Charleston , SC. – The final event of the SCCA National Championship Racing Series is the invitation only SCCA Runoffs, Presented by AT&T. For the second year the event was hosted by Heartland Park Topeka, in Topeka Kansas . The 14 turn, 2.5 mile paved road course was changed from last year’s event to produce higher speeds and a new challenge for returning drivers. The changing weather conditions also added additional excitement to the week long event. Temperatures ranged from 38 degrees in the morning to high 80s the first of the week. Severe thunderstorms that lasted throughout Friday night continued on Saturday morning. Road racers race even in rain conditions, but the excessive lighting caused a potential hazard to the volunteer track workers, so the event was held up for over 2 hours Saturday morning. By Sunday, 25 new class champions had been crowned.
The first MINI of Charleston Racing Team race was the SSC Championship race Friday morning. Team Manager Brad Davis competed in the class in a Counterfeit MINI that upon closer inspection was a 2000 Honda Civic SI. This class was won the last two years by a MINI Cooper S and then the MINI was unceremoniously bumped up to the faster SSB Class. After being the SE Division Champion in 2006 and finishing 10th in the Runoffs, Brad chose to stay in the same class, even if driving an “off brand” car was required. Brad Qualified 16th in the 20 car field of invitees from all over the nation. After coming to an almost complete stop in turn three for the usually first lap accident, Brad rejoined the field 15 feet from the last place car, but at least avoided body damage. A good drive pulled Brad back up within the pack and was gaining spots until an overheating condition slowed his charge with several laps remaining. Despite the mechanical problem (happens when you’re not in a real MINI!), Brad hung on for a 12th place finish. First place was taken by John Heinricy of Royal Oak Michigan . John is a multiple class, multiple time national champion and a GM engineer and test driver.
Saturday in the SSB Class Championship race the MINI contingency was pitted in an unfair fight against the Pontiac Solstice, that through a rule error, received a full racing suspension, limited slip differential and lightweight carbon fiber roof, even though it is the same horsepower as the MINI Cooper S. The MINI also found tough going this year with the addition of the 197 horsepower Honda Civic SI. Jonathan Start ( Caledonia , Michigan ) led the MINIs with an 11th place qualifying position, followed by Ralph Porter ( Kokomo , Indiana ) in 15th, MINI of Charleston ’s Robbie Davis in 18th, Jill Urso ( Orlando , Florida ) in 21st and James Place ( San Antonio , Texas ) in 28th.
On the start, Jill tried to get a jump on the start and knocked Robbie Davis’ right outside review mirror into the next county. As Rob entered the high-speed right-hand turn 8, he could not see Ralph Porter on his right rear corner and the contact sent Rob for a 260 degree spin. Rob regained a few positions and came past start finish on lap one in 22nd. Robbie drove hard and steady and was right behind 11th and 12th place with 1 ½ laps remaining. The trio of Tippens (BMW Z4), Porter (MINI) and Davis entered turn 8 and were surprised by fresh mud and water kicked onto the track by another competitor in front of them. Porter managed to spin on track and continue, Tippens ran hard into the next turn wall and Robbie when through the grass and headed back towards the pavement and the next turn. Unfortunately the heavy rains of the night and morning before caused the soft dirt to settle leaving a ridge between the grass and the track surface. When Rob got to the track the left front wheel suffered a severe impact and bent, flattening the tire (no run-flats on this MINI). Rob completed the lap with a flat front tire and continued to complete the last lap on nothing but the wheel on the left front. With this gutsy drive he managed to maintain some of the positions he gained and finished in 18th place. The highest finishing MINI was Start in 10th. The new SSB Champion was Ken Flory of Commerce Township , Michigan in a Solstice. Other MINI finishing positions were; Porter in 11th; Urso in 13th and Place in 20th.
The races were recorded for delayed coverage by Speed TV. The SSC Race will air Wednesday November 14th at noon. The SSB race will air Wednesday December 26th at 1 PM. Be sure to set your Tivo!