Spec MX-5 Challenge headed northwest to Portland International Raceway this weekend, joining the SCCA Super Tour for the third round of the West Region, seeing seven racers battle it out in both wet & dry conditions. Clayton Ketcher was a force to be reckoned for the entirety of the event, claiming pole position for both races, the fastest lap of the weekend, and winning both races. With his impressive performance, Ketcher now leads the West Region Driver Standings by over 20 points.
Rain showers soaked the track overnight Friday, setting the stage for a challenging qualifying session late Saturday morning just as the Sun started to break through the clouds. As the session go underway, the track began to dry on the racing line, showing progression during the 30-minute qualifying. Clayton Ketcher put down the hammer on his 6th lap, with an unbeatable time of 1:28. 473, almost a second faster to the next quickest driver, newcomer to the series Jon Davies. AJ Zarcone was close behind with the third quickest lap of 1:29.380. Series regular Wes Mollno finished fourth, ahead of Steve Borlik, Todd Launchbaugh, and the sole driver of the National Option joining, Ricardo Arruda rounding out the 7-car starting grid.
The Sun continued to shine for the rest of Saturday as the first race of the weekend got underway later in the afternoon. The SCCA Super Tour granted Spec MX-5 Series’ request for a split start, giving our racers separation on track from the slower classes, creating very tight battles for the first few laps. By lap 4, Clayton Ketcher was able to weave through traffic ahead, and extended his lead over AJ Zarcone to 3 seconds, as Wes Mollno & Jon Davies fought back through the field after dropping a few positions on the opening lap. Ketcher continued he error-free drive for the entirety of the race, winning by 9 seconds and setting the fastest lap, with Wes Mollno finishing second, and AJ Zarcone securing the last step on the podium.
The Spec MX-5 racers were greeted with cloudy skies and more rain Sunday morning, setting the stage for a wet & wild final race later in the afternoon. Although new to the Series, Jon Davies considers Portland his “home track”, and his knowledge of the circuit was undeniable as he braved the wet conditions to take the lead early during the opening lap of the event’s final race. Zarcone had a spin just as he exited the chicane, with Borlik & Mollno swapping positions multiple times before Mollno was able to pull out of the grasps of Borlik on lap 4.
The story of the weekend was the intense dogfight between Davies & Ketcher. Ketcher never let Davies out of his grasp, putting on a show for the spectators watching from the grandstand. The battle for the lead lasted nearly 15 laps, with Ketcher finally securing first place when Davies spun at turn 11. For the remainder of the race, the young ace displayed exquisite car-control, and finished on-top of the podium for the second time, over twenty seconds clear of the field behind. Mollno also had a magnificent race, repeating his second-place finish from the day before, and Davies received his first Spec MX-5 trophy by putting on a great recovery to get third.
Clayton Ketcher now leads the West Region Drivers’ Standings by 23 points after an astonishing 4 wins & 6 podiums in 6 races, with Wes Mollno currently in second place, 10 points clear of consistent finisher Steve Borlik. Wyatt Couch couldn’t race in Portland but looks to climb back up the rankings next month at Utah’s Motorsport Campus. Spec MX-5 Challenge is back on track in two weeks, with the North Region and National Option battling it out at Mid-Ohio May 26th-27th.