A beautiful cool spring day marked the beginning of Steel Cities 2013 autocross season at Pittsburgh International Race Complex in Wampum Pennsylvania. A record breaking 96 drivers consisting of long time SCR members, novices, and even a large chunk of drivers who came from Ohio to shake some rust off on the VDA. Course designer Frank Gaus laid an interesting technical course down that was met by rave reviews from many drivers. The course was a mix of rewarding those who looked ahead in some spots while also exhibiting patience in others. A crossover and a long straightaway along the backside of VDA capped off the design. The larger driver turnout pushed the return of the three heat “Run, Work, Rest” order to get through the day. Also new for this event was live timing that drivers could check class positions from their smartphones!
One of the big stories throughout last year was the massive Super Stock class whose battles were headliners at most of the events. This year though marks a clear paradigm shift as several well-known drivers have decided to make their stand in the fiercely completive tire index class. One of the reasons is SCR allows for a PAX multiplier to make the times from cars in the tire index competitive in the overall PAX index. Several long time stalwarts have returned to the class including Bruce Wesley & Mark Sanner in their respective S2000’s, the GTi duo of Nick Phillips & Alex Artayet, the Vincent Family’s Miata, and 2012 Novice of the year John Fink in his Corvette C6. Two longtime local drivers switched classes this year in a bid to rule the index class. After winning Super Stock last year Mark Andy has set his sights on the index class with his Mazda RX8. Long time ST competitor Mike Ferchak surprised everyone over the winter when he bought a new Scion FRS to replace his Subaru 2.5RS. To add to the mix on Sunday Ted Weidner came out of hiding with his Miata. Alex Artayet’s GTi is temporarily down so he bummed a ride in Nick Phillip’s GTi. In the morning this allowed Alex to climb to 5th in the standings with a 46.059. Bruce Wesley brought his S2000 in with a 46.339 which would be good enough for 4th during the morning heats. But the interesting thing coming out of the morning was the top 3 cars all stacked together taking up the 8th, 9th, and 10th spots in the overall PAX index. Third was Ted Weidner’s Miata who was standing on the heels of Mark Andy’s RX8 in 2nd. But holding down first was Mike Ferchak with a 45.962 which held little over a two tenths advantage to the 46.2 set by Mark Andy. Going into the afternoon last year’s tire index champion Alex Artayet began to learn Nick’s car a little better and fought his way up past Ted to a 3rd place finish. Newcomer Shawn Bauman fought hard behind Nick Phillips and the two came in to the 7th & 6th spots respectively in the index. Bruce Wesley fell one position to 5th. As well as Ted Weidner who now resided in 4th behind Alex. Mark Andy picked up his pace by cracking off a 45.956 to barely eek ahead of Mike. Mark would finish off the day with a 45.330 from his RX8 on his last run to take the first win of the season in the tire index class. With the new tire index PAX multiplier Mike Ferchak’s time would net him a top 10 finish in the PAX index coming in at number 10. While Mark’s fastest time would push him all the way up to 6th in the overall PAX standings.
As with the case last year, the battle near the top of the PAX index is never an easy one. While the SS class was down in size, it was still making itself known amongst the ranks of driver in the top 10. This year Dan Ireland is back in the big white Grand Sport Corvette. He is joined by a new co-driver Michael “Mitch, Figs, Hamfist” Figliolia. Returning as well is the always fast Randy Pearson in his Z06 and longtime SS veteran Brian Huber. Fending off the Super Stock cars near the top of the heap is last year’s driver of the year Frank Gaus and his wife Kristi Gaus who have pushed their Evo up to Street Mod this year. Several old autocross rides have returned for 2013 with Travis Hill in his Porsche 968. Jay Gyger in his vintage tangerine colored 911. And Chris Carlisle back out in STC with his Civic Si. Rounding off the list is the always fast Ethan Connor in his D Street Prepared BMW. Greg Maloy in his very fast STS Honda CRX. Cory Robb has teamed up with Tim Vincent to copilot his KM kart this year. And last but not least there was Trevor Hill who rolled out to meet the field in a new Mini Cooper of all things. The second group to run in the morning would see Chris Carlisle in his rejuvenated STC Civic jump to the top of the PAX standings with a 45.130 followed by Ethan Conner’s BMW with a 43.657. However the third run group would take over the battle for the lead as Dan Ireland pounded through the course with a 41.896 that bested Frank Gaus’s Evo by seven tenths in PAX. Travis Hill crossed the line with a strong 44.189 to take over the 3rd spot in PAX. Trailing Travis would be Randy Pearson’s Z06 with a 42.906. Chris Carlisle rounded out the top 5 followed by a very fast Tim Vincent who was busy driving the wheels off his kart with 39.015. Going into the afternoon Frank turned on the afterburners ducking into the 41’s in the SM Evo. While this did close the gap on Dan’s big Corvette who would end up standing on his morning run it wasn’t quite enough. Dan Ireland took his first PAX win at SCR followed by Frank less than a tenth back with his best time of 41.735. Clawing his way back to the top of the field was Chris Carlisle’s Civic who’s 44.615 would land him in the 3rd place position. Randy Person picked up an extra tenth over his morning run to just BARELY sneak ahead of Travis Hill in PAX index by .047 to take over the 4th place position. Travis would round out the top 5 for the day. Despite being in the tire index Mark Andy would drop his RX8 into 6th place. Ethan Conner laid down a half second improvement over his morning runs with a 43.127 to hang onto his 7th place position. Tim Vincent put down a wild final run with the kart barely under control to pull in a FTD of 38.628 and that would plant him in 8th for the day. Trevor Hill gradually coxed more speed from the Mini as he moved from 12th during the morning runs to 9th overall with 46.404 to finish the Mini’s first outing. Rounding out the top 10 was another tire index competitor Mike Ferchak in his Scion FRS.
New for SCR this year is better tracking for our new novice drivers so they can better see how they are doing. Working off the same basis as the tire index, PAX times are used to put focus on driver skill as a measuring stick rather than raw speed. We had an interesting mix of cars come out and get their feet wet for their first time. At the top of the novice sheet was a brand new 2013 Porsche 911 driven by Charles Hu with a 49.506. Charles was followed closely by a car that couldn’t be more different, but showed almost as much speed as Paul Cunningham pulled in a 53.921 in his Nissan Maxima. Troy Simpson would lead his RX8 in with 53.406 to be the 3rd fastest novice on file. And just BARELY beating out Kate Figliolia’s GTi for the 4th place spot was Jim Andrzejczak whose PAX time was separated by a mere four hundredths of a second.
There was action in the other classes as well. For the first time in nobody knows how long Dave Mohar and his son Adam brought the family Corvette out to play in BSP. Dave would take the win over National Road Rally veteran Al Hogan who also came out to join the SCR crowd for the day. Gibby Bozicevich would take on all comers in a six car ESP class. Gibby’s 45.026 would barely hold off Tom Buskey who’s final run of 45.110 would leave him just eight hundredths of a second out of first. Paul Lynd’s WRX pulled in a 45.543 to round out the top three in E Street Prepared. Another six car class was STX in which the familiar Lobster Taco Racing RX8 of Brian DiPietro & Megan Biddle would finish 1st and 2nd respectively. With Trent McMillion’s Ford Mustang completing the top three in STX. Despite not having the best luck with cones Tim Ward pushed his Subaru STi to a 44.936 to take the win in STU. Tim was followed by Brian Buchanan in his Pontiac GTO in 2nd and Jordan Kulik’s BMW M3 in 3rd.
Steel Cities event #2 will be underway May 19th at PittRace so come on out and join us!
Some on-board video from Dan Ireland’s PAX winning run in his Grand Sport Corvette.
And for a view from a completely different car here is Chris Carlisle’s STC Honda Civic on it’s fastest run.
All pictures provided by Dan Ireland.