20-lap, 65.4-mile race, Lamb lost his wingman, as Kent moved his No. 13 ALARA Racing/eData Solutions MX-5 past Buras and into second. One lap later, Kent was around Lamb and into the lead.
For the next five laps, Lamb and Kent exploited the draft on the 17-turn, 3.27-mile road course and swapped the lead at the front of a five-car train. The drafting war ended on lap 15, when Kent was shuffled back to third, behind Buras. Though Buras was right on his bumper, Lamb received no serious challenges from his teammate and took his eighth-consecutive race win by 0.803-second, averaging 86.570 mph.
"This race was a great battle with Lyonel [Kent] and Todd [Buras] and everyone else," Lamb said. "Everyone did a great job out there. The draft was huge. It did come down to who got the best run off of the corner. It was huge so you could suck up behind the lead car, pop out and make the pass under braking. It was a lot of fun. Just good, clean racing. It was more fun to win one like this than running away with one, that's for sure.
"I was worried about Todd," Lamb said of racing with his teammate. "He was very strong and so was Lyonel. For me, it was about staying out front and getting a good launch out of every corner. There were no team orders."
Kent was able to catch Buras in the closing laps, but ran out of time to make a pass. In his first MX-5 Cup race of 2009, Buras brought the No. 14 AMG MX-5 home in second.
"I've been watching the series online and I've been in the series the last three years, so I knew the cars pretty well," Buras said. "I got the call pretty late to see if I wanted to come here and run with AMG. Todd [Lamb] and I are both from the Southeast and we've run Spec Miata a lot together. I knew Todd's driving style. It really came down to who got the run off of the corner and down the straights. This is such a good drafting track.
"Todd ran a good race. It was really a flawless race. I've got to thank AMG. I've got to thank my wife and kids for letting me come. To run second here after the series is so 'seasoned' with the new tires is pretty great."
Earning his first career-podium finish, Kent was not disappointed with a third-place finish at VIR.
"It was just like a chess match out there," Kent said. "I don't know if anybody wanted the lead because of the draft, but it was really cool being able to get the run and get into the lead.
"Most of the time I was able to take the lead after I got a run out of Oak Tree. You can get two or three miles-per-hour going into Turn 14 and into the Rollercoaster. Then there was the front straight where you could get a good run. Sometimes you could pass on the inside and sometimes on the outside."
Fifth-starting Justin Piscitell, of Patterson, N.Y., just missed a podium finish in the No. 89 ALARA/DAMG Racing/MAZDASPEED MX-5. Right in the thick of a five-car train the entire race, Piscitell managed to set the fastest lap of the race, a 2:14.677 (87.409 mph), en route to a fourth-place finish.
Ara Malkhassian, of Sonoma, Calif., completed the top five in the No. 11 ALARA Racing MX-5. It was the third fifth-place finish of the season for Malkhassian, who started the race in fourth.
After his qualifying times were disallowed for non-compliant bodywork, Lamb's chief rival in the MX-5 Cup Championship, Marc Miller, of Holland, Mich., was forced to start from the back row of the 24-car grid. Determined not to let Lamb walk away from the penultimate round with the Championship clinched, Miller charged through the field and was up to sixth by lap nine. By that point, the top five had pulled out too far a margin for Miller to close and his No. 28 Team MER/MOCA/Race Now for Autism/MMP MX-5 crossed the line in sixth.
Finishing seventh, Dean Copeland, of Bowie, Md., earned his best MX-5 Cup finish and the Sunoco Hard Charger of the Race award for advancing four positions in his No. 7 Syncspeedinc/King Rat/Radiah MX-5.
Nick Mancuso, Ryan Ellis and Dennis Bize completed the top 10.
Round Nine of the SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup will air on syndicated cable and satellite networks at a later date. A full TV schedule is available at www.mx-5cup.com.
Round 10, the final round of the 2009 SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup, begins Sunday with qualifying at 9:25 a.m. (EDT). The 45-minute race will go green at 4:15 p.m. Live timing and lap notes are available at www.mx-5cup.com. MX-5 Cup is also on Twitter @MazdaMX5Cup.