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Sonoma Race Report - The Love Memorial Races

 Geir Ramleth's Lotus 51

Geir Ramleth's Lotus 51

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!

 29 cars, drivers and crew

29 cars, drivers and crew

The Race

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

 The CF, FF and FB podium, totally soaked in Champagne, with Rebecca standing in for baby-holding Ethan

The CF, FF and FB podium, totally soaked in Champagne, with Rebecca standing in for baby-holding Ethan

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.

 Fantastic Grid

Fantastic Grid

Driving Observations

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.

 All possible thanks to your generous sponsors!

All possible thanks to your generous sponsors!

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 info@sonomaviewvineyard.com

Auction City www.auctioncity.com and www.19york.com and Car Week Concierge for the beer

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

HJC-motorsports.com

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 

 See you next time

See you next time

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Laguna Race Report

The Wow!

The drivers that attended the opener at iconic Laguna Seca Raceway, had a ton of fun and set a really positive the tone for the series.  There was great racing up and down the grid, new friendships were made, and we truly celebrated these historically relevant racecars.  If we keep this up, those of you that plan to run future races are in for a treat.  The weather was great and we had VIP treatment from HMSA (including a group photo taken at the top of the corkscrew, and big shiny trophies for the overall podium finisher). 

 Dan Cowdrey lines up for the Saturday race

Dan Cowdrey lines up for the Saturday race

The Racing

The first race of the season always seems to have an added element of tension, and this was no exception.  The winter cobwebs for most and a new track for some, meant the first session needed to be clean, provide a good learning experience and good warm up.  Things got off to a rocky start, with a black flag all on the first lap caused by Kurt Joerger's brand new engine throwing a rod through its block.  But after a pause in the pits, we went back out and qualified 26 cars without further incident.  Dan Cowdrey set the pole-winning time, followed by Nic Colyvas, Eric Sidebotham, Tom Kruger, John Anderson, and David Cooper all breaking the 1:45 barrier.  

The race started with an unfortunate mechanical, on the start Eric Sidebotham's engine also failed, but everyone successfully got by.  There were great battles up and down the grid and everyone got a race.  11 laps later Nic Colyvas finished first, having escaped his pursuers in traffic and crossing the line with a 12 second lead, followed home by Dan Cowdrey, Tom Kruger, and John Anderson, all covered by less than a second.  David Cooper fought back from a busy start for 5th overall, followed by Norm Cowdrey the day's Club Ford winner.  Right behind Norm, Adom Moutafian, Nic Hunziker, Ed Lauber had a massive dice, watched closely by Andrew Wait... all four cars crossed the finish line within a second of each other.  Steve Hoogs, Mike Wirrick, Paul Kitchen Dan Wise (second in Club Ford) and Jason Zide were the next batch to cross the line.  Mike, in particular, got a monster start gaining and keeping 4 places on this qualifying spot.  Jim Cody showing his strongest form to-date, led home  Jay Streets, Matt Ammer, Jonathan Kitchen and David Buchanan and the tail gunners with Dan Wardman and Bob Hancock brought the first edition of the Crossflow cup over the line in style.  

In the end, the final historic ford podium promoted John Anderson into third, as in the rush to change gears, Tom Kruger did not fuel up completely and came in a few pounds underweight (his car quit as it rolled up to the scales!).  

There were stand-out stories and drives all up and down the grid, and to call them all out would make this too big an update, but to call out a few.

David Buchanan got his first ever open wheel experience in Martin Lauber's car.  He had so much fun, anyone with a nice car for sale should contact him. There were two father and son teams.  Norm and Dan Cowdrey both podiumed in their classes.  And Paul and Jonathan Kitchen were out for the first time in their Lotus 61's after a very long, arduous restoration process. Its one thing to race, but another to be so visibly having so much father-son fun.  Jason Zide had two big firsts; he was out in his car for the very first time, and at Laguna for the first time and scored creditable lap times and the confidence of the more experienced guys around him with his smooth driving.  It's also nice to see the younger generation represented so well by Jason, Dan and Paul, lets draw in more young people!  Mark Ammer and Bob Hancock are out on their grand tour together with Mark's super rare Koing-Heath F1, and one of the best organized two car trailers ever.  And it was also great to see John Anderson back in his car after almost two years away from the cockpit.  In typical fashion, Kurt set aside the exploded engine blues, and he and Roland pitched in to help Mike Wirrick align his car and Nic Hunziker broke a record... he posted a well-edited video of his race about 4 minutes after getting out of his car!

 Norm and Dan, the Club Ford Podium!

Norm and Dan, the Club Ford Podium!

Driving observations

Driving standards on Saturday looked good, with guys running very very close but heads up and respectfully;  and we pulled off the reverse grid blend and race procedure on Sunday perfectly.  However on Sunday during the non-points exhibition race things got a little tougher with two minor incidents.  They were minor but nonetheless, two incidents too many.  Keep in mind the other clubs we run with are far less tolerant of over the top behavior, and for us to have real longevity, we need to prove to all of them, that we are keeping the competitive elements in perspective.

Our driver/observers and the course marshals had a few comments.

1. There was a bit too much blocking and ignoring blue flags especially in the practice sessions.  If you are in a practice session and there is a car in your mirrors, let him pass.  He is faster than you.  If you defend, you will mess up your session and his.  Instead, let him by and try following him to see what line he drives, when he brakes, et cetera.  In the races, defending is permitted, but blocking is not.  You get one move, not as many as required to keep a guy behind you.  And remember, this is vintage racing for a $2 trophy.  So if a guy is behind you pressuring you for two laps, he is clearly faster.  So let him by, and then get in his draft and together you can get into the fight further up the road.  If he is not faster then you can repass him.  But blocking is frustrating and not in the spirit of what we do.

2. There were too many locked wheels banzai passes.  Again, remember this is vintage racing in 50-year-old open wheel cars.  Banzai passes are not safe for anyone.  Laguna is wide, and the walls, for the most part, are fairly far away.  But as we go to more technical tracks like Sonoma and Portland, with harder edges, the margin for error will go away.  Plan your passes, and try to execute them on the exits of turns, which is safer and more fun!

3. When we combine fast locals, with guys new to the track, let's give each other more room and avoid passes on the tricky stuff, like the corkscrew.  A very close pass freaks out the guy trying to find his way around.

4.  Know the flags, and know what not to do when a flag was shown.  During Saturday’s practice session, the course went from full course yellow on the parade lap to waving black.  A solo waiving black flag does not warrant threshold breaking on the front straight.  A black flag combined with a yellow is an indication that you are approaching the incident.  A waiving black flag just means that you need to head back into the pits.

The Thank Yous... without support this would NOT be possible

Auction City www.auctioncity.com and www.19york.com for the beer

rogerkrausracing.com for tires and support

www.iveyengines.com for race-day support 

HJC-motorsports.com

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 and legal support

Mike Wirrick for the Podium Champagne

Mike Summers, John Anderson, Eric Sidebotham, Kurt Joerger and Jim Cody for operations and moral support.

Things to know for the next race

Early registration is still available for the next few days, so sign up soon.  There are 26 cars registered so far, we expect 3-4 more.

Many of you are coming to Sonoma for the first time.  It is technical, a bit unforgiving and huge fun. So if you test on Friday, there will be local drivers available to do lead follow with you and we will have chalk-talks and coaching for anyone that needs it.  We will have driver observers there to help you find speed and enjoyment at Sonoma.  As a special run group, anyone not in a garage should try to pit in the lane opposite the garages so we are all grouped together.

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.

If you did not get series decals or patches, there will be more available at Sonoma.

Results and more news will be posted on www.norwestff.com  and the facebook page within the next few days.

Thanks, and we will see you all and more at Sonoma.

The Crossflow Cup Team

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Mike's Grand Tour

Fellow racer Mike Wirrick, will be documenting his adventures racing in the midwest and east at tracks like Elkhart Lake, Mid-Ohio and Indy.  Track his progress at https://mikesracing.com/

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Prepare the driver

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Prepare the driver

We have a big season of racing coming up, and here are a couple of ideas to help you prepare.

If you have not been to one of the tracks, like Laguna or Portland, one great way to learn the various secrets is simulator training.  Many of us have gone to see Tom Pabst at PRS Driver Development

Another great option is Karting.  If you don't own a Kart, call Infinity Karting, they will rent you a true racing kart, and provide you with support and coaching at the Sonoma Kart track.

And finally, get out for some test days, here in Northern California, many of us gather at Sonoma raceway for test days.  They are a great seat-time value, see the Sonoma Raceway testing schedule and the Thunderhill Testing Schedule

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