The NASA Texas Spec Miata season opener at Motorsports Ranch Houston kicked off with three races and three different winners. This class is dominated by the some of the most talented and consistent drivers in the region. Our drivers range in age from 13 to mid 60s, from rookies to veterans and students to doctors, boys to men and girls to women.
For qualifying Saturday, the skies were gray, the temperatures in the 50s with the wind blowing so hard you were glad you had a steering wheel to hold onto. Gale Corley ran the fastest lap on his fourth lap, setting the pole at 1:48.362. P2 through P5 were Hernan Palermo, Alex Bachoura, John Babot and Michael Ross.
Race one had all 33 entries finishing on the lead lap, however separated by as much as 1:31. Gale Corley and Alex Bachoura went back and forth several times for the lead, breaking away from the rest of the pack. The race for P3-P7 was heated, with numerous passes for position. Michael Ross was up to P3 and said, “I went into the bus stop and didn’t slow the car enough, and it put me in P7 where I finished.” Alex Bachoura was the winner of race one, followed by Gale Corley in second and John Babot. Third.
Winner Alex Bachoura put down the fastest lap with a 1:49.059 on lap seven. The hard charger award went to Stephen Jeu, who moved up seven sports to finish P13.
In race two, all drivers started where they finished in race one. Bachoura and Palermo had other commitments, so drivers moved up to fill in those starting spots. Babot took the lead for the first three laps from Corley. Mike Ross took the second spot for a moment until Corley promptly got him back. With approximately one lap remaining, Babot went into Turn 2 with the lead when his engine let go and caught fire.
Officials immediately threw the red flag so corner workers could get to the scene. The crews made quick work of the situation and the race ended short. The top five were Corley in first, Michael Ross in second and Vaughn Duarte in third. NASA Texas 2016 regional Spec Miata champion Trevor McCallion took fourth with Alex Alexander fifth.
Ross ran the fastest lap of the race in lap four at a 1:48.851. The hard charger award went to Carter White, up six spots to finish P17.
For Sunday qualifying, weather conditions were the same as Saturday, a little warmer but still windy and in the 50s. Most drivers said the track was green. Thirty-two Miatas set out to lay down their fastest lap — and fast they were! Ross won the pole with a 1:48.488. Vaughn Duarte qualified second and Alex Bachoura was third. Gale Corley started fourth and Trevor McCallion started fifth. The top 7 qualifiers were separated by a second.
Officials waved off the first start. The second warm-up lap, I am sure, was painfully slow for the drivers. The second time was the charm as 32 cars floored it down to Turn 1. Ross took the lead in The Launch — nicknamed The Launch, because you turn before the apex as it launches you. Duarte took the lead on the front stretch to lead laps six through eight. The front four, Duarte, Bachoura, Ross and Corley broke away from the second pack. The second pack, positions five through 11, were running neck and neck. Any slip-up and you could find yourself dropping down six spots or more. The lead went back and forth between the top four. Ross took the win, with Duarte taking second and Gale Corley third. Trevor McCallion finished fourth and Alexander rounded out the top five.
Bachoura set down the fastest lap of the race at a 1:49.925, but on the last lap went off track in the battle for the win and came back to finish P8. The hard charger was Phillip McCammon up 10 places to finish P20.