After a string of previous events where drivers were pummeled by heat and later pelted by rain, everyone finally got a break in the weather as Steel Cities SCCA event #6 got underway. A cool spring day at Pittsburgh International Raceway set the scene for 63 drivers to take to the VDA. The course design by Frank Gaus was eerily reminiscent of event #5 course with its center finish. However it was run in the opposite direction around the VDA. While being quite open in spots, the second half of the course really required drivers to “thread the needle” through some tight turns if they wanted to pull in fast times. This event also marked the first time many drivers would log 6 events for the year. Getting that 6th event in would allow them to be eligible for the points chase in their respective classes. As well as contention for the driver of the year (DOY) battle that is brewing.
We’ll start off with the tire index class who on this day saw a whopping 16 drivers take part. One constant in the index this year has been the SMF pairing of Alex Artayet and Nick Phillips. The fast VW’s immediate took hold at the front of the class during the morning heat. Nick would lead over Alex by just over three tenths coming out of the morning. The pair were just around a second ahead of the next two fastest drivers, Brian Buchanan in his WRX, followed closely by newcomer Matt Shuble in his bright green Porsche Cayman. Not far off the pace was Mark Sanner in 5th, followed closely by John Fink’s Corvette. However as the afternoon runs occurred, everyone made jumps in time that put the morning standings to rest. Alex beat out Nick by a mere three tenths to take home another win in the index class. Matt’s green Porsche has been showing some real speed since its first appearance and passed Brian’s WRX to take over the #3 position. Not to be outdone John Fink led his C6 on charge past Mark Sanner and Brian to pick up 4th overall. Brian would manage to hold off a fast run by Sanner and keep his WRX in the top 5.
The Super Stock class was back to full strength with the return of Dan Ireland’s and Brian Huber’s corvettes from the Peru tour, with Travis Hill returning to the driver’s seat of Huber’s Z06 after recovering from injury. During the morning session, a bid for fast time in the class meant running in the 37 second range. Mark Andy would lead the way with a 37.510 followed ever so closely by Dan Ireland who was a mere five hundredths back. Travis Hill showed he lost very little to his time off with a 37.809 placing him eight hundredths ahead of Randy Pearson’s Z06. While Mark’s morning performance was impressive enough for 2nd in the PAX standings, the first place spot would go to Frank Gaus with his 36.612 in his ASP Evolution. What was really shocking was Tim Vincent’s kart blowing away the rest of the field in the morning with a 33.832 putting him into the 3rd place spot overall. Dan Ireland would occupy the 4th PAX position with Kristi Gaus bringing the Evo home in 5th. Sam Strano showed up wielding his modified Scion FRS, and running under STX rules moved into the 6th place spot on the index. While the morning results looked to be nothing to out of the ordinary, the afternoon would again mess with the standings.
Dan Ireland was pushing hard in his attempts to get his Corvette to catch Mark Andy. On top of this Randy Pearson was closing in on the low 37’s and ended up with a 37.154 on his final run. Dan pushed the vette to the breaking point with a 37.012 which was good enough to stay ahead of Randy and put Dan into 5th overall and Randy in 6th. However, Sam Strano had other plans and pulled a 38.608 to put him in 4th overall just head of Dan in PAX. Mark Andy had put down two 36.6’s in a row and became the first SS car to enter the 36 range. This would have been good enough to lead PAX, if it wasn’t for the fact that Frank Gaus landed a early blow in the Evo with a 36.387 on his first run of the afternoon. However, in the very end it would be a Hail Mary pass from Cory Robb that would win SS and top the PAX index with blazing 36.570 just clipping the Gaus Evo by two hundredths of a second. This is the first time all year a single driver would win PAX more than once. Though as the year carries on other drivers are sure to claim the top spot.
Elsewhere in the top 10 several of the regions top drivers crawled back and held their ground. Trevor Hill’s R32 shook off some bad morning runs to pull in a 38.857 and fall into the 7th place spot. Trevor was followed by Greg Maloy who CRX broke the 38 second barrier with a 38.913 on his last run of the day. Tim Vincent would end up standing on his very impressive morning runs to grab 9th overall. And Travis Hill would move in with Brian’s Z06 round out the top 10.
The STX class was a little large going into this event with six drivers vying for position. While Strano ran away with the class win in his new FRS. Matt Parson’s Mustang would split Sam and his co-driver Raymond Hall who took home 3rd in the Scion. Up in STR, Brian Depietro was co-driving with Steve Vyn in his S2000. Steve would keep his co-driver at bay with a 39.694 to Brian’s 39.735 in the shiny black roadster. In STU Tim Ward would take the morning lead in his new Subaru STI. But while Tim broke into the 39’s during his afternoon runs, Jonathan Sierra came after him with a final run of 39.547 vs Tim’s 39.634 to take home win in STU.
Other happenings around the paddock was Megan Biddle co-driving Jay Gyger’s Porsche GT3 with much delight. Ricky Shank rolling out his project CRX for a quick shake down before the Duryea hillclimb. And news that Pete Kowalik’s Pontiac Vibe was going to stick around in SMF a little longer. This is the last Steel Cities autocross before many of our members leave for the Solo National Championships in Lincoln Nebraska. To those going we wish a safe journey and fast times! We will see everyone back at PIRC on September 16th.
A onboard view of Sam Strano running Mark Andy’s Corvette on a fun run.
Photos for the day by Chris Carlisle.