Thornton dominates in Road America
With the first qualifying session on Friday evening plagued by a Wisconsin downpour, Masters USA needed an early alarm for qualifying 2 at the WeatherTech International Challenge featuring Brian Redman presented by Hawk at the iconic Road America circuit. Greg Thornton (Lotus 91) was first of 17 cars out on track and stayed at the top of the timesheet throughout the whole session. With a few misty patches hanging in the air, Chris Farrell pushed his March 821 to second slot on the grid ahead of a determined James Hagan in the Candy liveried Tyrrell 011.
Bud Moeller (Ensign MN179) comfortably took 4th spot ahead of the fastest car in practice session 1, Jamie Constable, Lola T370. Ron Maydon was an impressive 6th in the LEC CRP1, heading James King who had an early spin in his March 761. Doc Bundy, the second of the four Lotus’s on track, was a disappointing 8th ahead of Robert Blain, March 751. Last year’s winner, Ethan Shippert, suffered a suspected fluid leak in the Brabham BT44 and sneaked the last top ten spot having only completed 2 laps.
Rock Gumpert sadly spun off in qualifying and put pay to taking part in both races over the weekend. Bruce Marquand’s BRM P207 was unfortunately unable to make the grid.
The sun was shining as 16 cars took to the grid for Race 1. Pole sitter, Greg Thornton in the Lotus 91, presented a masterclass, leading from start to finish.
Australian Chris Farrell (March 821) held firm in second spot, leaving the rest of the field to excite the local crowd. James Hagan (Tyrrell 011), held third spot on the first lap from the Moeller in his Ensign, but Moeller was having none of it and he took third spot on lap 2 and held firm till he crossed the finish line. Further down the field Shippert, starting from tenth had made it up to fifth within 3 laps but his charge was short-lived as he was forced to retire after losing fifth gear.
Hagan was soon joined by a charging trio of James King (March 761), Ron Maydon (LEC CRP1) and Jamie Constable (Lola T370) who all changed places during the second half of the race with King coming out on top and the first non-ground effect class car to cross the line. Maydon finished 5th overall ahead of Hagan and Constable had to settle for sixth and seventh place respectively.
Robert Blain’s March 751 held off a faltering Doc Bundy (Lotus 79) and a consistent Keith Frieser (Shadow DN1) as they all made the top ten. The pair of Lotus’s driven by Andrew Beaumont (Lotus 81) and Chris Locke, back in the Lotus 79 that suffered fire damage at the Spring Classic earlier in the year, held off attacks from the Shadows of Charles Warner (DN9) and the improving Dalmo de Vasconcelos (DN5). Pete Racely’s Shadow DN8 struggled to get going and retired on lap 3.
Overnight storms left their mark on the circuit but sun had dried the track by the time 16 Masters USA cars made their way to the grid. Thornton continued where he left off in Race 1 with a charge in his Lotus 91 that left Chris Farrell two seconds per lap behind. Farrell in the Rothmans liveried March 821 had to again settle for a lonely second place but he was delighted with the car’s performance after disappointing results in Canada last month.
James Hagan was briefly challenged by Bud Moeller Ensign but Hagan held onto to 3rd spot and stayed ahead until the chequered flag.
On the first lap Jamie Constable had a coming together with Ron Maydon that left Maydon spinning and at the back of the grid and Constable vulnerable. James King, in the Vittorio Bambilla March, overtook Constable’s Lola T730 and a charging Ethan Shippert in the Brabham BT44, who again moved up the field as the Lola slipped to 6th. Shippert had Moeller in his sights on the penultimate lap but ran out of tarmac and had to settle for the 5th place slot at the finish.
Chris Locke suffered with brake problems on lap 4 and was joined in the pits by James King with a damaged nose on the 5th lap, thus leaving the door open for top ten places to go to Lotus 79 driver Doc Bundy, Robert Blain and Keith Frieser. Enjoying the Road America experience Andrew Beaumont, Lotus 81, saved his best lap to the very last of the weekend, as he successfully held off Charles Warner as they finished 10th and 11th respectably. Ron Maydon made a valiant effort to move back up the field after his first lap spin to finish 12th ahead of the Shadows of Dalmo de Vasconcelos and Pete Racely, racing the DN8 for the first time.
Combined Class Prizes
1st Greg Thornton Lotus 91
2nd Chris Farrell March 821
3rd Bud Moeller Ensign MN179
1st Jamie Constable Lola T370
2nd Robert Blain March 751
3rd Keith Frieser Shadow DN1