2021 SVRA Mid-Oh
Prior to the 2021 Mid-Ohio SpeedTour event, I glanced at the entry list and saw a lot to look forward to. Some old favorites and some new competitors, but most of all, I welcomed the chance to see an SVRA event under “normal” conditions for the first time in quite a while. I wasn’t disappointed.
Friday’s activities were mainly practice sessions in the morning, and it didn’t take long for the weekend’s quick cars to show themselves. Chris DeMinco led the Group 1, 3, 4, and 5b practice session in his 1971 Mallock 11B with a best time of 1:45.185. Next up, the Group 6 and 12a practice group was paced by Scott Borchetta’s ‘69 Corvette roadster with a fast time of 1:32.394, and Bernardo Martinez was quickest in the Group 8 and 12b session in his 1966 Alfa GTV.
As with recent SVRA visits to Mid-Ohio, this year’s event included additional race series, beginning with the first of two open-wheel classes – the Honda-powered Formula Regional (FR) series. Joshua Carr led the Friday morning practice session, cooking right along at a 1:19.670 best time.
Back to vintage sessions, Groups 5a, 7, 9, and 11 were up next, led by Stuart Crow’s solid 1:29.103 in a 1992 Ralt RT40. Wally Dallenbach led the Group 10 session convincingly in his 2000 Ford Mustang Cobra with a time of 1:24.796. The next session grouped the formula cars of Group 2 with Miatas, and Gregory Stamm led the session with a time of 1:41.025..
Leading up to the lunch break, the F4 US series practiced next, followed by the International GT (IGT) series and TA2. The IGT cars are relatively modern, dating from the mid-2000’s up, are one of the best ways to recall the sights and sounds of the Porsches and Ferraris you may have seen in IMSA or Porsche Cup races just a few years ago.
Friday afternoon was mostly planned as qualifying sessions, and a few sessions managed to squeeze in ahead of threatening weather. Groups 1, 3, 4, and 5b qualified first, with Malcolm Ross ahead of the field by a couple seconds in a 1965 Lotus 23B. Up next were groups 6 and 12a, led by Michael Origer’s 1969 Corvette at 1:33.962. One more session squeezed in qualifying ahead of the looming weather, as Bernardo Martinez managed a 1:41.591 in his 1966 Alfa GTV.
Heavy rains cancelled the The FR America qualifying session, and qualifying sessions the rest of the afternoon were pretty lightly-attended. David Jans and Phil Stratford represented Groups 5a, 7, 9, and 11 with three timed laps each, and Group 10 also fielded just two takers — Timothy Haines and Jay Kjoller. The Group 2 & Miata field managed three cars and a few more laps, but Johnathan Davis’ 2:05 was still well off the morning pace.
The F4 qualifying session was also cancelled, and the second IGT qualifying session was light at six cars. Trans Am wrapped up the day with a TA/XGT/SGT/GT testing session and a TA2 qualifying session.
Saturday brought clear skies, warm weather, and more qualifying – beginning with Groups 8 and 12b, and once again, Bernardo Martinez was fastest at 1:40.661, with Ron Pawley’s 2004 Lexus IS300 close behind at 1:41.658 and Lisa Hansen’s ‘69 Porsche 911S. Stuart Crow led the group 5a, 7, 9, and 11 group in his 1992 Ralt RT40 at a 1:27.153. Phil Stratford was second-fast at 1:29.520 in his 2006 Elan DP02, and David Jans was third-fast at 1:30.552.
Wally Dallenbach led the second Group 10 qualifying session with a 1:24.036 in his 2000 Ford Mustang Cobra, ahead of Johnathan DeGaynor in a 1992 Ford Mustang with a best time of 1:27.363 and Casey Putsch’s 1:27.770.
The small-bore production cars of groups 1, 3, 4, and 5b are typically among the more well-represented and entertaining groups at SVRA events. These cars included roadsters like Triumphs and MGs, B-sedans, and an assortment of other great classics. Malcolm Ross once again topped the timing sheets with a 1:40.610 in his 1965 Lotus 23B, followed by Chris DeMinco’s 1:42.155 in a 1971 Mallock 11B. Other notables were Robert Baxter’s ‘76 Bobsey SR-7, and some gorgeous Porsche speedsters led by George Balbach’s 1960 356B.
The Groups 6 and 12a cars upped the decibel level in their second qualifying session. These are larger-displacement cars, and Group 6, especially, is a great throwback to the origin of Trans Am racing in the 60’s. Not so long ago, the Mid-Ohio SVRA event would immediately follow SVRA’s appearance at Indy, and these cars would often show up still wearing the names of the racing legends that shared these cars in the Indy Pro-Am, but such wasn’t the case this year. Session leaders in this race group were Scott Borchetta with a 1:32.329 in his ‘69 Corvette convertible, Michael Origer’s ‘69 Corvette coupe at 1:33.221, and Jerry Robinson representing Group 12a in his 2010 Viper at 1:34.021.
The FR America series kicked off feature racing for the weekend with the first of three points-paying features for the weekend, and Sydney, Australia’s Joshua Car would be the first of three different winners in this series. Back to vintage machines, Group 2 and Miatas ran their second qualifying session next. Gregory Stamm led Group 2 with a 1:39.218 in his 2000 Van Diemen RF00K, followed by Glenn Taylor’s PRS Formula Ford at 1:41.741. Jonathan Davis led the Miatas and had the third-fast time at 1:42.934 in his 1990 Mazda Miata.
Feature race one for the IGT series bridged us from vintage to modern racing. As we’ve seen in previous years, Andy Pilgrim was hard to handle in his 2014 Ferrari 458, controlling the field from flag to flag. Mark Sandridge and Todd Sloan followed in GT3 Porsches. Taking us to the lunch break, the TA/XGT/SGT/GT cars practiced for 30min, and Noel Leon picked up a win in the F4 series’ first feature.
The Trans Am series events shared top billing with SVRA at this event, and one of Saturday’s headline events was the TA2 Feature that lined up immediately after lunch. Rafa Matos led this 65-minute race from pole and took the win, followed by Adam Andretti and Connor Mosack.
Back to SVRA groups, the eleven-car Group 2 and Miata group began the vintage features. Fast-qualifier Gregory Stamm had no trouble pulling out a lead and growing it to a 35-second gap over second place Michael Spence in a ‘72 Crossle 20F. Jonathan Davis was once again fastest of the four Miatas in this group, finishing about 46 seconds back of Stamm, but a comfortable 53 seconds ahead of Thomas Podmore in the next-best Miata.
The Group 8 and 12b first feature started a healthy 26-car field, led to the green by Bernardo Martinez’s Alfa. The top three juggled places a bit, with Ron Pawley taking the win in his Lexus, followed by Lisa Hansen in her 911 and then Martinez. David Huber was the big mover in this race, moving from deep in the grid to finish seventh. Following this race, the other TA group qualified for 40 minutes.
Group 10 ran their first feature next – a fitting group to follow the new TA cars. The fourteen-car field wasn’t deep, but it was loud. The top three started Dallenbach, DeGaynor, and Putsch, and they finished in this order, DeGaynor’s Mustang about 20 seconds back from Dallenbach, and Putsch’s Corvette just under 50 seconds back from the lead. It was great to see Putsch back at the track, and I had a chance to catch up with him to learn a bit about Genius Garage – the student-led team doing race prep and crewing the #3 Corvette. Since 2014, Genius Garage has led students through a (roughly) six-month internship working on a race car, and according to Putsch, he’s now got a significant list of applicants waiting for a turn at this unique experience.
The mixed open-wheel and prototype cars of Groups 5a, 7, 9, and 11 raced next. Given the large number of classes in this race group, most of the finishers wound up on one of the class podiums, but the overall results were pretty orderly. Stuart Crow’s ‘92 Ralt RT40 in blue and white Wyndham livery led from pole and gapped second place Phil Stratford’s 2006 Elan by about sixteen seconds. Wrapping up the top-three overall, Jeremy Treadway picked up a spot from his starting position in his ‘96 Lola.
Back to the V8 bruisers, Groups 6 and 12a gridded 26-strong for their first feature. Pole-sitter Michael Origer DNF’d, ceding first place and the win to Scott Borchetta and his ‘69 Corvette. Borchetta had a busy weekend, as he also drove the Big Machine Vodka Mustang in TA2. Scott Holley picked up third in his beautiful silver ‘63 Jaguar E-Type.
The popular Group 1, 3, 4, and 5b group started 30 cars in their first feature. Although they can’t compete on noise, these cars are some of the greatest examples of SVRA’s tagline — “Some people collect art… we race it!” This class typically has some great wheel-to-wheel action, but the top of the order was pretty calm for this feature. Malcolm Ross grabbed the lead early in the race, but faded back, leaving the lead and the win to pole-sitter Chris DeMinco in his Mallock. Robert Baxter’s ‘76 Bobsey crossed the line second, and George Balbach was third in the #0 Porsche 356B. Behind them, the variety of makes and manufacturers made this group a joy to watch. Alpine, MG, Datsun, Lotus, Morgan – this group had plenty of eye candy.
And speaking of noise, IGT concluded the day with their second feature. Andy Pilgrim started on pole and showed the field his rear wing, building a comfortable lead on the second-place Brumos-livery #58 Porsche driven by Mark Sandridge. Sandridge held second most of the event, but was sniped late by the Porsche GT3 of Mark Mathys, who pushed Sandridge back to third.
Sundays at SVRA events commonly begin with an enduro, and this weekend, we wound up with two, splitting the faster GT/GTP/ALMS cars into an early-morning enduro and leaving the slower classic cars to a second enduro in the afternoon. The 70-minute GT enduro followed typical SVRA format, including one mandatory (leisurely) pit stop with optional driver change. SVRA scored the #95 Elan of Phil and Mark Stratford first, followed by Scott Borchetta and Jade Buford in second, with Michael Stutz in third, but many of the IGT cars participated in this event, too, including the top finishers from Saturday’s IGT feature. With the IGT cars mixing it up, there was some entertaining racing, including three of the IGT Porsches trying to squeeze into the entrance of the keyhole in the early laps — a bold move that wound up squeezing the #47 of Albert Lukazik onto the grass as these three sorted their lines.
The F4 cars had two more features to run, and they got the first of the day started after the morning enduro. Noel Leon picked up his second win of the weekend in this one.
SVRA features resumed beginning with the second Group 1, 3, 4, and 5b feature. The podium resembled the first feature, but Robert Baxter got the win in this event, leading flag-to-flag over Chris DeMinco, but never by much. Malcolm Ross captured third in this one in his Lotus 23B.
Back to open-wheel racing, the FR Americas series had two races to squeeze in on Sunday as well, and they raced their first around mid-morning, led to the finish by Jacob Abel.
Three more vintage features took us up to lunch, beginning with the Group 8 and 12b final feature. Ron Pawley started on pole, dropped back a couple spots, and worked back to take the win. Lisa Hansen led a good portion of the feature, but faded to third in the closing laps. David Huber had a good drive from seventh to split Pawley and Hansen for second in his ‘79 Datsun 280ZX. Deeper in the field, Drake Dittman backed into the kitty litter outside of nine, but executed a slick j-turn to keep his BMW moving and avoid a full-course caution – nicely executed!
The Group 5a, 7, 9, and 11 race group was down by another handful of cars compared to Saturday, but the front of the field was anchored again by Stuart Crow. In fact, the first four finishers finished where they started — Phil Straford, David Jans, and Rob Sherwood behind Crow..
The final appearance for the Group 6 and 12a cars was led to green by Scott Borchetta, and his Corvette never relinquished the lead. Early in this event, the #163 Corvette of Nick Groose smoked hard approaching turn nine, and may have laid down a little pavement lubricant, as competitors looked a little dancy into this corner for a lap or two. Jerry Robinson chased Borchetta for most of the race in his Viper, but dropped down the order a few spots in the closing laps. Moving in the opposite direction, Michael Origer drove the wheels off his ‘69 Corvette, clawing through the entire field to finish second. Jonathan DeGaynor wrapped up the podium in his sleek black ‘59 Devin Evolution.
Lunch was followed by the 65-minute TA/XGT/SGT/GT feature. Tony Drissi started on pole for this, but Chris Dyson was on a mission in this race. Dyson’s car could’ve won this race on sound alone – the scream of his Mustang landing somewhere between a Shelby GT350 and a V-10 F1 car, I could hear him coming half a track away all weekend long.
After the Trans Am cars converted an astounding amount of fuel into noise, the SVRA Group 2 and Miata field was conspicuously fuel-efficient. This svelte field saw a new overall leader, though, as Michael Spence took the win in his ‘72 Crossle, followed by Doug Bruce in a ‘72 Merlyn Mk20A and Jeff White in a ‘78 Crossle. Once again, Jonathan Davis led the Miatas, coming home fifth overall.
The mid-afternoon Group 10 second feature was light a few cars, as well, including earlier winner Wally Dallenbach. This effectively slid Jonathan DeGaynor and Casey Putsch up into pole and outside-pole, with Debbie Cloud starting third in her #99 Chevy Camaro. The top three would start and finish in this order in a well-sorted feature.
There were two more open-wheel series to run yet, starting with the F4 series. Our previous race-winner Noel Leon managed second in this, with Mac Clark taking the win in this event.
Wrapping up the SVRA activities for the weekend was Sunday’s second enduro – a 60-minute race with (again) one mandatory timed pit stop and optional driver change. This enduro was for the (generally) smaller-displacement cars of groups 1, 2, 3, 4, 5b, 6b, 8, and 12b. In years gone by, I’ve seen John & Debbie Cloud share enduro duties, but today, John split the drive with Wally Dallenbach, Jr. They would lead from pole and hold the lead, save a couple laps of pit-stop-cycling. Lisa Hansen locked up second in her 911, and Nicolas Clemence was third for the event — again, pit stops notwithstanding.
The final race of the weekend was another open-wheel event — the FR Americas final feature. Trans Am-regular Ernie Francis Jr had been busy this weekend, racing in the FR Americas races in addition to Trans Am, and all that track time paid off with a race win for him in the final event of the weekend, You don’t normally see the sort of versatility needed to hop out of a big, heavy stock car and into a little open-wheel car, but Francis made it work.
And with that, another SVRA Mid-Ohio weekend was in the books – a welcome return to fans and vendors and race teams and the sights and sounds that keep us coming back to the track.