Spec MX-5 Challenge National Series, West Regional Series and Invitational drivers met in Northern California at picturesque Sonoma Raceway for the final round of regular season racing. With 14 drivers, the West Region and National championships on the line, plus Invitational carryover points to be awarded to new drivers, this event was slated to have a significant impact on the Championship in November.
Qualifying on Saturday went down under ideal conditions. Invitational driver Aaron Jeansonne (Winding Road Racing) captured pole by 0.054 sec over National points leader Tom Martin (Winding Road Racing). This close margin was a leading indicator of things to come. Row 2 was made up of Wes Mollno (Haag Performance/ROW Signs) ahead of series stalwart Matt Fassnacht (DMD Racing/X-Factor) by 0.551 sec, after Invitational driver Bryce Cornet (Winding Road Racing/Everki) was penalized for avoidable contact.
In the race, Jeansonne used his starting option well by choosing the outside of row 1. This gave him the advantage going up the hill and he led Martin out of turn 1, followed by Fassnacht and then Mollno. Mollno quickly got back around Fassnacht and things settled down to a 3 car battle of Jeansonne, Martin and Mollno.
Martin maintained close contact with Jeansonne, so that as the two approached lap traffic, Martin was able to take advantage of an out of class car that briefly slowed Jeansonne, making a pass for the lead. Martin then put on something of a clinic passing slower cars, but Jeansonne — ever the student — followed close behind. Jeansonne was able to set up a pass into T11, but Martin saw him coming and engineered an over/under to retain the lead. Jeansonne refused to give up, and on the white flag lap he saw an opportunity coming out of T10 as Martin was briefly held up by lap traffic. Jeansonne went down the inside into T11 as Martin ran wide. This set up a drag race through T11 to the finish line, where Martin crossed the line 0.006 sec ahead. Mollno had been following both cars by only a few car lengths, but was never quite able to close the gap fully.
West regional podium for race 1 was Wes Mollno P1, Matt Fassnacht P2 and Todd Launchbaugh (Haag Performance) P3. The National Series podium had Martin on the top step, followed by Aidan Fassnacht (DMD Racing) and Rob Lebel (Winding Road Racing/KGM Technologies). Invitational race 1 was won by Jeansonne, with Bryce Cornet moving up 4 places to finish fourth overall and ahead of Wael Khreiss.
The race 2 grid was shuffled somewhat because Spec MX-5 Challenge rules use the faster of qualifying or race 1 time. The front row was still Jeansonne and Martin, followed by Mollno and Bryce Cornet who benefitted from fast lap of race 1.
At the start, Jeansonne again led into T1, a position he would not relinquish for the entire race. Mollno and Cornet got around Martin at the start, with Cornet completing lap 1 in second place. The drivers ran in close single file, but even with some lap traffic no one was able to challenge Jeansonne. All the drivers ran fast laps within 0.076, but Jeansonne had fast lap of the day.
In West Regional competition, the podium was again Mollno, Matt Fassnacht and Todd Launchbaugh. The National series had Martin on top, followed by Aidan Fassnacht and Adam Gonzalez (Gonzalez Racing/Winding Road).
Invitational points are scored for the weekend, so that bonus points for clean driving, teamwork and social media can be awarded. Jeansonne had a clean sweep, scoring 59 points for his race wins and all the bonus points. He is the only driver to maximize Invitational points this year.
All told the drivers agreed it was a big event, a fun event and an exciting event.