Justin Pritchard, of Granville, Ohio, earned his fourth overall National Championship and first in a tin top, capturing the E Production crown on Sunday at the 48th SCCA National Championship Runoffs. Greg Ira, from Plantation, Fla., and Rob Coffey, of Thunder Ray, Ont., completed the podium on a rainy Road America circuit.
With rain pouring down throughout the race and the field on rain tires, Pritchard moved his No. 55 Carriage & Motor Works/Hoosier Mazda RX-7 from his sixth starting position to third by the first corner, and trailed only Ira's No. 2 First Coast Auto Sales Datsun 240Z by the end of the opening lap.
On the third corner of the third lap, Pritchard moved around Ira and into the lead. While a number of cars spun off the track and struggled on the wet surface, Pritchard pulled away from the field to a 39.339-second win, averaging 76.939 mph. The four-time champion also turned the Hawk Fast Lap of the race in 3:04.618 (77.999 mph).
Pritchard's championship was his fourth in E Production, following a Formula Continental win in 1996 and back-to-back Formula F wins in 2002 and 2003.
“It feels great, a little unexpected,” Pritchard said. “I certainly wasn't expecting to be able to win. I didn't have a car that could win in the dry. The motor has about four seasons on it and it's burning up a little bit of oil and we're a little bit down on power, but the rain is a great equalizer.
“I had no idea what to expect, no idea what the car was going to do. I've never driven one in the rain, a car with a windshield or this car, I got a great start and moved up. Visibility was a huge issue. The grip was there when you could see where it was to drive, but a lot of it was covered in spray and mist. My car was fogging. I had to actually loosen the belts up a little bit and scoot down so I could see through clear windshield. It ran great. The Hoosier tires were great. The Mazda, it was amazing that it ran that well and it handled great. I threw some springs at it when I knew it was going to rain and took a gamble and it paid out.”
Ira drove alone for most of the race to earn his second-consecutive runner-up finish.
“We had an excellent start,” Ira said. “We knew those Hoosiers were going to work really good for us in the rain. I knew what I wanted to do is get out front early, because I have bad visibility issues in my old Datsun. I was really relying on my spotters to tell me the intervals between me and the next guy. Actually, I saw the yellow markers behind me before they told me and that sort of caught me by surprise. I really thought I was out a little bit further, but Justin got by. I drove him tough for, really, only about two or three corners and my visibility was so bad. The rag on the stick just wasn't keeping up with the visibility I needed. I decided to go into maintenance there and it worked great for us for a podium finish.”
Coffey started 28th on the grid in the No. 02 David Hobbs Honda/CKPR Radio Honda Prelude after missing the final three days of qualifying with a blown motor. The former ice racer steadily moved up the field, advancing to 14th on the first lap and into fifth on lap seven.
After getting to the tail of a battle Sam Halkias' No. 4 Catawba Island Marina Triumph TR6 and Kenneth Shreve's No. 41 MBR LLC Mazda RX-7, Coffey moved past Shreve and was pressuring Halkias for third after nine laps. Halkias spun going into turn one on lap 10, moving Coffey into third position uncontested. Coffey captured the Sunoco Hard Charger after improving 25 positions.
“It was a difficult start,” Coffey said. “With all the cars in front of me, there was nothing but a big spray coming down the straightaway, so it was a very slow, third-gear into turn one. I sort of picked my places as I went along. The Hoosier Tires worked great. I started cutting my way through traffic, but as I got further and further, the cars started getting faster and faster. I did finally come up Sam Halkias and it was a bit of a drag race into turn one. I was pushing a bit and Sam overcooked it and looped it and we got by Sam. At that point, I asked my crew what our position was and they told me, ‘Third.' I didn't believe them. I came around and I said, ‘C'mon guys, tell me the truth. What position are we in?' ‘Third.' They showed me the signboard, third. ‘C'mon, really. I need to know where we are.' They said, ‘No, really, you're in third.' Even after the checkered flag, I asked finally, ‘C'mon guys, are you pulling my leg?' I had no idea we had done as well as we did.
“Back where I'm from in Thunder Bay, Ontario, we did a lot of ice racing over the years, so to me it was another day at the ice race track. There's no visibility and no grip and you start racing. I'm sort of accustomed to those kind of conditions. It wasn't a huge bother to me. The car slipped and slided around a bit, but the Hoosiers were great and got us home.”
Reentering the track, Halkias forced Shreve wide and into the grass, where he slide into the tire barrier and ended his race early. Halkias continued, finishing the race in fourth. Austin Snader, driving the No. 64 Snader Racing/Mazdaspeed/Rotary Inn Mazda RX-8, finished fifth.
Now in its 48th year, the SCCA National Championship Runoffs annually crowns Champions in the Sports Car Club of America's Club Racing classes. The live broadcast of all 28 National Championship races will be available throughout the weekend at www.SpeedcastTV.com/scca and later available On Demand from the same site.
Follow the action on Twitter @SCCAOfficial or the SCCA, Inc. Official Facebook page at facebook.com/sccaofficial. More information is available at www.scca.com.
ELKHART LAKE, Wis. - Provisional Results from Sunday's E Production National Championship Race, part of the 48th SCCA National Championship Runoffs at Road America with finish position, starting position in parenthesis, driver, hometown, car and laps complete.
1, (6), Justin Pritchard, Granville, OH, Mazda RX-7, 13.
2, (2), Greg Ira, Plantation, FL, Datsun 240Z, 13.
3, (28), Rob Coffey, Thunder Ray, ON, Honda Prelude, 13.
4, (4), Sam Halkias, Westerville, OH, Triumph TR6, 13.
5, (16), Austin Snader, Brookshire, TX, Mazda RX-8, 13.
6, (14), Jesse Prather, Topeka, KS, Mazda MX-5, 13.
7, (11), James Simaras, Oconomowoc, WI, Mazda RX-7, 13.
8, (12), Michael Sturm, Grafton, WI, Honda Prelude Si, 13.
9, (15), Sam Moore, Kannapolis, NC, BMW Z3, 12.
10, (9), Steven Hickham, Fort Lauderdale, FL, Mazda RX-8, 12.
11, (18), Gary Martz, Canton, OH, Mazda RX-7 Roadster, 12.
12, (20), Brian Haupt, Spring Hill, KS, Mazda RX-7, 12.
13, (21), John Longwell, Kittredge, CO, BMW 328iS, 12.
14, (31), Don Bunt, Rockford, IL, Datsun 240z, 12.
15, (8), Rick Kosdrosky, Granbury, TX, Caterham 7 America, 11.
16, (26), Sydney Davis, Cypress, TX, Mazda Miata, 11.
17, (22), Charlie Clark, Mission, KS, Mazda RX-7, 11.
18, (30), Guy Ruse, Boulder, CO, Mazda RX-7, 11.
19, (33), Ron Olsen, Barrington, IL, Mazda RX-7, 11.
20, (32), Rich Olsen, South Barrington, IL, Mazda RX-7, 11.
21, (19), Jeff Willert, East Troy, WI, Mazda RX-7, 11.
22, (5), Kenneth W Shreve, Sammamish, WA, Mazda RX-7, 9.
23, (24), Inness Eisele, Evergreen, CO, BMW 318i, 8.
24, (1), Jon Brakke, Fargo, ND, Mazda Miata, 8.
DNF, (3), Aaron Downey, Rossmoor, CA, Mazda RX-3, 5.
DNF, (29), Mark Weber, Saint Louis, MO, Mazda Miata, 4.
DNF, (13), Rick Kavitski, Freeland, PA, Mazda Miata, 4.
DNF, (17), Meredith Pritchard, Granville, OH, Mazda RX-7, 3.
DNF, (27), Rob Hummel, McHenry, IL, Mazda RX-7, 2.
DNF, (7), Mark Brakke, Coon Rapids, MN, Mazda Miata, 1.
DNF, (34), Jon Stautberg, Houston, TX, Mazda RX-7, 0.
DNF, (25), Bill Allman, Topeka, KS, Mazda RX-7, 0.
DNS, (10), Josh Carroll, San Ramon, CA, Mazda RX-7, 0.
DNS, (23), Sam Henry, Republic, MO, Mazda Miata, 0.
Time of Race: 40:33.078
Winner's average speed: 76.939 mph
Hawk Fastest race lap: #6 Justin Pritchard 3:04.618 (77.999 mph)
Lap Leaders: 1-2, #2 Greg Ira, 3-13, #55 Justin Pritchard.
Sunoco Hard Charger: #02 Rob Coffey