NASA Great Lakes welcomed the Spec MX-5 Challenge Series Presented by Toyo Tires to Mid-Ohio Sportscar Course this past weekend for Round 4 of the 2023 season. A total of 17 racers registered for the event, with seven of them jumping behind the wheel of a Spec MX-5 to experience their first taste of SMX competition. If fighting for position in the 60-car run group wasn’t enough, cool & damp temperatures would only add to the challenge of tackling the 2.25-mile Pro Course.
A chill was in the air as Saturday’s qualifying session got underway under clear skies, but a damp track. As temperatures hovered in the mid-forties, Alex Bertagnoli would claim pole position with the session’s fastest time of 1:44.940, with Championship challenger Nathan Nicholson just .03 seconds behind in P2. Cam Ebben was a further half-second behind to claim P3, with Series Veteran Michael Borden in P4, and Will Robusto rounding out the top 5.
Later in the day, temperatures would drop further as clouds began to gather. The entire grid went out on slicks with light rain in the forecast. The skies opened as soon as the green flag dropped as rain began to fall. Nathan Nicholson’s pre-race preparations and comfort level with the surface in the rain at Mid-Ohio propelled him to win his first race of the 2023 season, as Spec MX-5 Shootout winner Chase Jones put on a master class, gaining eight positions while using the rain line to jump to P2 in his first-ever race in an SMX car. Polesitter Alex Bertagnoli would finish in P3 to claim the final step of Race 1’s podium.
The grid for Sunday’s race would be decided by the fastest lap in Saturday’s race, seeing Corbin Collins on pole, and a shuffled field further down. Attrition was high throughout the weekend as Mid-Ohio claimed several victims. Race 2 began with 15 drivers, including Don Squirek, who worked tirelessly to fix a broken differential to salvage his first race weekend of the season. The race was filled with action from the start as dry but chilly conditions ruled the morning contest. Chase Jones would cross the finish line first, capping off an impressive debut with the Series. Nathan Nicholson would finish just two seconds behind to claim his second podium of the weekend, where the other Spec MX-5 Shootout winner would finish just a second behind Nicholson, seeing Reid Sweeney earn a trophy to celebrate his first weekend in the car.
Just two short weeks separate Mid-Ohio from VIRginia International Raceway, where 20 Spec MX-5’s are expected to battle it out during SCCA NCR’s SARRC/MARRS Challenge. As Series Rookies continue to showcase their skills on both the East and West Coast after 4 rounds of the 2023 Spec MX-5 Challenge season, can the Old Guard re-establish their presence?