VIRginia International Raceway Attracts 20 Spec MX-5 Racers for Round 5

Two weeks ago, Round 5 of the Spec MX-5 Challenge Series presented by Toyo Tires was held at VIRginia International Raceway in a charged atmosphere. Located among the hilly landscape in Southern Virginia, the super technical layout provided a challenge for many of the racers who have never driven on the picturesque track before.

Unbeknownst to the twenty lucky racers who made the trip before it was announced the following week that the 2023 Spec MX-5 Challenge National Championship would be held at VIR in October, they were able to gather invaluable data to prepare them for big finale later this year. If the weekend was any indication, the top step of the National Championship weekend could belong to several drivers. Saturday’s race one saw Nathan Saxon get his first win, followed by Noah Harmon in his rookie outing and Donald Squirek.  Sunday’s trophy winners included Noah Harmon, Nathan Saxon, and Alex Bertagnoli. Spec MX-5 Shootout winner Chase Jones impressed with a new SMX VIR track record on Sunday with a remarkable lap of 2:12.162.

The weekend’s first race at VIRginia International Raceway began under blue skies, a welcome change from the weather that dominated the rounds at both Summit Point and MidOhio.  Nathan Saxon jumped to an early lead with Nathan Nicholson, Noah Harmon, and Will Robusto battling behind him. Traffic played a large part in the race as Saxon capitalized on the opportunities classes handed him, opening the lead to more than three seconds. 

On the last lap, Nicholson and Harmon were separated by only 0.051 seconds. As Nicholson went to make a move on the front straight, the car had other ideas, and he went off track, giving second place to Harmon. Post-race penalties dropped provisional third Westin Workman down the order, with Formidable teammate Don Squirek taking his place.

After breaking a streak of second-place finishes, Nathan Saxon started on pole Sunday morning at VIRginia International Raceway, the site of the 2023 Spec MX-5 Challenge Championship during the SCCA Runoffs. Saxon maintained the pole position as the green flag waved, followed by Alex Bertagnoli and Noah Harmon. Patience was the name of the game as drivers settled into a rhythm, with the top four cars forming the lead pack and 0.370 separating them, bringing Will Robusto along for the ride.

The rhythm quickly broke after four laps as Bertagnoli took the lead and Saxon dropped to third.  Robusto went off track, and Nathan Nicholson worked hard to close the fourth-place gap. The shuffling continued as Earl Tucker went off in Hogpen and fell from sixth to tenth.  Traffic management came into play as drivers waded through Small Bore, Touring 3, Touring 4, and B-Spec drivers. Harmon made an impressive debut with the Series as he slid into the top spot, with teammate Saxon in second and Mazda Spec MX-5 Shootout winner Chase Jones moving up seven spots to third place. 

Harmon and Saxon worked in harmony as they held off Jones, who fought hard, closing a 1.3-second gap in one lap, only to lose the gap as Saxon pushed Harmon further away on the following lap. The action was not limited to the front pack as drivers battled back through earlier mistakes.  Robusto powered back into 8th place, and Nico Bratz moved up three spots to ninth. As the gap to Jones in third place widened, Robusto and Jones were tangled, allowing Bertagnoli to regain a podium spot and lead a second pack that included Jarrett Jones, Nathan Nicholson, Westin Workman, and Bratz. Harmon recorded his first win in the series, followed by Saxon in second and Bertagnoli in third.

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