When the NASA Southern California converged on Auto Club Speedway in early June, Teen Mazda Challenge driver Uthman Alaoui arrived with the season points lead and a four-race win streak. He had been putting one of the only 1.6 cars in the field to good use.
Starting from third on grid, Alaoui trailed fellow TMC competitor Ethan Lampe, who has had his share of ignition problems on his VVT car this year, but his start from pole was a good indicator his car was going to behave this weekend. Robert Srery started from second. Lampe held the lead for most of the race and looked to be in good position to take his first win, but out-of-class traffic came into play, and that allowed Alaoui to get by him at the stripe to take the win.
“I’m really happy to represent all those supporting me, OpenFender.com, my parents and the Hicks family for providing a great car,” Alaoui said afterward. “On the last lap, we encountered some lapped traffic and that gave me enough of an opening from him being checked up to get on his outside on the final straight and then beat him by a photo finish, like 6 or 7 inches.”
Lampe finished second, and his car never missed a beat all day.
“On the last lap, unfortunately, lapped traffic ruined my chances at a win today, but it happens,” Lampe said. “We’ll go and get it tomorrow.”
From his second-place start on grid, Srery held on to take third place, his first podium this season.
“I missed a shift in the first corner, but after that they got me on the inside, and I made a couple of mistakes and then after that it was basically trying to make sure I stayed in third and keep ahead of the two drivers behind me,” he said.
In TMC, the podium was Alaoui in first, Lampe in second and Sophia Storey in third.
Sunday’s race saw Lampe take the green from pole position, and on that day Lampe was hooked up and he had a strategy, which was good enough for him to take the win, his first in Spec Miata and Teen Mazda Challenge.
“From the beginning my goal was just to not overdrive,” Lampe said. “I knew if they hooked up they would start pushing and I would start falling back because of it and I just stayed consistent, being within .3 seconds of my lap the whole race, and managed to pull a gap and get the win by 13 seconds.”
Fellow TMC competitor Storey likely would have won the hard charger award if there were one, push-drafting from midpack to take second place.
“I started seventh and I honestly fell back a little bit on the start, but once my car came in, it felt really good and I just started working through the field,” Storey said. “I tried to work with everyone I could, but I just tried to get to the front as quickly as possible, so it turned out pretty good at the end.”
Sunday’s finish put an end to Alaoui’s five-racing win streak, and it was largely due to a dodgy gearbox that had been giving him trouble all weekend. By the time Sunday’s race began, it didn’t have much life left in it at all.
“About a quarter of the way through the race, third gear pretty much stopped working almost entirely, so we were managing that,” he said. “I fell back a bit, and then once I figured out how to drive around the problem, we were able to fight back and at the end of the day I was able to push my teammate to a two-three finish. So, overall, I’m really happy with how the first part of the season has gone.”
The TMC podium was the same as the Spec Miata podium.