Braving some of the highest temperatures this year, 11 teams pulled into Willow Springs International Raceway for round five of the SoCal Spec E30 race series.
Right out of the box, Hubert Young showed he was the man to beat by taking the first pole of the weekend with a qualifying time of 1:38.452. Steve Stepanian’s qualifying effort fell short by a tenth, while Charlie Buzzetti posted the third fastest time of the session in a car he rented for the weekend.
The temperature reached 100 degrees as the cars were still for the traditional Spec E30 standing start. All got off to a good start except Stepanian, who had problems finding second gear. After falling back to fourth place, Stepanian was able to get back to second place with Gavin Bristow following him into third place. Neil Daly found himself back in fourth place as he battled for third with Bristow.
Up front, the lead changed on the exit of Turn 7 where Stepanian drafted past Young to take first a few laps into the race. However, his lead was short lived as Young showed his competition the art of passing with impunity on the outside of Turn 2. Stepanian returned the favor to Young each lap exiting Turn 6 showing that exit speed is king. These two washed, rinsed and repeated these passes for the duration of the race. Daly held onto third place because he was just out of reach to join the battle in front of him.
At the line, Stepanian took the win by just .264 seconds over Young in one of the most exciting races of the season. Notably, Sean Aron finished in sixth place, but did so owning the fastest lap of the weekend, posting a 1:39.033!
For Sunday’s race, the finishing order from Saturday was used to set the grid.
Stepanian led the field into Turn 1 from pole. However, Young showed Stepanian he planned on leaving it all out on the track by taking the lead and holding it for the first lap. Unfortunately, on lap five, Young went off in Turn 2 and fell back fourth place. Daly and Charles Buzzetti assumed second and third, respectively.
From there, the real battle was between Daly, Buzzetti and Young, who were nose to tail for the remaining seven laps. Stepanian made his car “wider” to keep Daly at bay, then practiced some masterful race craft by forcing Daly to race Buzzetti and Young for second place. At the checkers, Stepanian won his second race of the weekend. Daly barely beat Young in what is best described as a photo finish.