Solo event #1 review!

Photo credit:  Martin Valent

May 13th marked the opening volley for the Steel Cities 2012 season. Despite being mother’s day, with a threat of rain, and being up against a North Hills event; it wasn’t enough to keep 63 drivers from taking to the tarmac at the newly rechristened Pittsburgh International Raceway Complex (formerly Beaverun) Vehicle Dynamics Area.

Big news of the day was Sam Strano making a guest appearance in the Gaus Mitsubishi Evo. This unholy union of car and driver yielded the top PAX time for the day and 3rd overall in raw time, behind the KM shifter kart shared by Greg and Tim Vincent. SCR’s 2011 driver of the year and car owner Frank Gaus was right with Sam with a faster raw time of 35.288, but the run was unfortunately marred by a cone. Despite Kristi Gaus running 3rd in ASP she was easily able to place a top 10 pax finish amongst the large pool of local & out of town talent.

Another non-local who graced SCR this past weekend was Dave Mongomery. In town for Mother’s day he decided to make his presence well known by taking his STS CRX to a 4th place PAX finish. Dave has trophied nationally so to people who knew him this was no surprise. In a good show of sportsmanship 2011 STS champion Greg Maloy was actually very happy about competing against Dave saying “I’d rather lose to a good competitor and learn from it than have no one to run against”.

One driver who is from outside the region, but shows up enough to be considered one of the locals, is Martin Valent. Thanks to an offer by Trevor Hill, Martin was able to compete using Trevor’s R32 in D Stock and ended up with a very respectable 7th place PAX finish despite not being in his own car. Not to be outdone Trevor placed all the way up to 3rd in the PAX standings. Obviously Trevor’s decision not to upgrade to a new Golf R paid off in this first event!

One of the hottest topics over the offseason was the explosive growth of the Super Stock class in the region. It went from barely a handful of cars a few years ago to the largest group of drivers behind the tire index class. Sunday saw 11 drivers running various years & models of Corvettes with the addition of one lone Porsche GT3. Drivers ranged from those with just a few years under their belts, to grizzled veterans, to fresh Evolution School students. For many of the drivers in this class there are no “throw away” events if they want to win. Positions changed constantly during the day as drivers fought for traction across the VDA. But there was one driver out of the gate who pulled times that would make a ASP Evo blush and that was Mark Andy. By Mark’s 3rd morning run he was the only SS car to even enter the 35 second range. The battle for 2nd place came down between two models of C6 corvette. Dan Ireland’s Grand Sport was able to eclipse Randy Pearson’s ZO6 just over 3 tenths. Showing the strength of Dan’s new Grand Sport, co-driver Joe Montoro was very happy to bring the big white vette into the last trophy position.

Every year the street tire index proves new combinations of cars and drivers that usually yield entertaining results. This year looks to be no different as we see last year’s champion Zhao Lang and his D-stock BMW go up against Alex Artayet who moved his GTI up to the SMF class. Alex led Zhao by little over one tenth coming out of the morning heat. Both drivers battled it out, chopping off time well into the afternoon heats. Alex just managed to hold off Zhao by 5 hundredths of a second. Forrest Huebner brought his M3 into 3rd place, followed by local Nick Phillips also wielding a GTI. And in his triumphant return to the steel cities region Nick Jackson parked his ZO6 into the 5th place trophy spot.

In other battles around the paddock. Greg Vincent & Tim Vincent are at it again for a second year in the family shifter kart. Greg would take the opening round beating out Tim by less than a tenth. But Tim showed plenty of speed last year so the action in Kart Modified is far from over. Due to his usual RX8 being temporarily out of service, Brian DePietro went against his religious beliefs and hopped in Steve Vyn’s Honda S2000 to take the win in STR by a scant 2 thousandths of a second over the car owner. In matchup of Japanese rally car vs. American pony car, Paul Lynd would take the win over Gibby Bozicevich in ESP. However will those results remain the same once the two begin hill climbing again later this year?

One nice thing about the Steel Cities Region is there are always drivers willing to give up a seat to help others compete. Megan Biddle was going to run in her Fiesta due to her regular ride in DePietro’s RX8 being unavailable.. This was until bodyman and all around good guy Don Fazekas tossed her the keys to the Spongebob V8 miata. Reportedly Megan was VERY happy with the decision to try out the Miata for the day. Another driver in need was Brant Gajda who is waiting for his Evo to return to action. Thanks to Mike Figliolia offering up his GTI Brant was able to come out and enjoy the day. Though Mike may have had some regrets since Brant went ahead and won STX over the car owner!

Several novices to autocross showed up in cars new to the paddock. One looker was the brand new white Hyundai Genesis coupe of Dustin McGrew. And a very pristine looking Camaro IROC-Z driven by Thomas Andrzejczak and Benjamin Gery. Two new drivers from last year, Chester Charnesky & Chester Charnesky Jr, got so hooked that they showed up this year in SSM with a C6 ZO6 shod with new hoosiers!

It’s not too late to jump in on the fun. Our next event will take place at Pittsburgh International Raceway Complex on June 17th.

Thanks to Martin Valent for the great photos!