BUTTONWILLOW, Calif. – The SCCA Western Conference Majors Tour is pointed toward a crescendo following Saturday’s round seven at Buttonwillow Raceway, with the intensity clearly picking up as the season builds toward the finale and the championship races heating up.
For the third consecutive Western Conference race, Rylan Hazelton opened the slate with a Super Touring Under win in his No. 49 Driving Ambition/BFGoodrich Tires/HPD/Comptech Honda S2000. This time, however, it took some work.
Hazelton again got in front, but had Tom Wickersham’s No. 74 Maine Straight Racing/BFGoodrich Tires Honda S2000 chasing hard for the race’s duration. With the car getting more and more free as the race went on, Hazelton had at least one major moment when the back end tried to come around quickly, but gathered up and made the finish.
Derrick Ambrose led the B-Spec race early on in his No. 71 Corksport Mazda Performance/Monarch Inspections/BFG MAZDA2, but Michael Tsay closed the gap on lap eight in his No. 45 Honda Racing/HPD Honda Fit. On that lap, Tsay tried to use an opening created by overall leader Hazelton on the inside of Ambrose through the Riverside turn, but the pair made contact. Ambrose spun across the front of Tsay’s Honda, and his day ended while Tsay continued the distance for the win.
Troy Ermish took the GT-Lite win in a brand-new, old car. The No. 38 Datsun 510 Parts Outlet/LS Energy Corp Datsun 510 was built nine years ago, but circumstances left it in a garage, unraced. Ermish bought the car, worked on it over the winter, and brought it to the track for the first time at Thunderhill with an eye on the 2014 SCCA National Championship Runoffs at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, his home track. Teething issues plagued him throughout the weekend, but the car was flawless on the way to a win on Saturday at Buttonwillow.
A first corner incident ended the day of three drivers and left the field to circulate under caution in the second race of the day, but once green, two drivers needed the full 30 minutes to earn wins.
David Ferguson brought his brand-new Prototype 2 No. 75 Veracity Racing Data/Mazda/Hoosier Van Diemen RFS-03/Mazda to Buttonwillow, and it let him down in the first qualifying session as he worked out the kinks. Ferguson started next to last, and then picked his way through the early incident. With three to go he had written off any chance at a victory, still eight seconds behind Paul Decker.
Traffic fell in his favor, however, and Ferguson began to reel Decker’s No. 89 Decker Sports Racing/Hoosier/Decker’s Hot Camp Showers/Global Wine Cellars Decker Mk 1 in. Knowing the track, Ferguson decided on the back stretch of the last lap that he was going to make his move in the left handed corner known as “Phil Hill” – and then pulled it off for the first Mazda P2 win in the Western Conference.
The Formula Continental race was also decided on the final circuit. Yufeng Luo led in the No. 61 Van Diemen BP08 for most of the race, but the tandem of Tom Hope and Andrew Evans had closed to his gearbox when the trio took the one to go board. Luo dropped two wheels off and Hope got a great run down the long back stretch to move into the lead, bringing Evans’ No. 127 Van Diemen RF02 along with him. With a big fist pump at the checkered flag, Hope’s No. 18 H & M Racing Dart Carbir ZTec crossed just in front of Evans and Luo for the win.
While the time sheets show some comfortable wins, some of the third group’s winners had hairy moments on track.
Aaron Bailey won American Sedan in the No. 21 BFGoodrich Tires/RentMyRV.biz/BRE Chevrolet Camaro, but listened to an unidentified noise from his transmission throughout the race. Mike Henderson was trying a new set-up with a new tire size, but still on GT-3 in the No. 2 Mazda/Redline Oil/Goodyear Mazda RX-7.