Spec E30 had some of its most exciting racing ever at Southeast Region’s 2017 December finale, Santa’s Toy Run.
In qualifying, competing in a large field of 32 Spec E30s, Alex Barroso and Ryan Whitinger stunned the field by coming back from a year-long absence and taking the front row. In the second row were three-time Spec E30 National Champion Sandro Espinosa, and Chris Matos at Road Atlanta for his first time. In the fourth row was Scott McKay, fresh from a heartbreaker at the Eastern States Championships. In the eighth row, in a somewhat horsepower-challenged car, was Bimmerworld pro Seth Thomas and 17-yr old Turner Hilliard.
After a standing start, the 32 Spec E30s gradually formed multiple groups of cars, each battling with only inches of separation, three and then two-wide in turn after turn, and sliding through Turn 1 bumper to bumper at 90 mph.
In the Lightning race, there were 67 cars vying for position on the 2.5-mile course. As a result, there was constant opportunity for the Spec E30s to exploit out-of-class traffic to foil the schemes of their buddies.
With no full-course yellows, it was white-knuckled racing from green to checker. Ultimately, Sandro Espinosa won the last race of the season, followed by Alex Barroso and Mark Issa.
Sunday’s no-points fun race began with a standing start. The cars were gridded based on Saturday’s qualifying times, but inverted so the fastest times started from the rear of the standing start. Shawn Meze, starting second, was quickly joined by Scott Gress, coming up from 12th. Working together, they managed to stay ahead for six laps until faster drivers got clear of the battling Spec E30 pack and got by Meze and Gress.
A full-course yellow was contrived to stack the field up and the pace car was deliberately put in the wrong location to add to the entertainment value. Ultimately Team Patton Parkhurst won by two laps … in a 35-minute race against some of the finest road racers in the nation. Apparently, timing and scoring can be bribed.
Congratulations to the Southeast region 2017 Spec E30 champs, Barry Zurbuchen, Sandro Espinosa and Walter Araya.