Race Number 2 goes into the History Books
The weather, the size and depth of the grid, the great racing and the free beer all made for another epic weekend. 29 cars entered, including 4 guys running their cars for the very first time, at least one running his first ever formula ford race. It was also our first split start with the Formula B cars, and for about 5 drivers their first time at Sonoma. This is a tricky, technical track and in spite of all the "firsts" we had an exceptionally clean weekend with a lot of hard, heads up driving, up and down the grid and several drivers setting personal bests or huge improvements. We shared the track and podium party with the Formula B Continental Challenge drivers and rightly earned the praise of the B drivers, probably for the first time!
For most of the grid, Laguna had knocked off the cobwebs, and for those that did not make Laguna there was Friday testing to get comfortable with Sonoma' Raceway. There was some lead-follow coaching on Friday and some chalk-talks to help out, but for the most part, everyone woke up Saturday ready to go.
Qualifying was held in cool temperatures, a mixed grid and less than perfect grip. As usual Ethan Shippert did not disappoint, producing more of his usual pro-level speed and setting the overall pole and the Club Ford Pole time. The Historic Ford pole was set by Martin Lauber, just .7 seconds shy of Ethan, and followed by Art Hebert running his newly acquired Titan, Nic Colyvas, Andrew Wait, Tom Kreger and David Cooper all in the 1:50's or better. The next group headed by Mike Wirrick were all covered by less than a second, included Sonoma newbie Nic Hunziker, and veterans Rob Laroque, Steve Hoogs, Ed Lauber and Roger Pujol. And then a third group also all covered by less than a second included Paul Kitchen, Dave Alvarado and Mark Colbert, the latter two in their newly acquired Titans. Qualifying also saw Michael McDermott set a new personal best since his comeback to racing. A fourth group headed by Dan Wise, had four cars in it, all covered by less than .4 seconds, so Matt Ammer, Jonathan Kitchen and Jim Cody all set for what looked like the tightest race in the field.
Qualifying set up 4 distinct races within a race, and as driver observer Kurt Joerger up on turn two noted, there were amazing battles up and down the grid.
The Fords were released a little late for the split start which meant a slightly more strung out field than ideal took the green flag; but we still saw some great racing up the hill with several sets of cars three wide, struggling for grip in the marbles outside of turn 2 and taking wide outside lines at four. By the time the field rounded turn 11 and started lap 2, Dave Alvarado, Geir Ramleth, Jim Cody, Mark Colbert, Bob Hancock, Dan Wise and Jonathan Kitchen were clearly on the move, all of them finishing with 5 place improvements over their starting spots. Mark Colbert earned the RaceHero hard charger badge. Further up the field Ed Lauber and Steve Hoogs dueled hard and Mike Wirrick, Rob Laroque, Mark Colbert and Roger Pujol ran nose to tail, with Rob and Mike lead-changing a few times until Mike finally passed him to finish .01 seconds ahead at the finish. Mitch Roth and Paul Kitchen ran nose to tail the whole race and crossed almost side by side.
12 laps later crossing the line with the overall and Club Ford win was Ethan Shippert, followed by Historic Ford winner Martin Lauber, then Nic Colyvas, Tom Kreger, Andrew Wait and hyper focused and steadily gaining David Cooper; all covered by less than two seconds. The field came in three tight racing groups with the tightest being Ed Lauber, Mitch Roth and Jack Wilson, all fighting hard and crossing the line less than three seconds apart, the later two within less than a tenth of a second of each other. Also running together at the end of a huge dice were Jim Cody, Jonathan Kitchen, Geir Ramleth and Matt Ammer
Once again there are way too many back-stories to outline here, but below are just a few.
The benefits of showing up are huge, and no one is doing better than Dan Wise who now leads the Club Ford standings by getting in the game. Jim Cody's best lap was a full 6 seconds a lap faster than his best lap at the 2016 Charity Challenge; a huge improvement and testament to hard work on fitness and driving over the off-season. After a lot of winter testing and preparation, George Jewett finished his first ever formula ford race in style, and came out of the weekend with a huge smile and some great racing under his belt. Geir Ramleth shook down his exquisite, newly restored Lotus 51, which everyone needs to come and see.
The mechanical heart-ache of the weekend was Ross Lindell, in his beautifully restored Merlyn, that fogged oil into the cockpit, gently enveloping its driver in an oily mist. Some help by the Ivey family reduced the problem somewhat so Ross could have a full weekend of racing.
Sadly we also bid farewell to Bob Hancock, Matt Ammer and Mike Wirrick who continue their Grand Tour of the country's great racetracks by heading east to Indy, Elkhart Lake, VIR and more. It was great racing with you guys and we hope to see you back here.
It was a very clean weekend, but not a perfect one. We had two incidents, one light contact between two cars that left one with body damage, and the other due to an aggressive B car pass that left the Ford Driver with diminished options, but thankfully minimal damage. We also had one pass under the yellow right under the starter's stand that required a re-score. Again, we are becoming a very high-profile group, and our big grids amplify some challenges that always exist in racing. So a few of important reminders.
1. Check your mirrors on the straights and if you see cars approaching fast, you can gently move a bit to give them room or hold your line... but don't make large moves that might compromise your safety. It is their responsibility to pass you safely, yours to only be courteous and predictable.
2. Every track has places where passing is tempting but not always possible safely. Identify those places and manage them carefully... especially under very hard braking. If in doubt, wait to make the safe pass.
3. Flags. Remember there is no passing after a yellow flag until the next flagger station. If there is no yellow there, continue racing.
The Thank Yous... without sponsors this would NOT be possible, so let's please support them!
We have a new wine sponsor, www.sonomaviewvineyard.com . This is the Kitchen Family winery, and the wine is superb. They only make 50 cases a year and the only way to buy it is to email email@example.com
rogerkrausracing.com for tires and support, and the end of season Trophies
www.iveyengines.com for race-day support and the end of season grand prize
www.nicolashunziker.com for the really cool shoes... discount code for the racers: NORWESTFF will give everyone 15% of all purchases
www.parrlawgroup.com for the “Scales of Justice” and legal support
www.infinitykarting.com for the raffle prize
Joerger Financial for graphics, decals and patches
Mike Wirrick for the Podium Champagne https://mikesracing.com/
Mike Summers, John Anderson, Eric Sidebotham, Kurt Joerger and Jim Cody for operations and moral support.
Other updates and Things to know for the next race
The next race is the Thunderhill event April 28-30 and early registration is still available. Thunderhill is a really fun, challenging track, but with wide open run-off areas and some classic corners.
Some of you did not come to the podium celebration, please do attend, we have the beer budget with you in mind, and to add an extra incentive, you will need to be present to win any prizes. It is more fun, and safer to race guys you know so come to the party.
The Sonoma group photos are available at https://historicmotorprints.com/collections/2017-david-love-memorial we are still working on getting the Laguna Group photos up as well.
If you did not get series decals or patches let us know we have both the small and larger sizes for trailers and street cars.
We also have a Cafepress store up if you want to buy FF Anniversary schwag, http://www.cafepress.com/formulaford50th
Thanks, and we will see you all at Thunderhill!
The Crossflow Cup Team