Race 23 | GT-1 | Sunday, 2:30 p.m.
1 | Cliff Ebben | Milwaukee | Ford Mustang
2 | Peter Mohrhauser | Milwaukee | Chevy Corvette
3 | Kurt Roehrig| North Carolina | Ford Mustang
"So, have you completely lost it?" We're sure that will be the comment when you read this. Not only did we not pick the reigning National Champion Bill Gray to win GT-1 this year, we didn't even pick him in the top three – our money is on Gray taking fourth.
It's our guess GT-1 is likely going to come down to experience on the four-mile venue, and not too many people have more experience there than 2003 National Champion Cliff Ebben. Add in the fact that his car is being prepared by Tony Ave Racing, and you have a pretty formidable combination.
Staying with that Ave edge, we've also put Kurt Roehrig (the shock and suspension guru) in here, too. It will probably be a shootout between the two Ave-prepared cars and the two Jim Derhaag Motorsports-prepared cars of Peter Mohrhauser and Gray.
Take a look at the GT-1 results from the June Sprints – what jumps out at you? The hometowns of the guys who finished on top, for the most part, were local. Familiarity with Road America could be the key to success. Consequently, Brian Long and long-time Trans-Am competitors Max Lagod and Rick Dittman could have a significant chance of finishing on the podium.
Other potential conctenders include David Fershtand, Jack Busch, Amy Ruman, Richard Grant, Terry Gile and Ryan McMannus, who purchased the beautiful Mustang driven for several years by Tim Cowen in Trans-Am. Bill Thumel has had two DNFs at VIR, but if he gets the car sorted out, he could figure in to the equation. And Mike Lewis – will he make the tow from the West Coast? If so, he will be in the mix.
Race 24 | D Sports Racing | Sunday, 3:30 p.m.
1 | Lawrence Loshak| Milwaukee | Stohr
2 | Tom Bootz | Kansas City | Stohr
3 | Garry Crook | Gulf Coast | Stohr
For several years, DSR has been the story of Stohr Cars. The development of the WF-1 in the Portland, Ore., shop transformed D Sports Racing. First the availability of a professionally designed car with advanced aerodynamics and reliable motorcycle engines reduced lap times and replaced the home-builts, which had long been the heart of the class.
The low lap times and presence of a manufacturer brought quick drivers to DSR. Mark Jaremko, J.R. Osborne and John Hill produced lap times equal or better than CSR and quicker than any other Club Racing car other than Formula Atlantic.
Stohr proved there was a substantial market for cars in DSR – the success of the WF-1 produced competition in the U.S. and tempted Radical in the UK and Gloria in Italy. But success soon saturated the market. Stohr and other developers have turned to new formula markets. The curse of the racecar constructor is domination – without competition to force development, the market is soon saturated and the constructor moves on.
What does any of this mean? Stohr is still the car to have, and while our picks to win may be wrong, we're confident the winner will be behind the wheel of a Stohr, powere by wither a Suzuki or Yamaha motor.
But the wild card in the equation is forced induction. Richard Cottrell of RillTech in Colorado continues to develop turbocharged DSR engines. Turbos have potential, but they have not proven reliable.
Cut to the chase: Lawrence Loshak will win DSR. He led the June Sprints before mechanical problems gave the win to Garry Crook. Tom Bootz finished third last year at the Runoiffs, and we predict a silver medal for him this year while Crook will claim the bronze.
Dorian Foyle could also be a contender in his Stohr. Also watch out for Travis Duder driving Ellen Ferguson's updated Stohr WF-1. For a wild card, keep your eyes on Kevin Allen in his Mallen Alley car.
Wm. C. Mitchell
Race 25 | E-Production | Sunday, 4:30 p.m.
1 | Jesse Prather | Kansas | Mazda Miata
2 | Greg Ira | Florida | Datsun 240Z
3 | John Brakke| Land O' Lakes | Mazda Miata
Jesse Prather is looking for his fourth-consecutive championship, and he stands a very good chance of closing in on his father's six championships. He is a fast, smooth, consistent driver, as his three championships show, and he will be hard to beat.
Greg Ira will be one of the non-Mazda drivers who will finish well. Jon Brakke out-qualified hi at the June Sprints, but the torque of his 240Z got Ira an early lead, and his consistency got him the win. Brakke is fast, but he seems to be haunted by "Murphy" at the Runoffs. Despite that, he should finish on the podium.
Other quick non-Mazdas include Kevin Leigh and Buddy Norton (if he comes) in their Caterhams. Leigh finished second at the Sprints, but he will need more speed to catch those picked. Both Michael Sturm and Bob Coffey have fast Honda Preludes. Sturm seems to have his car back in shape after the highway accident last year that damaged it. Coffey has Lawrence Loshak's 2006 EP winner and has learned how to drive it fast. As with the Lotus drivers, they'll have to be a bit faster at the Runoffs.
But it is Mazda drivers who are most likely to be challenging the picks for podium finishes. In alphabetical order they include Charlie Clark, Aaron Downey, Michael Hart, Terry Jesk, Dave Lemon, James Simaras and Austin Snader.
Track owners like for the last race of the weekend to be one that will keep spectators around – if years past are any indication, EP certainly has the potential for doing that.
As a side note, these picks might have been a bit different had we not lost Tom Thrash at the June Sprints. His times in practice and the first quaslifying session were stunning.
J. Michael Hemsley