Virginia International Raceway was the site of the 2022 Spec3 series opener for the Mid-Atlantic Region. The Spec3 grid boasted 10 registered cars, which has become an average-size field for Spec3, thanks to its recent surge in popularity.
The weekend commenced Friday when a new Spec3 build, the black No. 04 piloted by Alex Wieland passed technical inspection on Friday morning. Mr. Wieland then passed NASA Competition School, earning his provisional competition license and the right to compete for the first time on Saturday and Sunday.
The Saturday race saw 2021 NASA Mid-Atlantic Spec3 series champion Charles Ford take the lead in lap one and hold it until the checkered flag dropped. He was shadowed closely by 2021 NASA Mid-Atlantic Spec3 runner-up, Sean O’Hara. Though O’Hara was frequently outpaced by Ford during the 2021 season, O’Hara’s “fresh from the junkyard” motor allowed him to stay within a couple car lengths of Ford for the duration of the race and finish second. In a raging battle, Simon Kim edged out Joey Thomas for the last step of the podium. Farther back in the field, rookie Alex Wieland continued to learn the limits of his new car and shaved more than 3 seconds off his lap times over the course of the weekend.
The event, known as “March Madness,” was unseasonably warm, with ambient temperatures reaching the mid 60s. Though it certainly was not horsepower weather, the top three finishers of the Saturday race were sent to the compliance dyno where they put down 189, 190, and 193 horsepower at the wheels respectively, just shy of the class maximum 195.9 horsepower. The consistent dyno numbers, even on motors with virtually zero service history, are a testament to the level playing field created by the Spec3 rulebook, as well as the reliability of the required M50B25tu motor.
During Sunday morning’s qualifying “Beast of the East” race, Ford posted the quickest lap time in the Lightning run group, beating drivers from Spec MX-5, Super Touring 5/6, Honda Challenge 2, and Spec E30 with a 2:12.151.
The Sunday race was plagued by full-course cautions, leaving only a handful of green-flag laps to make a move. O’Hara caught Ford sleeping during a single-file restart and took the overall lead on the front straight. As Ford and O’Hara battled under braking into the famous Oak Tree turn, O’Hara put two wheels off to the outside but maintained control. Firmly planted to O’Hara’s rear bumper, Ford put four wheels off into the dirt and watched from the grass as much of the field passed by.
Thomas seized the opportunity and pulled alongside O’Hara down the back straight, but O’Hara won the battle for the lead under braking into Turn 14. The podium for Sunday’s race featured O’Hara, Thomas, and Sean O’Connell.