ELKHART LAKE, Wis. — Cliff Ebben dominated Saturday’s GT1 class race in the 50th SCCA National Championship Runoffs at Road America, leading all 13 laps at the 4.048-mile, 14-turn track.
Second was Doug Peterson and third was Michael Lewis.
Ebben, the SafeRacer polesitter who barely edged Michael Lewis for the top position on the grid, averaged 113.630 mph in 27-and-a-half minutes. Ebben — who also won the GT1 class in 2003 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and 2009 at Road America — won by 28.410 seconds over Peterson.
“I didn’t realize that,” said Ebben, when told of the winning margin of victory. “Any of these guys or anyone in the field really could have won. I was lucky; this is my lucky day.”
Ebben was challenged momentarily by Lewis after the 17-car field took the green flag. Running side-by-side, Lewis attempted to pass Ebben on the outside of turn one, but couldn’t complete the pass and backpedaled several positions. Meanwhile, Ebben quickly established a lead, which was nearly seven seconds after only two laps.
Ebben turned the Hawk Performance Hot Lap of the race with a time of 2:05.647 (114.607 mph), a race record. Each lap, Ebben extended his advantage, sometimes by two or three seconds a lap.
“I can’t hear too well on the radio, so I didn’t realize that,” Ebben said. “I was looking for those guys to come up behind me at any time. The car felt a little bit slippery, but I guess it was less slippery than everybody else.
“I’m really happy. It’s great. This is the last (Runoffs) that is going to be here for awhile, and it’s in my backyard. It’s probably the best chance I had (to win) for awhile, so I’m happy.”
Meanwhile, Peterson, in the No. 8 3Dimensional.com Chevrolet Corvette, fought more than half of the race with Kyle Kelley, who moved from eighth to second in the opening two laps, which earned him the GoPro Hero Move of the Race. But Kelley, in the No. 8 UPRacing.com/Jamison Eng./1st Class Chevrolet Corvette, pulled into the pits after nine laps with mechanical issues and promptly retired.
“I started off a little sketchy, and tried to stay with Cliff as much as I could,” Peterson said. “I tried to brake and shift and drive all at the same time, and that didn’t work very well for me. And when I did shift, I shifted to the wrong gear. We did the best we could.
“I would close in on Kyle and then he would walk off a little bit, and we went back and forth a couple times,” Peterson added. “He was a super driver. I had a great time out there.”
Lewis, in the No. 12 Goodyear/Cyclo/Redline Oil Jaguar XKR, managed to move back to third by the checkered flag. He was aiming for a fourth consecutive victory in the class.
“The luck kind of ran out this year,” Lewis said. “I made a good start there on the front straightaway, but I ran out of room at the exit and I paid the price. That took me back to sixth or so. The car was just never right. I doubt anyone would have had anything for Cliff today. He was totally hooked up and gone. My car was just nowhere after that; something happened to it.”
Finishing fourth was Simon Gregg, who drove the No. 59 Derhaag Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette. He was followed by Kevin Rich in fifth driving the No. 95 Cleaning System Specialist Ford Mustang.
1, (1), Cliff Ebben, Appleton, WI, Ford Mustang, 13.
2, (3), Doug Peterson, Bonita Springs, FL, Chevrolet Corvette, 13.
3, (2), Michael Lewis, Poway, CA, Jaguar XKR, 13.
4, (4), Simon Gregg, Ponte Vedra Beach, FL, Chevrolet Corvette, 13.
5, (5), Kevin Rich, Round Rock, TX, Ford Mustang, 13.
6, (11), Jim McAleese, Leesburg, VA, Chevrolet Corvette, 13.
7, (6), David Fershtand, Fort Worth, TX, Chevrolet Corvette, 13.
8, (9), Denny Lamers, Neenah, WI, Ford Mustang, 13.
9, (14), Phillip Daus, Mt Prospect, IL, Chevrolet Camaro, 13.
10, (12), Tom Smith, Springdale, AR, Chevrolet Corvette, 13.
11, (10), Dave Ruehlow, Oconomowoc, WI, Ford Mustang, 13.
12, (15), J. Richard Grant, Germantown, TN, Chevrolet Corvette, 12.
13, (17), James Cantrell, Tucson, AZ, Chevrolet Corvette, 11.
14, (13), Terry Giles, Loxahatchee, FL, Chevrolet Corvette, 9.
15, (8), Kyle Kelley, Huntington Beach, CA, Chevrolet Corvette, 8.
DNF, (16), Rick Dittman, Prairie View, IL, Chevrolet Corvette, 5.
DNF, (7), David Pintaric,