Ten Spec Miatas showed up to do battle at Willow Springs International Raceway at the season opener in March. Steven Champlin wasted no time and snared pole position followed by Mike Rose and Jeff Jeppesen.
With the benefit of a radio and a good spotter, Jeppesen nailed the start and jumped out to an early lead. However, with eight classes racing in that run group, Jeppesen got caught in traffic, which allowed Champlin to get past. Eventually, Rose passed Jeppesen and set his sights on Champlin, and the two battled for the lead all race long.
“I think I have a few years on him and I think he was surprised to see me go high in Turn 9 and go low in 9 the next lap,” Rose said. “But the whole time, he was a great racer, and he had the horsepower going down the straightaway so I would not get in his way. I let him by and looked to take advantage of a mistake, and ended up finishing second.”
Also caught out at the start, Champlin had to fight his way to the front, which included passing not only other Spec Miatas, but also back-marking 944 Spec cars.
“Mike Rose and I had a great race. We fought back and forth for probably the last 10 laps, each of us passing each other every lap,” Champlin said. “It certainly wasn’t an easy race, probably one of the most hard-fought I’ve ever been in. I was just lucky enough to come out with the win.”
Meanwhile, the battle for third raged between Jeppesen and Brett Becker, who got even with Jeppesen a few times, but never could get around him. The two went at it lap after lap. At the checkers, Jeppesen got the last spot on the podium.
“I had the best race I’ve ever had with the best friends I’ve ever had,” he added. “With Brett and everybody else, we were three- and four-wide, two-wide, side-drafting, bump-drafting. It was just awesome. I could not have asked for a better race, closer, tighter, nobody gave anything, everybody worked hard and no paint transfer.”
Sunday’s race had Champlin on pole again, followed by Rose and Ken Saward in third. Becker qualified fourth. When the green flag flew, Becker pulled ahead in Turn 1 and barreled toward Turn 2 where a 944 Spec car began to spin. Everyone got through OK, and Becker held the lead for a lap or so when Saward had a strong run around Turn 2 and slipped under him in Turn 3. Champlin also got past Becker and Saward, and then checked out to take the win. Becker held third for a few laps until he was passed by Shawn Felix-Tuuu. At the checkered flag, it was Champlin in first, Saward in second and Felix-Tuuu in third.