Utah Motorsports Campus played host to Round 4 of Spec MX-5 Challenge’s West Region championship, seeing hot temperatures and incredibly windy conditions feature throughout the weekend. A clear favorite emerged by the end of the weekend, where Clayton Ketcher shined once again to pick up both wins, totaling six for his rookie Spec MX-5 season campaign. Fellow rookie AJ Zarcone made it interesting, securing consecutive second place finishes, but was unable to stop Ketcher. Zarcone now sits in 3rd place of the West Region championship.
Wes Mollno, Spec MX-5 Series veteran and second in the drivers’ standings, was able to finish on the podium in 3rd place for race 1, where Steve Borlik had an impressive drive on Sunday during race 2 to capture 3rd place, seeing him earn his first podium in the Series. After Ketcher’s second consecutive back-to-back race winning weekends, he is now almost 40 points clear in the West Region championship standings.
45mph winds greeted our racers Saturday morning before qualifying, adding to the challenge of running in NASA’s Thunder group for the weekend. NASA Utah was able to grant the Series Manager’s request to be in a separate run-group from STL, enabling our racers to run in both groups, making full use of their time in Utah. The second lap of the session proved to be the quickest, where Clayton Ketcher wasted no time setting the pace with a blistering lap time of 1:45.272. AJ Zarcone was close behind, just .200 behind Ketcher, but was unable to improve. Jon Davies, in only his second qualifying session of the season, was just .010 behind Zarcone with a time of 1:45.487. Wes Mollno & Steve Borlik were also in the 1:45’s, just .500 behind Pole Setter Ketcher, setting the scene for an incredibly tight battle for both races. National Option driver Ricardo Arruda elected to run in Utah to further the development of his Spec MX-5, however did not earn any points as he was running outside of a National Event.
The wind continued into the afternoon for race 1, seeing a split-flag start granted by NASA, ensuring our racers enjoyed a close race for multiple laps before the Prototypes and GT3’s caught up to them. As the green flag waived, AJ Zarcone had magnificent reflexes, pulling slightly ahead of Clayton Ketcher going into turn 1. Staying on the power, Zarcone made the overtake stick on the outside, emerging in the lead out of the first corner. For the next 9 laps, Zarcone was able to fend-off Ketcher after an incredibly tight battle, when a Porsche lapped the front-running Spec MX-5’s, but went wide into turn 10 which caused Zarcone to slam on his brakes to avoid a collision. Ketcher pounced, and was able to take the lead of the race going onto the main straight; a lead he would not relinquish, claiming the victory with Zarcone just 1 second behind as they crossed the line. Wes Mollno finished in 3rd, with Steve Borlik and Jon Davies hot on his heels in 4th and 5th, respectively.
Race 2 on Sunday proved to be just as exciting, seeing Ketcher hold the lead after a better reaction, fending off Zarcone and the rest of the field. Zarcone dropped back to 3rd after his brakes failed briefly, seeing Jon Davies move into 2nd. Zarcone battled back by lap 5 when a Spec Z in front was not adhering to blue flags. This traffic shuffled the Spec MX-5 pack, seeing Zarcone back in 2nd place. Wes Mollno and Steve Borlik were impossibly close to Davies, with the three of them swapping positions until Borlik finally made it clear of the other two to settle into 3rd place. Mollno was able to hold off Davies briefly, but in the end Davies secured 4th.
Borlik landed on the Spec MX-5 podium for the first time of his career on Sunday, seeing Zarcone finish in 2nd. The story of the weekend, though, is Clayton Ketcher. With only 2 rounds to go of the West Region’s championship, Clayton Ketcher is almost certain to finish as the West Champion. Wyatt Couch has been unable to attend the last two rounds, however when he returns for Laguna Seca next month, will he be able to put a stop to Ketcher’s dominance?
Spec MX-5 Challenge is back on track in three weeks, seeing our National Option and North Region battle it out at Road America in Wisconsin, from July 8-10th.