2024 Sebring Hoosier Super Tour: Saturday Notebook

The Hoosier Racing Tire SCCA® Super Tour (HST) began its eighth competition season Saturday during a Jan. 12-14, 2024, event hosted by SCCA’s Central Florida Region at Sebring International Raceway.

A morning downpour hampered qualifying sessions for three run groups as things were really wet around the legendary 3.7-mile, 17-turn circuit. But the rain subsided, and the track started to dry as the first set of racers left grid a little before 10 a.m. Eastern Time for a 25-minute contest. Thankfully, things then remained dry all day with temperatures sitting in the low 70s, which was pretty spectacular considering the cold and wintery weather gripping much of the United States.

First!: The very first HST race of the season was contested by Super Touring® Lite (STL) and Super Touring® Under (STU) drivers. Danny Steyn was on pole in his STL Mazda MX-5. However, he pulled out of line on the pace lap a little before the final turn, then drove his ailing car into pitlane and out of the race.

Tiptoeing around the circuit on lap one, Jose Pena and his No. 199 Mas Race Team Honda CRX took the STL lead. He held that spot the entire race, coming home with a 38-second victory margin over STL runner-up Justin Elder in a Mazda Miata. That meant Pena was the very first HST winner of the 2024 season.

“When I got a comfortable lead, I slowed down a little bit just to save the car for tomorrow,” Pena said afterwards.

In the same race, STU driver Todd Clarke and his BMW 330Ci were first to the checkered flag. After the race, Clarke was penalized for the car being underweight. That gifted the STU victory to Jorge Nazario in the No. 165 Taxmania/CEGsoft Mazda Miata.

Another exciting ‘first’ took place at Sebring when the 23-car Spec MX-5 (SMX) field filed out on track for its first-ever HST race. New for 2024, SMX will officially crown an SCCA National Champion later this year at Road America during the Runoffs. And the very first HST winner in SMX was Michael Borden in the No. 42 Advanced Autosports/Netsplice Mazda MX-5 machine.

“It got a little wild at the start … I was surprised I made it through that first corner without spinning,” said Borden, who was the 2020 Touring 4 Runoffs National Champion. “I’ve been racing SMX for the last three years … and surprisingly enough, I never won. So, to do this at the first Hoosier Super Tour event feels amazing. Words can’t describe how I feel right now.”

Leading the Masses: The HST event at Sebring is sitting just a tick over 380 entries. That’s a really solid showing for the 2024 HST season opener and has resulted in some good-sized classes.

Spec Racer Ford Gen3 (SRF3) started its race Saturday with 61 drivers, the second-largest field at Sebring. On pole for that bunch was Brian Schofield in the No. 61 PM Racing car. When the first racing lap was completed, however, Morgan Burkhard was in the lead.

Schofield soon made his way back to the front, and ended up reaching the checkered flag first with a five-second margin of victory over runner-up James Goughary

“The other guys know I’m good here at Sebring because this is my home track and I’ve got a lot of laps here and a lot of experience,” Schofield said. “I just had to pick my time … then I put my head down and put down some good laps.”

The largest car class at Sebring is Spec Miata with 74 drivers starting Saturday’s race. That contest included 2023 Runoffs Co-Champions Nicolas Bruni and Preston Pardus. On pole was Pardus with Bruni starting alongside.

At the start, Bruni fell back while Pardus moved to the lead. A full-course yellow ended the opening lap, but Pardus remained out front at the restart with 10 minutes left in the race. Todd Buras was second, Elivan Goulart third, and fourth was former SCCA Jim Fitzgerald Rookie of the Year award winner Connor Zilisch.

Only Pardus, Buras and Zilisch remained in the hunt for victory when the white flag waived to signify the final racing lap. The three diced furiously over 3.7 miles, but Zilisch grabbed the lead in the final corner and held on for a 0.059sec victory over Pardus.

SM race results were not yet declared final as of 10:30 p.m. Eastern Time Saturday. Steward actions are being discussed that could impact the top-three finishers. If things hold, then Zilisch has had one amazing week after signing an agreement with Trackhouse Racing that will see the SCCA member run with ARCA, Trans-Am, IMSA, NASCAR Craftsman Truck and Xfinity Series in the coming year. If results change, then Pardus may have made a first step in defending his current SM Runoffs National Championship.

More Title Defenses: As noted in Friday’s HST Sebring story, more than a few reigning National Champions are in attendance at Sebring this weekend. When all was said and done Saturday, many recent Runoffs winners had laid the groundwork for a Runoffs title defense.

Reigning Formula Enterprises 2 (FE2) National Champion Charles Russell Turner, driving the No. 32 Southeast Spec Racer/PCS car, won his event Saturday – but it was only by 0.452sec over Jason Conzo. In Prototype 1 (P1), defending National Champion Todd Vanacore drove the No. 19 Comprent/Halifax Plantation Elan DP02 to nearly an eight-second victory over the Swift JMS17CP piloted by P1 challenger James French. The GT-3 race then saw reigning National Champion Tony Ave come home a winner in the No. 44 Acura RSX.

Sunday’s Schedule: A second day of Hoosier Super Tour contests take place Sunday starting at 8:05 a.m. Eastern Time. Drivers across the eight run groups will have 14 laps or 35 minutes to decide who gets trophies.

Follow Sunday’s action from Sebring live, online and for free thanks to the Hoosier Super Tour broadcast. Gregg Ginsberg and Brian Bielanski will again supply play-by-play insight, and DriversEye Live will deliver video from multiple cameras positioned around the circuit.

Find the broadcast online at the SCCA YouTube channel and SCCA Facebook page. Post-race video interviews with select Saturday winners, and Sunday victory podium celebration videos, can also be found at the SCCA Road Racing Facebook page. As usual, live Timing and Scoring is available throughout the weekend at www.scca.com/live.

Saturday Race Winners: Below are provisional race winners from Saturday’s Hoosier Racing Tire SCCA Super Tour at Sebring International Raceway with Class: Name, Hometown and Car.
American Sedan®: Thomas West; Standish ME; Cadillac CTSV
B-Spec: Chris Daughtery; McCordsville, IN; Toyota Yaris
E Production: Louis Boustani; Melbourne, FL; Mazda Miata
F Production: Cliff Ira; Kansas City, MO; Honda Del Sol
H Production: Mike Ogren; Dunedin, FL; VW Scirocco
Formula 600: Keith Joslyn; Grand Island, NY; Scorpion Rotax
Formula Atlantic®:
Ahsen Yelkin; Canfield, OH; Swift 014
Formula Continental®: Robert Allaer; Grosse Pt. Woods, MI; Van Diemen RF02
Formula Enterprises®2: C. Russell Turner; Montpelier, VA; SCCA Enterprises FE2 Mazda
Formula F: John Robinson II; Saint Cloud, FL; Swift DB6
Formula Vee®: Stevan Davis; Danielsville, GA; Vortech
Formula X: Ken De Nault; Cedar Falls, IA; Formula Mazda
GT-1: Keith Grant; Germantown, TN; Chevrolet Camaro
GT-2: Jonathan Start; Caledonia, MI; Dodge Viper ACRX
GT-3: Tony Ave; Maiden, NC; Acura RSX
GT-Lite: Chris Bovis; Overland Park, KS; Honda CRX
GT-X: Danny Lowry; Beech Island, SC; Mercedes-Benz GT4
Spec Miata: Connor Zilisch; Mooresville, NC; Mazda Miata
Spec MX-5: Michael Borden; Lisbon, WI; Mazda MX-5
Spec Racer® Ford Gen3: Brian Schofield; Lakeland, FL; SCCA Enterprises SRF3
Prototype 1: Todd Vanacore; Ormond Beach, FL; Elan DP02
Prototype 2: Sherman Chao; Palm Beach, FL; Stohr WF1
Super Touring® Lite: Jose O. Pena; Miami, FL; Honda CRX
Super Touring® Under: Jorge Nazario; San Juan, PR; Mazda Miata
Touring 1: Mark Boden; Winnetak, IL; Mercedes-Benz AMG
Touring 2: Mark Boden; Winnetak, IL; Porsche 997.1
Touring 3: Richard Baldwin; Covington, LA; Nissan 350Z
Touring 4: Ryan Heishman; Carlisle, PA; Mazda MX-5

Photo: STL driver Jose Pena was the very first 2024 Hoosier Super Tour winner during the opening event at Sebring International Raceway.

Photo by Dave Green