Few were surprised when reigning H Production (HP) National Champion Steve Sargis won the HP Tire Rack Pole in his Hoosier/Carbotech Triumph Spitfire in the 2022 SCCA National Championship Playoffs, adding another notch to his tally from the qualifiers which now stands at 14. That said, he certainly turned heads when he reset the VIR Runoffs qualifying lap record by almost a second with a time of 2m13.952s. None of this seemed to bother Chris Schaafsma, however, and he didn’t hesitate to challenge Sargis once the race began, eventually earning his first SCCA National Championship title in the roller coaster of a race.
As the 21-car field headed for the green flag on Oct. 1 on the second of three Hagerty race days at Virginia International Raceway (VIR), Schaafsma pulled hard in his HoosierTireMidwest / NGP Racing / G-Loc Volkswagen Golf , retaining his second-place qualifying position behind Sargis in the early turns – although Will Perry briefly pushed his Rivergate5speed.com Honda CRX Si into battle through NASCAR Bend and Left Hook. Perry’s charge suffered a setback when he escaped at Hog Pen, dropping him to 10th overall at the time.
As the race settled in, Sargis led Schaafsma by less than two seconds, with Enrik Benazik and his All Star Sheet Metal Honda Civic Si in fourth, and Eric Vickerman’s Goodyear/Midwest Motorsports Austin-Healey Sprite in tow.
On lap four, Sargis and Schaafsma pulled away, keeping a considerable gap to the Comp Trak/Hoosier/Carbotech/Gatecrst Honda CRX of Vesa Silegren in third.
On lap six, Schaafsma made his way into Turn 1, pushing Sargis back into second – it was now Sargis’ turn to apply pressure on the leader, periodically nuzzling the inside.
At the Oak Tree corner a lap later, Sargis launched an excellent passing maneuver which resulted in pushing the braking zone into Roller Coaster, relegating Schaafsma to second place.
It didn’t last long, however, as Schaafsma returned the favor a lap later on another stretch of the track. “I had a great run at Turn 4, so come to Turn 5 and down to the Esses I was able to pull to the side,” Schaafsma explained. “I thought I had cleared him when we entered the first, and as we entered the second on the right, I thought I saw him in my rear view mirror next to me – I was afraid to take us all out. two of the race.”
Rather than make contact, Schaafsma opted to straighten the wheel in the climbing Esses, leaping through the grass and re-entering the track – still ahead of Sargis.
Two laps later, Sargis dives into Turn 1 to regain the lead.
Another breathtaking moment came at Hog Pen on lap 10 with Sargis in the lead. “I was hoping we weren’t going to catch each other in the wrong place,” Sargis explained. “I thought it was going to be an awful moment to catch, then he waved me outside. I probably would have stayed behind, but I couldn’t stop and would have hit him.
Sargis dove inside the car, cutting through the dirt, damaging its front bumper and veering off course. “The grass is a lot more slippery than I thought it would be,” Sargis said of his harrowing return to the running surface.
The intermittent from Sargis gave a good lead to Schaafsma, followed by Silegren and Perry; Sargis now fourth. Hammering, Sargis quickly passed Perry for third, leaving Perry to battle Chris Albin and his Over the Limit Racing/Hoosier Volkswagen Golf.
As the laps ticked away, Sargis charged towards Silegren – a strategy that paid off on the penultimate lap when Silegren slid wide at Oak Tree, ceding position (albeit briefly) to Sargis.
“The last two laps it started to rain – it started to get wet,” Silegren said of the weekend’s unpredictable weather, the result of Hurricane Ian declining as it passed through the region. “I got caught there and slipped off the track a bit. I got back on the track and started running – then his car started to miss, so I immediately passed him at the back and just held the pedal down.
“It was a weird thing that happened – he was missing at the end,” Sargis said. “It was only the last three or four laps, and it only worked on the back stretch. I don’t know what it was.
At the boards, Schaafsma earned his first SCCA Runoffs victory with a huge lead over Silegren and Sargis; Perry, Albin and Vickerman round out the top six. Jack Schulz won the Sunoco Hard Charger Award for racing from 20th on the grid to 11th in the race in his Automotive Archeologists MG Midget.
As for winning his first SCCA National Championship, Schaafsma had this to say: “It’s like climbing a mountain.”
This is a feat that Schaafsma has been working on for some time. “We had a podium in 2017 – first Runoffs,” he explained. “I broke at the 2019 Runoffs here on the formation lap. I lost the lead at the Road America Runoffs and finished second last year. I thought we were there, but we didn’t understand.
“And this year, despite the weather trying to give us a bit of heartburn, everything kind of went as we planned. We tried not to make any mistakes – even though I made one, I got away with it.
The top three were greeted on the victory podium with a bottle of sparkling wine from Mazza Vineyards, the “official sparkling wine” of the Runoffs.
The 59th SCCA National Championship Playoffs, the pinnacle of American amateur motorsport, crown this year’s Sports Car Club of America National Road Race Champions at VIR during Hagerty Race Days, Friday, September 30 through Sunday, October 2.
Live, online video coverage of the Runoffs races, presented by Mazda, is available throughout the three days of competition on SCCA.com/liveand at the official office of SCCA Youtube and Facebook social media channels. Live timing and scores from each race are also available on SCCA.com, along with an audio-only Super Tour radio stream presented by the Hoosier Racing Tire Broadcast Team.
Below are provisional results for Saturday’s HP race during the 2022 SCCA National Championship Playoffs, with finish position, start position in brackets, driver, hometown, car and laps completed.
1, (2), Chris Schaafsma, Wheaton, Ill., Volkswagen Golf, 15.
2, (4), Vesa Silegren, Cleveland, TN, Honda CRX, 15.
3, (1), Steve Sargis, Frankfurt, Ill., Triumph Spitfire, 15.
4, (3), Will Perry, Sale Creek, TN, Honda CRX Si, 15.
5, (6), Chris W Albin, Maryland Heights, MO, Volkswagen Golf, 15.
6, (7), Eric Vickerman, Howell, MI, Austin-Healey Sprite, 15.
7, (9), William Trainer, Lake in the Hills, IL, Volkswagen Scirocco, 15.
8, (13), Greg Amy, Middletown, Connecticut, Toyota MR-2, 15.
9, (14), Brian Downey, Bluemont, Va., Nissan PL510, 15.
10, (15), David Boles, Melbourne, Fla., Volkswagen Golf, 15.
11, (20), Jack Schulz, Monett, MO, MG Midget, 15.
12, (16), Matthew Benazic, Whitestone, NY, Honda Civic Si, 15.
13, (17), Edward Werry, West Deptford, NJ, Honda Fit, 15.
14, (12), Leanna Wright, Murfreesboro, TN, Mini Cooper, 14.
15, (21), Angus Crome, Maryville, Ill., Volkswagen Golf, 14.
16, (23), Kendall Jones, Armada, MI, MG Midget, 14.
17, (8), Greg Gauper, Hubertus, WI, Honda Civic Si, 11.
18, (22), John Fine, Norcross, Ga., Honda Civic Si, 7.
19, (10), Andrew Wright, Murfreesboro, TN, Triumph Spitfire, 7.
20, (5), Enrik Benazic, Farmingdale, NY, Honda Civic Si, 7.
DNF, (19), Ryan McBain, Ashburn, Va., Honda CRX, 2.
DNS, (11), Charles Guest, Greensboro, NC, Austin-Healey Sprite.
DNS, (18), Tom Broring, Derwood, MD, Triumph Spitfire.
Duration of the race: 49 miles
Total race time: 34: 53.664 (84.340mph)
Margin of Victory: 24.291 seconds
Fastest race lap: 2:15.677 (86.765mph)
Round leaders: #18, rounds 1-5, 7; #20, Rounds 6, 8-15
Sunoco hard charger: 75. Jack Schulz