The National Auto Sport Association's Honda Challenge series returned to Honda's recognized home circuit in North America, the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, to hold its official inaugural national championship. (Many will recall an "unofficial" version of the runoffs at the same circuit in 2004). Well over 40 cars were in the HC field, with 15 in the cream-of-the-crop H1 class and nearly 20 in H4. The numbers guaranteed a fierce battle for both categories.
The competition format included a hot-lap qualifying session and qualifying race on Friday and another qualifying race on Saturday. Those results were averaged out to determine starting positions for Sunday's championship contest.
Sunday's main event got underway with the West Coast's Andrie Hartanto sitting on the pole in his #88 Civic. The East Coast's fastest, Chad Slagg in his #14 Civic, sat in the number two spot, with Michael Lee in the #2 Integra rounding out the top three. H4 warriors consisted of Colin Botha in his #49 CRX on the pole, Kevin Ruck in the #344 Integra in second spot, and Donna Gillio in her #52 Integra in third.
Slagg's race got off to a great start when he out-launched Hartanto on the standing start. The lead didn't last long, however, as Andrie was able to pass Chad as the race wore on. He was ultimately crowned national champ, bringing the trophy home to the Westside.
Chad would have finished in the second spot if not for some unfortunate contact, which pushed him back to fifth. This left the door open for Lee, who also hails from California; he blew by the checkered flag in second place in his Integra, making it a West Coast one-two. Kevin Helms in the #05 Hondaworks Civic hatchback ended up with third, as he couldn't catch the lightning-fast Lee.
The-decidedly-slower-but-often-much-more-exciting H4 class had an inspired race. Botha was able to maintain his pole position and use his home track advantage to earn the win. Not far behind him was Gillio in her Acura, with Jeremy Croiset filling out the podium.
All in all, a great weekend of racing. It's good to see the professionalism of NASA's series continue to improve. Sometimes the racing was so clean, fast, and tight, you'd think you were at a professional event. We can't wait to see what next year will bring. For more info on NASA races past and future, visit www.nasaproracing.com.
|1||#81||J. Allan Haggai|
|4||#17||Robert Inness Eisele|
|2||#52||Team REC Motorsports|