Canada Corner (Tony DiZinno)

Lee Alexander’s 1:59 lap leads SCCA Runoffs Day 1 Qualifying

Leave a comment

The first day of qualifying is in the books at the 50th running of the SCCA National Championship Runoffs at Elkhart Lake’s Road America. Some news and notes regarding the day’s fastest qualifiers, which included track records set in 11 classes:

  • Lee Alexander set a 1:59.638 in the C Sports Racer class, fastest time on the day and the second driver into the sub-2-minute range at the SCCA Runoffs in Road America history. The CSR and DSR classes were the first session of the day on a cool, fast track. Scott Tucker, who is not racing at this year’s Runoffs, set the record lap of 1:58.997 in a West WX10/ST10 D Sports Racer entry a year ago.
  • The two heaviest populated classes, Spec Miata (70 cars entered) and Spec Racer Ford (54) ran solo qualifying sessions. The rest of the 28 classes ran in combined group sessions.
  • SM saw no less than 15 cars break the old track record, with Jim Drago fastest of them at a 2:41.862. Brian Schofield led the way in SRF at 2:37.974.
  • Two drivers, Andrew Aquilante and Lawrence Loshak, set the fastest time in more than one class. Aquilante accomplished the feat in T1 and GT2, with Loshak doing likewise in FB and HP.
  • Peter Portante, who races full-time in the USF2000 National Championship on IndyCar’s Mazda Road to Indy ladder, led the Formula Continental (FC) field at 2:11.394 driving for the local ArmsUp Motorsports team, based in nearby Sheboygan Falls.
  • Nearly one minute separates the fastest time of the day – Alexander’s sub-2-minute flier – and the slowest fast time coming from B-Spec, Joel Weinberger at 2:54.936.
  • Ironic fastest qualifier of the day award? That would be your American Sedan pace-setter, Tom Sloe. I’ll be here all night.
Classes, Fastest Tuesday qualifier and time
CSR/DSR:  CSR, Lee Alexander, 1:59.638.    DSR, Chris Farrell, 2:01.662.
SM:       SM, Jim Drago, 2:41.862. 
GT1/T1:   GT1, Cliff Ebben, 2:03.917.      T1, Andrew Aquilante, 2:14.673.
FA/FB:    FA, Sedat Yelkin, 2:03.089.      FB, Lawrence Loshak, 2:04.786.
FP/HP:    FP, Mark Carpenter, 2:33.193.    HP, Lawrence Loshak, 2:41.750.
GT2/GT3:  GT2, Andrew Aquilante, 2:14.320. GT3, Mike Henderson, 2:23.405.
F500/FV:  F500, James Weida, 2:21.517.     FV, Michael Varacins, 2:41.293.
STU/STL:  STU, Marc Hoover, 2:24.693.      STL, Rob Huffmaster, 2:32.995.
T2/AS:    T2, Kurt Rezzetano, 2:24.619.    AS, Tom Sloe, 2:26.570.
FC/FF:    FC, Peter Portante, 2:11.395.    FF, Tim Kautz, 2:21.221.
EP/GTL:   EP, Aaron Downey, 2:29.795.      GTL, Robert Lentz, 2:33.281.
FE/FM/S2: FE, Scott Rettich, 2:13.403.     FM, Doug Peterson, 2:16.042. 
          S2, Mark Mercer, 2:18.276.
SRF:      SRF, Brian Schofield, 2:37.974. 
T3/T4/    T3, Chad Gilsinger, 2:31.631.    T4, Michael Scornavacchi, 2:40.493.
B-SPEC:   B-SPEC, Joel Weinberger, 2:54.936.

IndyCar 2017 driver review: Sebastien Bourdais

Getty Images
Leave a comment

MotorSportsTalk continues its annual review of the Verizon IndyCar Series drivers that raced in 2017. A dream start occurred for Sebastien Bourdais and the Dale Coyne Racing team upon their reunion, followed by a nightmare in Indianapolis with a huge crash in qualifying, and ended with a rapid recovery to build confidence for 2018.

Sebastien Bourdais, No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda

  • 2016: 14th Place, 1 Win, Best Start 3rd, 1 Podium, 3 Top-5, 11 Top-10, 24 Laps Led, 11.9 Avg. Start, 11.2 Avg. Finish
  • 2017: 21st Place (8 Starts), 1 Win, Best Start 6th, 2 Podiums, 2 Top-5, 5 Top-10, 74 Laps Led, 12.4 Avg. Start, 11.0 Avg. Finish

The 2017 campaign for Sebastien Bourdais upon his return to Dale Coyne Racing will forever be known as both a year of “what could have been” and a year of “what a comeback it was.”

The abnormal season for Bourdais stretched eight races with a three-month break in the middle owing to his own mistake qualifying for the Indianapolis 500, which left him with multiple pelvic fractures and a fracture to his right hip. His car was a rocket ship; but after two laps at 231 mph, Bourdais appeared to over-correct and destroyed the wall at Turn 2 in Indy in a massive 127G impact. It was a horrific looking accident, but one that also saw Bourdais rather lucky to have not been injured worse.

It set forth in motion an incredible recovery that saw Bourdais back testing the Monday after Mid-Ohio, just over two months since the accident, then in race action just over three months later at the 1.25-mile Gateway Motorsports Park oval, and because Bourdais is a regulation badass, he finished in the top-10 straight out of the box. He worked as hard as he did to return earlier than anticipated to avoid an offseason of questions asking if he’d come back and if he’d be strong enough to do so.

The recovery was a welcome story to end the year after the agony at Indy that stopped a potential title run or certainly top-five in points finish in its tracks. A classic Coyne strategy special vaulted Bourdais from last to first and a popular win in his U.S. hometown of St. Petersburg to kick off the year. A second place at Long Beach backed it up and eighth at Barber kept him atop the standings.

But Indy was shaping up to be an important bounce back weekend after Bourdais got taken out in Phoenix, then incurred an engine failure in the IMS road course race. And then, of course, his loud and violent accident qualifying for the ‘500 changed the course of the season.

After three “almost there” but largely unfulfilling years at KV Racing Technology, Bourdais embraced the family atmosphere back at Coyne along with longtime engineers Craig Hampson and Olivier Boisson, determined to continue punching above the team’s weight. He crafted a remarkable story all season and will be keen to fulfill it over the course of a proper full campaign in 2018.