The Radical Cup, America's newest sportscar series, concluded its inaugural event in spectacular fashion on Sunday at Miller Motorsports Park, Utah. Furious four-wide action turned into nose-to-tail racing lap after lap during Round 2 of the championship. Gerhard Watzinger and John Falb made series history, becoming the first ever back-to-back race winners, while Jay Torres gained his first podium.
With a race and another days running under their belts, it was no surprise to see new names near the top of timesheet for Sunday's qualifying session. Mark Allan (#36) bounced up the charts to be 4th fastest in SR3, and making the biggest impression, Jay Torres (#123) qualified 3rd in class after missing all of Saturday.
Nevertheless, it was status quo for the front row as Gerhard Watzinger (SR8, #32) and John Falb (SR3, #77) took their second consecutive class pole positions.
And while the battle for qualifying was over, another race quickly developed in the garages- to get Ron Fletcher's SR3 (#17) rebuilt in time for the race. Fletcher's car had suffered considerable damage after a tire de-beaded in the morning's practice session sending him careering off track.
Highlighting the genuine camaraderie and goodwill between the drivers, parts were donated and a number of mechanics, and even series principal Simon Shepard, stepped in to help. To the delight of the entire field, Fletcher lined up to take the start.
As the green flag flew Randy Carpenter (SR8, #85) made it three wide while passing Falb and Bullock for second overall, while his son Ryan (SR3, #05) attempted the same with Torres and Allan for 5th place.
For a moment Ron Eckhardt (SR3, #93) then made wide it four wide, before wisely conceding;
"I was driving up between two cars, and my real estate ran away. I got pinballed a little."
Everyone then made it cleanly through turns one, two and three before a love-tap in turn four from Falb unsettled Randy Carpenter into a spin.
The biggest mover and shaker however was Ron Fletcher who amazingly managed to calve his way from last place to seventh outright in four corners. Then in the hairpin, he went one better, pulling off a brilliant late move to pass Ryan Carpenter.
Ryan didn't give up though, and the pair went nose to tail down the front straight, before Ryan made an equally impressive move back around the outside of Fletcher into turn one.
Seizing the moment Ryan then dived down the inside of turn five for the second lap in a row to take Eckhardt, while just in front Torres had his hands full fending off Allan for fourth in class.
Perhaps trying to hang onto Ryan, Fletcher put an end to his valiant charge through the field by coming unstuck in the Attitudes chicane.
Still on the move Ryan then made his way past Allan in the final corner. However, a lap later all of Ryan's hard work came undone when he spun into the hairpin allowing Allan, Eckhardt and Bruce Jones (SR3, #17) through.
After gaining the position Jones then tempted Eckhardt in the Attitudes chicane, who thought better of it;
"I just got sprayed with stones [from Jones' car]- my car looks like it's got chicken pocks."
Jones eventually made his way past Eckhardt in the hairpin, while at the front of the field Watzinger was pushing hard to keep the leading SR3s of Falb and Bullock at bay;
"It was interesting. John [Falb] and Tony [Bullock] were awfully close to me, so I pushed for two or three laps."
And even though the gap opened up slightly Watzinger was still feeling the pressure;
"When you're in front, it's easy to lose focus. I was actually glad to see two [back marker] cars at the end because I had something to chase, and I got back in my groove."
On the final lap Ryan Carpenter had more trouble at the hairpin and, in a last ditch effort to pass Eckhardt for 6th in class, looped his SR3 for the second time. After the race his frustration was clear;
"I unraveled, and I couldn't stop unraveling. [But] it's hard to save tires when you're chasing somebody."
There were no such dramas for Watzinger though, who greeted the checker to take his second class win of the year. He was closely followed by SR3 winner Falb, who also made it two for two, and Bullock, who had to settle for second in class yet again.
Along with being presented with special machined trophies created by Bernard Richards Manufacture timepieces, each of the class winners will receive a set of Dunlop Tires.
Jay Torres completed the SR3 podium, taking 3rd in his first race of the season. Home fourth in the SR3 class, Allan was elated;
"This was one of the most fun races I've ever had. We were battling like crazy. These guys are my friends and we try as hard as we can, but it's not in anger. It's in fun."
Finishing fifth Jones added, "It's difficult to pass when all the skills, and all the cars are so equal. You have to push the car in front of you to make a little mistake."
Eckhardt, Todd Slusher, Ryan Carpenter, John Thompson and Fletcher rounded out the top ten in SR3.
Watzinger was again joined by Randy Carpenter (2nd) and Adam Merzon (3rd) for the SR8 podium.
The new national Radical Cup series, open to all SR3 and SR8 Radical sportscars, now heads to Road Atlanta for Rounds 3 & 4 of the championship, April 12-14.
The event will also feature NARRA's US GT Championship, the opening rounds of the 2013 SRT Viper Cup, the East Coast's premier time-attack series, the Whelen US TimeTrial Championship, and the US Performance Driver Education program which allows all high performance car owners to take to the track during a real race weekend.
Entries for all series are still open. Car clubs and spectators are welcome at the event.
For Saturday's race report click here.