Everyone was eager to drive the new spring package for Spec E30 at Buttonwillow in April. The question was, would the old track record of 2:05.559, which was set at this event in 2016 by Michael Mihld, hold up? When the qualifying session concluded, brows raised when they saw that Andrew Clark posted a 2:04.407 lap time!
In qualifying, Clark somehow went faster than he did in the morning warmup, securing pole position by laying down a smoker of a lap at 2:03.573! Not to be left behind, Sean Aron posted his fastest lap of 2:04.303 and .3 seconds behind him Steve Stepanian laid down a 2:04.619.
While the track was rewarding in the morning qualifying session, it would not be as accepting of speed during the afternoon race.
As the green flag fell, Stepanian and Aron got a tremendous start and were up to the doors of Clark, splitting him as they headed toward Turn 1 and were door to door exiting Turn 1. They sorted things out before the Esses and Aron led the first lap. His lead was short lived, and at the end of the front straight, Stepanian pressed an attack and took the lead. The remaining train of cars, including Mihld, Ed Wagner, Clark and Forenz Arabian tussled it out while keeping the two leaders in sight. Aron stuck close to Stepanian for the duration of the race just waiting for a mistake, but none materialized and Stepanian won the race while posting only the third fastest lap time of the race. Aron owned the fastest lap of the race with a 2:06.169.
For Sunday’s main race, Team Black Swan Research’s slow departure from the green flag allowed Stepanian to sneak up the inside and move into the second spot behind Wagner. A five-car train broke away from the pack, all nose to tail. On lap two, Clark craftily got inside of Stepanian going into Phil Hill and took the second spot away.
On lap six, Wagner entered the Bus Stop wide and dropped a left rear wheel off the track, which shot him across the track in front of the field. He was able to collect the car and continue, but was now at the back of the field. Clark opened up a two-car lead over Stepanian for a few laps, but became mesmerized by a spinning Miata and Stepanian drove past Clark while he was watching the show. Aron and Team Black Swan Research also passed Clark, moving him to fourth. At checkers, the front pack was led by Stepanian, then Aron on his bumper in second and Team Black Swan Research in third.—