Some overdue good weather in Atlanta brought sunny days and mild-for-August temperatures to the Hotlanta Challenge at Road Atlanta. Saturday’s race saw a healthy grid of 16 racers take the track — led by an E30 convertible pace car! Saturday’s race results followed a pattern that’s becoming increasingly common. Team TPR, consisting of Eric Palacio and dad Julio, qualified first and second and then stayed there for the whole race. Sandro Espinosa tried to make it interesting by staying in Julio’s mirror for most of the race, and claimed the final podium spot. Scott McKay, Jared Stoops, and Robert Patton rounded out the top six. But most of the action was farther back in the pack, seeing a number of position changes throughout the field while multiple local yellows added some challenges. The race again demonstrated one of the most appealing aspects of Spec E30: There’s always somebody to race, no matter where you are in the pack.
Saturday also saw the return of Rich “Fishman” Bratton and his dad to Spec E30. Rich was back from a year’s deployment in Afghanistan and quickly knocked the rust off his driving skills with a fifth-place qualifying run. Unfortunately, a broken brake line put him in the sand trap at 10a near the end of the race. Also, the Spec E30 paddock was sad to hear that our longtime fellow racer Kelly Childress is leaving for a new job in Texas. But Southeast’s loss will be the Texas region’s gain as Kelly is looking forward to racing on those southwest tracks. And while we’re losing one Southeast driver, several new faces have joined the Spec E30 pack. Ben Andrews, John Clark, Davis Gregor and Ryan Whitinger brought their cars out for the Hotlanta event.
On Sunday, an early full-course caution from incidents involving out-of-class traffic brought out a black flag that shortened the race. The terrific NASA grid folks supplied cold water to the drivers baking on the grid during the black flag period. The subsequent quick sprint didn’t allow much movement in the pack. At the front, Sunday was a replay of Saturday, with Eric and Julio Palacio, and Espinosa taking the top three spots once again. Newcomer Whitinger put in an impressive drive for fourth place followed by Scott McKay and Steve Lako.