Jim Booth crosses the finish line at Inde Motorsports Ranch. © NARRA
Jim Booth has taken the outright as well as GT-Unlimited class victory in round two of the 2012 US GT Championship, held Sunday at Inde Motorsports Ranch (Willcox, AZ). Frank Lussier carved his way back through the field to win the GT-1 class, and Ron Farmer won GT-3. The race was an exciting finish to the first North American Road Racing Association event for 2012, and it's first at Inde.
The action, drama and intensity didn't subside on Sunday for the USGTC's second race in the scenic landscape of Willcox, Arizona.
The big news before qualifying came from the Coastal Pet Motorsport camp. 2011 GT-1 Champion Jim Stout, who crashed out in Saturday's morning practice and had missed race one, was going to race Kathy Stout's car.
It was a cunning plan- NARRA had offered 75 bonus points to all competitors taking a race start at Inde, which Kathy had already collected, and this would be a way for Jim to salvage the weekend and score them too.
However, three laps into qualifying the Stout's plan unraveled. With a missed shift Jim over-revved the engine. The audible rattle signaled total disaster. Not only would Kathy miss out on any more valuable championship points, but so would he.
The session was dominated by the World Challenge spec Dodge Viper Competition Coupe of Tom Antonelli (GT-1), who had found a staggering 2.4 seconds overnight to take pole position with a 1:36.086.
Jim Booth (Dodge Viper ACR-X, GT-U) qualified second, Frank Lussier (Viper Comp Coupe WC, GT-1) third and Sonny Whelen (Chevrolet Corvette C6, GT-U) fourth.
As the race began Antonelli's qualifying performance continued. After a strong start the All Chicago Fleet sponsored driver charged hard to build a substantial lead.
In contrast, Frank Lussier's start was anything but perfect. By the first turn he had fallen to the back of the pack after a missing a gear change.
At the front Antonelli pace was blisteringly quick, setting a new track lap record of 1:35.780. The time was two-tenths faster than Saturday's fastest lap by Ritch Marziale.
As the race went on Booth slowly reeled Antonelli in. The closer he got, the more Antonelli seemed to feel the pressure. Small mistakes started creeping in and drawing Booth ever closer.
Then at turn 17 Antonelli dropped two wheels off and Booth slipped into the lead. The mistake unsettled Antonelli's rhythm and he immediately dropped back.
Any hopes he still had were dashed a few laps later. Passing through the pit straight, something in Antonelli's engine sounded amiss, and by turn two he had stopped the car.
The action behind the front runners was just as fast and furious.
While a second pack of Mark Alger, Kyle Foster and Brad Gorrondona formed behind the ACR-X of David Mazyck, Frank Lussier began storming through the field.
On lap four Mazyck released the others when he pulled into pit lane with an issue. Lussier capitalized on the commotion and made his way through, taking over the GT-1 lead from Alger.
A few laps later it was Gorrondona's turn. After a number of unsuccessful attempts, Gorrondona finally passed Alger heading into the high-speed turn three sweeper.
Meanwhile Lussier's progress had been temporarily halted by Sonny Whelen, who had been maintaining a solid third position behind Booth ever since the start. Lussier hounded the back of the Marsh Racing Corvette, but Whelen didn't crack.
All that changed on lap nine. Just as Antonelli's engine expired, Lussier made his way past Whelen. The combination of events promoted Lussier and his HSMWorks NFS Racing machine into second outright.
Just as it seemed the race was calming down, more drama struck. With only two laps to go a power steering pump hose burst in Whelen's Corvette forcing him to pit.
There was no such drama for Jim Booth though. In an extremely classy drive since inheriting the lead from Antonelli, the man in the McDonald's sponsored Archer Racing Viper ACR-X had knuckled down to build an 8.175 second lead.
Booth greeted the checkered flag with a clenched fist, and appropriately so- his win was an impressive feat in his first USGTC weekend.
The result gave Booth victory in the GT-Unlimited class from Brad Gorrondona (Viper ACR-X), who finished third overall, and Sonny Whelen.
GT-1 went to Frank Lussier, second outright, from Mark Alger (Viper Comp Coupe) and Kyle Foster (Viper GTS).
The US LED Chevrolet Corvette Z06 of Ron Farmer made it two wins from two in the new GT-3 class.
Each of the winners will receive numerous contingencies from Hoosier, Moton, and others yet to be announced.
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