Spec MX-5 Challenge Series presented by Toyo Tires trekked East for Round 2 of the 2023 season, seeing the Series return to Summit Point for the first time since 2021. Erratic rain, high winds, and intermittent sunshine would bring unpredictable results, with six of the eleven drivers racing with the Series for the first time, while enjoying super-tight racing in their own run group with only SMX class cars on track.
After rain on Friday and early Saturday, the qualifying session would get underway in newly-dried conditions, seeing all drivers on track for the first time. Nathan Saxon would claim a competitive pole position with a time of 1:24.673. The next five spots behind him were remarkably separated by just one-tenth of a second, which included a mix of both Series veterans and rookies; including Nathan Nicholson, Michael Borden, Cam Ebben, Alex Bertagnoli, and Will Robusto.
After other classes experienced start-of-the-season wrecks and an oiling down of the entire track, the schedule was delayed for the remainder of the day. Race director Kathy McLeod of the SCCA DC Region kept the series informed of the unfolding events, and it was decided both SMX races would be held on Sunday.
The first race on Sunday morning started with several lead changes as drivers took chances early, indicating that the race would be a fascinating one. As the drivers approached the starters stand at the end of the first lap, the top three included Nathan Nicholson, Cam Ebben, and Michael Borden. Wael Khreiss retired his car early in the race with a transmission issue, while Mac Harrison left early with a bumper problem. Shortly after, Bertagnoli took the lead, with Borden and Nathan Saxon rounding out the top three. On the penultimate lap, Borden experienced electrical difficulties, paving the way for a podium including Alex Bertagnoli on the top step, Nathan Saxon in second, and Cam Ebben earning third place and a trophy in his first race with the Series. The race’s hard charger went to Thomas Bogar, who jumped up five spots to a sixth-place finish.
Later Sunday afternoon, race two opened to clear skies as everyone returned to the grid for the green flag. Having set a new track record earlier in the day with a time of 1:23.210, Saxon was once again on pole, with Bertagnoli, Robusto, and the rest of the field taking the green flag behind him. The racing was just as excellent in race two, with several lead changes and shuffling of the top five. Corbin Collins recovered from an early spin, working successfully throughout the race to make up time.
As Saxon led the race, followed by Robusto and Borden, Harrison ran into trouble with his bumper forcing another early retirement, while Borden blew an engine after gravel punctured his oil cooler. Bad luck continued as Saxon went off in turn four, allowing Bertagnoli to take the lead. Patience paid off for Robusto, as he made a move on Bertagnoli at just the right moment to take the win. Bertagnoli took second, and Ebben third. Nicholson claimed the fastest lap at 1:24.060, and Khreiss took the hard charger moving up three spots to eighth place.
After another fantastic weekend of Spec MX-5 racing, the Series heads back West to Thunderhill Raceway Park in just over a week’s time from April 15-16. Wyatt Couch aims to continue his first-place finishing streak, while the Series plans to welcome a few new drivers after they have recently completed their Spec MX-5 builds.