Sandro Espinosa made some bold passes to take the win and the Championship in Spec E30, his second in two years.

For the standing start, 32 German inline six-cylinders of the large Spec E30 field revved furiously as the drivers waited for the green flag to get the 2015 NASA Western States Championship race Presented by Toyo Tires on its way. Larry Fraser started on the pole, with Steven Stepanian on the outside of the front row. But as the race got on the way, it was Sandro Espinosa who made a wild early pass nearly putting Stepanian into the wall near the starter stand. Stepanian made the save and recovered quickly. Espinosa was a man on a mission, trying to win the 45-minute race within the first few laps. A few laps later, Espinosa caught the leader, Fraser, and made a pass on the front straight, pumping his fist in the air as he made the pass. But the lead for Espinosa didn’t last long as he put four off in Turn 3, giving Fraser the lead back. Raymond Zanotto, driving the black convertible “Cabriolet” Spec E30, also got underneath Espinosa during the Turn 3 off. But Espinosa wasn’t having any of that as he quickly got back on track and began to use the chrome horn of his front bumper to let Zanotto know he wanted by.

The mental pressure — or maybe the actual force of his bumper — from Espinosa got Zanotto loose in Turn 5 and Espinosa flashed by for second place. Espinosa then set his sights on Fraser in lead, driving his red and white MotoIQ-sponsored, Marlboro livery Spec E30. Espinosa left less than a millimeter between the front of his car and the back of Fraser’s car as they headed into traffic from the 944 Spec field with 15 minutes to go in the race. As Fraser attempted to pass a 944 Spec car between Turns 10 and 11, Fraser spun, giving the lead to Espinosa.

But the race wasn’t over because Zanotto took the lead from Espinosa numerous times as the two men battled back and forth. On the last lap, Zanotto looked inside on Turn 10, but Espinosa held the lead and ultimately took the Spec E30 win in what was the most dynamic and exciting race of the 2015 Western States Championship weekend.

“It was a very enjoyable race, a great fight,” said winner Espinosa. “We switched positions twice on the last lap. It doesn’t get any better than that. Now, I’m setting my sights on VIR and the Eastern States Championship.”

Second-place finisher Zanotto said he needed more power to take down Espinosa, “He would get me on the straight every time. From Turn 3 up through The Corkscrew, I could get him and hold him. It was just unfortunate I didn’t have the power on the front straight.”

Raymond Zanotto had the lead at times, but finished in second place in Spec E30.
Raymond Zanotto had the lead at times, but finished in second place in Spec E30.

Third-place Stepanian finished the race with a broken shifter, “The shifter broke off at the base and I just had to manage the best I could to hold on.”

Steven Stepanian was dealing with a broken shifter late in the race to take third in Spec E30.
Steven Stepanian was dealing with a broken shifter late in the race to take third in Spec E30.

Espinosa picked up a beautiful watch and $4,000 from Toyo Tires for his win. Podium finishers Zanotto earned $3,000, and Stepanian picked up $2,000 from Toyo Tires.

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Image courtesy of Rob Krider