Fifteen drivers represented the RRDC at the 60th SCCA National Championship Runoffs at Virginia International Raceway owned by club member Connie Nyholm, Sep. 29 through Oct 3.It was oddly overcast Sep 25-28 – the four days of practice/qualifying – looking more like the Pacific NW than southern Virginia. The weather improved for the 24 Friday through Sunday 15 lappers that crowned the latest crop of SCCA champions. Results varied for RRDC members, but three won from pole in stelar fashion: Andrew Aquilante, Calvin Stewart and Tony Ave.
Aquilante led the Phoenix phalanx in his Touring 1 Mustang, nabbing his 14th gold medal from pole in dominating fashion, leading flag-to-flag. His margin of victory was a steadily growing 13.359 seconds. As usual, there were seven of Andrew’s uncle Joe Aquilante’s Phoenix Performance-prepared racecars on the grounds: several did not start for various reasons – wrecks, driver health including Joe, who suffered a back injury early in the week. Aquilante’s daughters Amy and Beth finished 3rd for the bronze medal and 5th, respectively in American Sedan.Calvin Stewart bested a 3-car scrum to score his second national title. The 2015 Mark Donohue Award winner, led the Formula 600 field to the green flag in one of the 15-lap race’s calmer moments. After countless lead changes, Stewart edged his Novakar J10 Suzuki to the point in final half mile to eke out a 0.112 second victory. Tony Ave brought an ambitious program to VIR, fielding cars in four classes: GT2, GT3, Prototype 2 and Touring 1. Tony successfully defended his GT3 championship with a resounding 20-plus victory from pole in his Acura RSX, leading every lap. It was his fourth gold medal. Ave also posted solid 4th place finish in both P2 and T1. He started GT2 from the outside pole but retired after 10 laps.
Jason Ott, defending champion in Touring 3, was nipped by his younger brother Steve by 0.333 seconds for the 2023 title, both in Alpine Motorsports BMW Z4s.Steve Sargis started his Triumph Spitfire from the outside pole in H Production; and try as he might, the 9-time National
Champion could not run down pole-sitter Chris Schaafsma, settling for second and his 22nd Runoffs podium finish.
John Heinricy brought a brand-new Cadillac CT4-V Blackwing to the Touring 2 show. Although prepared by Phoenix Performance the new car was forced to run in virtually stock configuration. Sixteen-time champion Heinricy, soldiered the big and heavy Caddy to a fourth on the grid and was battling for third at the checkered flag.
Five-time and defending GT-Lite champion Peter Shadowen started his Honda CRX from pole but had slipped to fourth at the finish.
Tim Minor put his Citation FF2000 on the outside front row but wound up third, taking the bronze medal in Formula Continental behind the family Allaers. Further back, Michael Varacins was 8th right ahead of Kevin Fandozzi.
Rob Hines had an up-and-down week, qualifying a stout 4th in Spec Miata before getting knocked off the road several times and falling to 47th. Rob also qualified 4th in Touring 3 and finished 6th.James Goughary qualified mid-pack (15th) in Spec Racer Ford Gen3, winding up 11th. This being the 40th anniversary season for the Spec Racers who started life as Sports Renault in 1983, the program’s original manager Bill King was the honorary starter for the race.
Two-time Formula V national champion, Stevan Davis started 19th and finished 12th.
Andy McDermid, eight-time American Sedan national champion, broke his Mustang on the pace lap.
Both Pete Peterson (GT2) and Joe Aquilante (GT1) did not start, Aquilante due to an injured back.
Boris Said’s 17-year-old son Boris Said, Jr., started the Spec Miata championship race 25th and carved his was up to respectable 14th at the checkered flag some 10 seconds behind the winning pair as there was the first dead-heat finish in Runoffs history.