Michael Lewis Earns GT-1 Hat Trick

Michael Lewis (12) won the SCCA GT-1 National Championship Friday at Road America. (Mark Weber/SCCA Photo)
Michael Lewis (12) won the SCCA GT-1 National Championship Friday at Road America. (Mark Weber/SCCA Photo)

ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Starting from the Gumout Pole Position, Michael Lewis, of Poway, Calif., was under heavy pressure for all 13 laps of the GT-1 race at the 49th SCCA National Championship Runoffs at Road America, but came away with his third consecutive win.

Doug Peterson, of Bonita Springs, Fla., and Cliff Ebben, of Appleton, Wis., finished second and third, respectively

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From the drop of the green flag, Lewis’ No. 12 Goodyear/Cyclo/Redline Oil Jaguar XKR had a mirror full of competitors. Third-starting Peterson opted to keep his nose tucked in behind Lewis through Turn One, enabling him to slide past Ebben and into second — something Lewis wasn’t so excited about.

“The start went really well,” Lewis said. “He [Ebben] seemed to bog a little bit at the start, so I got a bit of a jump. I thought ‘hey this is good,’ but then I looked back and this guy [Peterson] is glued to my bumper, so I had to go deep into Turn One anyway.”

Second-place Peterson challenged Lewis for the lead early, but a hard-charging Ebben distracted the No. 87 3Dimensional.com Chevrolet Corvette driver from his task; this gave Lewis a small amount of breathing room.

“He [Peterson] was making up huge amounts of time on me in corner entry, but we were getting off the corner a little better and when you’re in the front that’s important to do,” Peterson said. “He [Peterson] was there a lot and there were a few times we had the motor of the race for sure. I was just trying to make it as difficult as I could. He was thinking about it (making a pass) a couple times, but we were going pretty deep on the brakes, so I don’t know if he felt comfortable going for it.”

Crossing the finish line 0.478-second ahead of Peterson, Lewis claimed his seventh SCCA National Championship — his third-straight in GT-1.

“Seems hard to believe,” exclaimed Lewis. “I love this track. I have Trans-Am wins here and this is Mecca for GT-1 drivers. To win seven of these things now is pretty surreal.”

After earning the GoPro Hero Move of the Race for his Turn One pass on Ebben, Peterson set the Hawk Fastest Race Lap, a 2:06.832 (113.536 mph) in his pursuit of Lewis.

“I thought I had a really clear shot through Turn One,” Peterson said of the pass. “But, then he [Ebben] snuck in on the outside a little bit, because I was trying to stay with Mike [Lewis]. I just made sure that going down through Turn Three that I was in good shape and that Cliff was behind me.”

Peterson kept Ebben behind him, but never by much. On seemingly each of the 13 laps, Ebben made an attempt to steal the runner-up spot. This prevented Peterson from making a true challenge for the win.

“I think it was the Tony Ave motor that kept Cliff behind me, because this guy [Cliff] is pretty good,” Peterson said. “I probably looked in the mirror more than I looked forward today… I knew that Cliff wouldn’t make a mistake and I knew that he wouldn’t hit me or do something crazy, so I just made sure that I broke deep and maybe even over-slowed initially to get the car to turn and get back to the throttle as soon as I could. I wanted to definitely make sure I kept close touch with Mike. You drive the car as fast as it will go and hope for the best.”

Ebben, the 2009 GT-1 Champion, did his best to get past Peterson, taking several looks to the inside and outside in Turns Seven and 12 with his No. 36 McMahon Group/Stumpf Ford/Hoosier Ford Mustang.

“It was just a spot that I could close up a little bit (Turn Seven), but I never really got close enough to make a good pass,” Ebben said. “It would have been a late, dive-bomb move and I didn’t want to take any chances.

“I could catch up to him [Peterson] in Turn One and Turn Five a little and through the back I could make up a little time too, but I could never quite get enough. I noticed Amy [Ruman] coming up from behind and didn’t want to do anything stupid.”

Without an opportunity to complete a pass, Ebben crossed the line third, 0.563-second behind Peterson.

Starting fifth, Amy Ruman, of Kent, Ohio, made her way around Simon Gregg, of Ponte Verde Beach, Fla., early in the race and did her best to track down the lead trio. With two laps to go, Ruman had the battle for the lead within her sights but ran out of time in her No. 23 McNichols Co./Goodyear/Cenweld Chevrolet Corvette.

Ryan McManus, of Westfield Center, Ohio, finish fifth in the No. 07 McManus Autosport Ford Mustang.