Fresh off two Spec Miata and two Teen Mazda Challenge wins at Buttonwillow Raceway in April, Uthman Alaoui continued to show significant speed when the field converged on Willow Springs International Raceway in May. Right out of the gate, Alaoui notched the top qualifying time of 1:36.260, followed by Rob Burgoon and fellow TMC racer Cooper Hicks with a 1:37.852.
With 944 Spec and Honda Challenge taking the first two green flags in front of Spec Miata, the fields were sure to mix. Uthman Alaoui started from pole, and then made some smart moves as he weaved through out-of-class traffic. He lost the lead briefly, but was able to get back into first to take his third win this season.
“First off, I’m so happy to represent OpenFender.com and give them three wins in a row, so it’s been a great season for us,” Alaoui said. “Traffic was pretty chaotic. Rob and I were working through it till we hit a pretty big gaggle off Turn 9 in the middle of the race. From there, Rob dropped back a bit and then Ethan kind of took his spot. We got through all that traffic with him and me battling it out, and I was able to judge all the moves he was making correctly and hung on to win. It was a little crazy, but you can have them all easy.”
TMC driver Ethan Lampe, racing for the second time at Willow Springs dropped back a bit at first, but was able to capitalize on out-of-class cars to catch up and take second place, where he finished.
“In the beginning, I lost the leaders, so the traffic helped me a bit, so I’m kind of happy about that,” Lampe said. “They got a gap early on and then I closed the gap because I got around traffic better than they did. I managed to pick up a spot and finish right behind the leader.”
After holding the lead briefly, second-place starter Rob Burgoon dropped back a few spots because of a treacherous dust cloud in Turn 9, but was able to claw his was back to third at the finish.
“At one point, because of traffic I was able to get ahead of Uthman and I think one of the Hondas had an off in 9,” Burgoon said. “That caused an opaque dust cloud and a whole bunch of drivers piled in full-faith, and I think we all made it through OK, but some people lost their nerve in the middle of the cloud and started braking, but I was able to see enough of it to see that happening, so I managed not to smack into anyone, but shortly after that a bunch of Miatas passed me and I was thinking, ‘Oh, gosh. I didn’t realize they were so close.’”
In Teen Mazda Challenge, Alaoui finished first, with Ethan Lampe in second and Sophia Storey in third.
The race director rearranged the race group the following day, putting Spec Miata up front, which Alaoui put to good use in the qualifying race to take pole for Sunday’s main.
At the start, KC Cook got in front of Alaoui in Turn 1 and led the majority of the race. Traffic was less of a factor, but Cook couldn’t quite carry the lead till the end.
“We had to get the car dialed back in. The offset bushings ended up flipping around, so yesterday’s race I was dealing with a tire that had no camber. We were able to get that fixed after the race yesterday,” said Cook, who finished second. “It worked better today and we put some new tires on, but it wasn’t enough for first. Uthman had a good car the whole time. He was just waiting behind me to make a move. I led half the race, but he had the speed.”
Alaoui likely was paying too much attention to his mirror at the start, which is what allowed Cook to get around him.
“I’ll admit that in the first corner I was too busy keeping Ethan behind me and I let KC get around both of us,” Alaoui said. “From there I was just working with him, trying to get away from the pack and once I thought we had enough of a gap, I got to his outside in Turn 1 and just drove around him.”
That was Alaoui’s second Spec Miata win of the weekend. Coming in third, Ethan Lampe was in the hunt at first, but dropped back a bit midway through the race. Lampe had experienced some mysterious VVT electrical problems in races earlier in the year, so two podiums at Willow Springs was a welcome finish.
“The first half of the race went OK, but then I just started falling off and losing pace. I couldn’t keep up with the first two guys, so I just tried to keep my ground and secure third,” Lampe said. “My right tires are shot, so I think I was just losing grip. The race was pretty good besides that. I’m just happy the car runs.”
In Teen Mazda Challenge, Alaoui was again first, with Lampe in second and Cooper Hicks in third.