Loshak won in both Formula 1000 (TOP) and H Production at the Runoffs. (Mark Weber photos)
Lawrence Loshak, 36, of Grafton, Wis., is the 43rd recipient of the RRDC Mark Donohue Award, presented annually by the Road Racing Drivers Club for outstanding performance, competitiveness and sportsmanship during the SCCA National Championship Runoffs.
Loshak won two SCCA championships on Sept. 20 at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis. – Formula 1000 and H Production. His outstanding Formula 1000 drive from last to first on a wet track was judged the performance of the weekend by the 20 RRDC members present who constituted the RRDC Donohue Award selection committee.
Loshak's brand-new and very quick JDR ETE REMAN/Moon Super Cycle Suzuki had won him the Formula 1000 (aka Formula B) pole, but the car would get a real workout when the green flag dropped. A misinterpretation of the published start time basically flummoxed Loshak's crew, who read the green flag time as grid time. Going from being a leisurely early to a frantic very late, the crew thrashed to get Loshak tucked in at the tail of the 21-car field. And it was raining.
“I passed 16 cars on the first lap,” said an unworried but obviously amped-up Loshak, “Then it was hunt, catch and pass. I took the lead at Corner 5 on what turned out to be the last lap, but I had no idea where I was in the race or what lap it was.” In their haste to get the JDR on the track without penalty, the crew members had failed to hook up Loshak's radio. “I was just looking for the next car or the checkered flag.”
Although he'd won the pole by less than a second at 2:04.786, Loshak posted a race lap of 2:29.859, a solid five seconds quicker than anyone else on the wet track and a testament to his ice racing experience.
With his wins in F1000 and HP, Loshak joined the exclusive company of Jerry Hansen, John Heinricy and Tom Schweitz as the only drivers to win the Runoffs in four different classes in its 50-year history. He also became the 17th driver to win two championships in the same year.
“I would not be in this position today with the help of a whole lot of people over the years,” Loshak said. “My engine builders – Greg Moon on the Suzukis and Bob Uszler on the Honda – turn out very quick and very reliable powerplants, and you know how drivers feel about horsepower. I also want the give a lot of credit for a successful career to date to my racing mentor and business partner, Mikail Shaknovich. He's my rock.”
RRDC president Bobby Rahal, a Runoffs champion long before he won the Indianapolis 500, emphasized the RRDC Mark Donohue Award is "about personal spirit and performance behind the wheel. Those qualities are more important for this award than winning the race. This year, Larry Loshak demonstrated the grit that it takes to be a champion.
"He's become one of SCCA's top club racers in just 10 short years and already has won four national championships. Recovering from the self-inflicted wound of being late to the grid, he put his head down and drove a remarkable catch-up race from the back on a wet track with no radio and no idea of his progress. It's the kind of performance we look for in a Mark Donohue Award winner – no quit, difficult conditions, great concentration."
Loshak started autocrossing an American Sedan in 1996. His goal was open wheel, and he attended the Winfield Academy where he finished a close second in their World Challenge.
He tried his hand at sprint cars and ice racing before settling on an E Production Honda Prelude that needed development. “We had it right in '05, but got punted out of the lead on the last lap,” he said. “Then we won in '06 and were leading from pole in '07 when a tire went down.”
Loshak moved to D Sports Racing in 2010 and won the Runoffs from pole in a Stohr WF1 Suzuki. “Then I got a phone call from these two guys – Jerry Hodges and Don Connor – to drive this new car they were building for Formula 1000,” he said. “It was my first real shot at my dream of racing an open-wheeled car and we had a great season: Runoffs pole, win on last lap, the RRDC Donohue Award. Unbelievable. It hasn't sunk in yet.”
Not to mention his win in H Production in a much-decorated Honda CSi. “That car runs out of our shop which is across the street from David Hobbs Honda. It's won more than 20 races and now three championships with three different drivers out of our camp. It's an amazing little car," he said.
Every year, the RRDC Mark Donohue Award trophy is an engraved glass top mounted on a special, racing-experienced wheel, provided through the efforts of an RRDC member. This year's wheel was donated by RRDC President Bobby Rahal on behalf of Rahal, Letterman, Lanigan Racing. It was a rear wheel mounted on the BMW Team RLL BMW Z4GTEs running in the ALMS GT category.