Tom O’Gorman returns to SCCA Club Racing for the Ohio Valley Region SCCA Autumn Classic at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

In Grid Before Sunday AM Qualifying Race Photo: Mary Beth O’Gorman

It felt like it had been too long since racing at Laguna Seca, so why not go racing at my home track for a little club racing fun? My parents and I headed up to Mid Ohio last weekend for the OVR Autumn Classic, where my dad raced his ITC Honda Civic and I competed in long-time friend Chase Heikkila’s Spec Miata in ITA – yep, that means we raced on the track at the same time (albeit in different classes). This is my dad’s first season of club racing and last weekend was our second time racing on track together. It’s a special experience to share these weekends with my family, now that my parents have been bit by the road racing bug just as much as I have. Dad races, mom crews and holds our paddock together – oh, and as of this weekend, takes pictures!

Saturday was my first time racing a Miata, even though my autocross experience started in Miatas and I’ve owned and been on track in many Miatas since then. The biggest learning curve for the weekend was braking, as Chase was trying a new brand of brake pads and the rear bias was up. As I got more comfortable in qualifying, I had some moments in the heavier braking zones – no major issues though. Our group, Group 3, had all Improved Touring classes plus Touring 4 (T4) and Super Touring Lite (STL); 53 cars total. That’s a lot, especially for many club racers who aren’t used to so many cars around. In qualifying, I managed a best time of 1:46.6, which was strong enough for pole in ITA but would have barely put me top 20 in Spec Miata, so I knew I wanted to find more time.

At the start of Saturday’s race, it dawned on me that even though I was clear of the rest of ITA by a few rows, I was starting smack dab in the middle of a gaggle of Spec Miatas double-dipping into STL. Basically, we were Spec Miata race 2.0, which was intimidating. A few minor contacts with other cars in the first two laps put me back to 3rd in ITA quickly, stuck behind 2nd place for most of the race. I was weary of making any moves as the driver in 2nd was slightly unpredictable and I was driving a borrowed car, after all. A frustrating start turned into an exciting finish, though, as I was able to pass around the outside of the Carousel to take the last-lap win in ITA! Check out the video above to see the full race.

Sunday AM started with another race, this time a “qualifying race” – the finishing order determined the starting grid for Sunday’s PM race. I would start alongside the ITA Miata I narrowly beat out on Saturday, following a black STL CRX and blue T4 RX-8 in the row in front of us.

As we approached the green flag for the qualifying race, the ITA Miata to my right jumped the start and squeezed between the CRX and RX-8 in front, getting into the side of the RX8 and ultimately spinning him across the track, into the pit wall, and – you guessed it – straight into my path. I had nowhere to go but head-on into the RX-8, also catching the pit wall enough to bend some suspension, ending my race weekend and Chase’s. The car behind us at the start caught it all on camera:

In the end, the Miata driver was deemed to have jumped the start and disqualified from the qualifying race, but allowed to start at the back of the field for the Sunday PM race – frustrating, as 3 cars left the track broken due to his judgement, but our Miata will live to race again with some light work in the offseason. This was the last foreseeable race weekend of 2015, so now the hard work of planning for 2016 kicks into high gear!