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A track as Mean as a Snake

Friday, it rained torrents.  2 inches an hour at one point, and the 180 cars and teams gathered for the David Love memorial made  a hobby of watching the water pour off their easy ups and trailer awnings. About 10% of the cars withdrew at that point, but every single one of the 28 Formula Ford Drivers, just looked at the sky, shoved their hands deeper in the pockets and went back to staring at their phones, or making wry small talk. 

Just two drivers went out into the gloom for testing, Art Hebert one of them, and one could hear his lone exhaust note rising and falling as he negotiated the river that was now Sonoma raceway.  An interested group of spectators gathered at the wall fully expecting Art to do a pirouette or two... they were disappointed. 

Qualifying. The track was still wet, with a gentle morning rain replacing the "atmospheric river", but one of the things that makes Sonoma Raceway mean is the springs that flow for at least a day after a big rainfall.  Lying in wait for the unwary, they lie like trip wires across turn 8, turn 10 and the bottom of 6, the carousel.  One goes into a corner filled with confidence, only to have a shock when the grip disappears over the muddy rivers.   So qualifying began on tiptoes, especially down the now wet shiny snake winding along 8, 8a, 9.  Art Hebert posted a sublime 1:58 for pole, over 3 seconds a lap faster than the next group, of Danny Baker, Dan Cowdrey, Martin Lauber, Todd Strong, David Cooper and reigning champ  Nick Colyvas all between 2:02 and 2:07.  The next pod of cars covered by 2 seconds, saw Dave Zurlinden, very closely followed by Laurent Parmantier, Ed Lauber and an increasingly confident Paul Kitchen.  

Unfortunately, about 3 laps into qualifying the snake struck Ed Vantassel, in the transition between 8 and 8A, a spot that would bend 5 more cars that day.   Ed now has a pair of wine bottles, one for hard-charging, one for heart-breaking, but will be back just as soon as he can.

Gary Goeringer joined the series for the first time and managed to try his Crossley for the first time, under the most challenging conditions imaginable.   So did Julian Pearl in his super orginal Lotus.  And, John Greeven, a veteran of many days in the rain, re-learning Sonoma after a long absence.

The tightest group, of Jonathan Kitchen, Ross Lindell, Jeff Rothman, Paul Kitchen and Jay Streets were all covered by less than a second, with Jonathan Kitchen out-qualifying Paul for the first time in several races. 

In the end, a very different grid than we normally see in the dry settled out of a nerve-racking 5 lap qualy session, with David Copper, Chris Shcoap, and Jonathan Kitchen all much higher in the order than usual.

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The Race

The day cleared, the sun came out and a breeze helped dry the track.  But it was a patchy dry, you can see in Danny Bakers Video ( Danny's Video ) the wet patches, and how straight and settled the car has to be coming out of a corner to avoid drama.

At the start, the dry track began to sort the field almost immediately.  Martin Lauber, Todd Strong moved into second and third, and Nic Colyvas slipped past Dave Copper to give Danny Baker a battle that would last the whole race.  Entering turn 7 on the first lap Dan Cowdrey half spun losing 6 spots.  He would ultimately climb back to 6th place, drag racing Nic Colyvas to a finish 1 car length back. Adom Moutafian who qualified at the very back, climbed 11 places and joined Michael McDermott (who made a fiendish start, gaining 7 places), Chris Schoap, Jay Streets, Mike Wirrick, all contesting the midfield.  A bit further up the now familiar fight between Laurent Parmentier, Ed Lauber, John Greeven, David Cooper, Paul Kitchen, Jeff Rothman, Norm Cowdrey, Jay Streets and Jonathan Kitchen, moved back and forth until Jonathan Kitchen Spun in 7, losing 10 places very late in the race and running out of time to engineer a recovery.   You can see how tight and clean this group races here  (Laurent's video)  The tightest finishes after 13 laps were an increasingly confident George Jewett, Jonathan Kitchen, Alan Denazzi (one car length back) and Kim Madrid just .3 seconds back from Chris Schoap. 

In the end, Art Hebert, followed by Martin Lauber and Danny Baker made up the Historic Podium.  Todd Strong dug deep into his reserves of courage and experience to top the Club Ford Podium and a third overall.  Dave Zurlinden was the first of the Masters in, followed by Jeff Rothman and Norm Cowdrey.   Most important new drivers Gary Goeringer and Julian Pearl "broke their duck" managing to cross the line with a smile on their faces and their cars and egos in one piece.  

Great races under extremely difficult circumstances were posted by a returning Rob Thull and Ross Lindell.  Both have been gone for a while, and Ross in particular just wrapped an enormous overhaul of his car.

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The Thank You's 

Ed Lauber did a great job running the event, Art Hebert set the tonewith the driver's meeting, huge help from Stewards, Geir Ramleth and Greg Vroman.  Scoring help from Jim Cody and the help and contribution of, 19York, Ivey Engines, Roger Kraus Racing, John Anderson Racing and CSRG... makes this all possible

Next Races and other info

The next big Formula Ford event is the Spring Challenge, there are only 12 cars entered so far so plenty of room on the grid at Laguna Seca May 18-20, to enter email or Cris Vandagriff

After that is the next points race for the series, the epic,  Columbia River Classic  Sept 6-9 in Portland,

Results to date are now posted on theNorwestff site,  (Series Results) 

And photos by Zack Hubbel of the open wheel group can be seen here