ELKHART LAKE, Wis. (Aug. 10, 2008) – Ryan Schimsk, of Austin, Texas, became the fourth driver in as many races to score his debut race win in the SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup. Eric Foss, of Fort Worth, Texas, and Todd Buras, of Melbourne, Fla., completed the Round Four podium, part of Road America’s Road Race Showcase.
At the drop of the green flag, Schimsk beat polesitter Buras to Turn One and immediately took over the lead in the No. 81 Team MER/Airco Mechanical MX-5. Buras would retake the lead shortly thereafter with drafting help from his teammate Brad Rampelberg. Taking a page from the same playbook, Schimsk hooked up with teammate Foss and the pair moved into the top two spots the following lap.
The drafting game would continue throughout the race as the top six cars began to pull away from the rest of the field. That gap would be erased on lap seven, when the full-course caution came out for the No. 19 Hooverspeed MX-5 of Robert Michaelian, who was stuck in the gravel trap at Turn 12.
When green flag racing resumed on lap 10, Schimsk came under attack from the No. 14 Hooverspeed/Mazda/Patron Tequila MX-5 of Rampelberg. Schimsk was able to hold off Rampelberg’s charge through Turn One, but the pair lost enough momentum to let Elivan Goulart in the No. 70 GRE/Velocity-Club/Red Line Oil MX-5 by and into the lead in Turn Three. Goulart’s lead was brief – Schimsk took it right back in Turn Five.
While he would endure further pressure from Goulart and more still from Rampelberg and teammate Foss, the young Texan could not be caught.
“I was pretty impressed with the race pace,” Schimsk said. “Anytime I thought that we were breaking away from the pack, they’d be right there on the next straight. The draft here is so important. You see cars five or six car lengths back and they’d be in passing position by the next corner. Overall, it was a really fun race. This place is easily one of my top three favorite tracks in the country to race at.”
When the No. 16 Alara Racing/Select Painting MX-5 of Christian Franck, from Simi Valley, Calif., made heavy impact with the tire wall in Canada Corner on lap 13 of the 14-lap, 56.672-mile race, the full-course yellow came out once again. Schimsk’s lead and first-career win were sealed as the race ended under yellow.
“I can’t think Team MER enough,” Schimsk said. “They give me everything I need to run up front. They do so much work. They’re here early, they stay late. We go over data after every session on the track. They have a solid game plan everywhere we go and I hope we continue to do well at the remaining races.”
Team MER scored a one-two finish as Foss crossed the finish line behind his teammate in the No. 28 Team MER/Autobarn Mazda MX-5. The second-place finish keeps Foss in the Drivers’ Championship lead with a clean record of podium finishes in all four rounds so far this season.
“It was a great race,” Foss said. “The MER/Autobarn Mazda was awesome this weekend. It was a dodging game out there. A lot of people were taking dive bombs. I think the best drafting partners came to the front at the end. Ryan and I relied a lot on the radios and worked together, as I imagine Todd and Brad did, and it just as easily could have gone the other way. The draft is so important here.
“Ryan’s been quick all week, so my objective was just to get up there and help him. I didn’t know if that was going to even be possible. I had a really good start and worked my way up to Ryan. We made a real conscious effort to try and get away the first couple of laps, but we realized it wasn’t going to happen. We learned a lot about a track like this drafting wise. The first couple of laps we got schooled pretty bad. We fell back to fourth and fifth, but then we figured out a pretty good method. Ryan and I have been working well together all year. He’s a great teammate and I’m real proud of him.”
Finishing third in the No. 56 Hooverspeed/Pancreaticcure.org, Buras too relied on teamwork for a podium finish, his third of the season.
“Hooverspeed put a great car together for me,” Buras said. “We started on pole, went back to third, went back to the front, went back to third, but it was fun. Everybody raced pretty clean for what it was – really tight, close racing. I got bumped a whole bunch, but I think everybody did.
“It’s great to have a teammate you can trust. We fell back to fifth and sixth, but we started working together and next thing you know we’re one-two. Road America is definitely a draft-friendly track. The top four cars were the teammates that work the best together. “
Foss now leads Buras by 15 points in the Drivers’ Championship (234 to 219). Fourth-finishing Rampelberg, of San Jose, Calif., is third in the Championship, with 218 points.
Goulart, of Shelton, Conn., completed the top five, his best finish of the season thus far.
Robert Huffmaster and Ara Malkhassian followed in sixth and seventh, respectively.
Deborah Loth earned her best finish of the season in eighth. Wisconsin driver Steve Welk worked his way up from the back of the grid to a ninth-place finish. Mark Jenkins completed the top 10.
Round Four of the SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup from Road America will air on DIRECTV, Dish Network and regional cable stations the week of September 8. Round Five is nearly here, taking place Aug. 15 – 17, at the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres in Canada. For more information visit www.mx-5cup.com.