The 2019 Blue Marble Cocktails Radical Cup North America season commenced with an ultra-competitive weekend at Virginia International Raceway, April 26-28. Twenty-three cars took to the track in front of large crowds and wowed with three-action packed races. Former champ Antoine Comeau started his season in spectacular style clinching all three victories in the cutthroat 1500 class, while Canadian Kevin Poitras struck first in 1340 and Jim Booth kicked off 2019 with two wins in the Masters class. Yet arguably the story of the weekend was fellow Masters class driver Will Lin overcoming significant adversity to triumph in the final race.
After much of Friday was washed out, drivers went into Saturday morning’s qualifying session with their work cut out. A drying track saw the times quicken throughout the session, and in the end it came down to a one-lap dash after a brief pause in the session to recover a stricken Will Lin (Radical Northwest / Cameron Racing). Jim Booth (McDonalds / WISKO Racing) was one of 13 drivers to set their best on their final tour, taking provisional pole in the Masters class. Louis Schriber (Shorewood Development / Team Stradale) eclipsed an earlier lap by Gustavo Rafols (WISKO Racing) by just 3 one-hundreds of a second to claim top honors in the 1500 class. Fellow WISKO Racing driver Chris Souliotis was another to capitalize, taking pole in the 1340 class.
As many of the drivers and teams, friends and family, participated in Saturday’s go-kart challenge, Radical Northwest worked over time to repair the front of Lin’s SR8, which had moved the Turn 1 tire wall a considerable distance. Amazingly Lin made Race 1 but started rear of field after stalling during the pitlane transit. After carving his way through the field, Lin again suffered a dramatic setback when a huge plume of smoke billowed from the back of his SR8 before he pulled off track midway through the race. Initially appearing catastrophic, the issue was in fact an oil filter O-ring failure, and Radical’s sophisticated LIFE ECU switched off his V8 engine before damage could be done.
At around the same time Terry Olson (WISKO Racing), who had led from lap 5, relinquished the outright lead to WISKO teammate Jim Booth. Together they gave the home team a 1-2 in the Masters class, with Judd Miller (Moorespeed) completing the podium.
Finishing an impressive second outright, after a stellar start and flawless drive, Antoine Comeau (Eastern / Turn 3 Motorsports) rewarded Turn 3 Motorsports with a win in their series debut. In stark contrast, there wasn’t any smooth sailing for Comeau’s closest 1500 class rivals. Louis Schriber (3rd), was found to have passed in a yellow sector of the circuit, and a lap later was helped off the track by Gustavo Rafols (2nd). Both were served with post-race time penalties for their indiscretions, but such was the gap to Jordan Missig (4th), they retained their places on the podium.
Interestingly all four have stepped up to the 1500 class this year hoping to replicate the success they’ve had in 1340. Schriber is the reigning 1340 class champion, Rafols is the 2018 runner up, Missig is a regional race winner, and Comeau is the 2017 1340 champion.
Adding to the caliber of the 1500 field, Gerhard Watzinger (CrowdStrike Racing / One Motorsports, 5th) has returned to Radical Cup racing after years of IMSA Prototype Lites. Highlighting just how competitive the class is in 2019, last year’s vice-champion, Greg Gorski (smokebuddy / One Motorsports) could only manage 6th.
The Radical Canada East racing team made a spectacular start to their season, having signed two Trans-Am drivers for 2019. Kevin Poitras (MBRP / Radical Canada East) won his first Blue Marble Cocktails Radical Cup race, with fellow debutant and teammate Ron Keith (Post Plastics / Power Bus Way / Radical Canada East) home second. WISKO Racing’s Jon Hanson was third.
On Sunday morning came the news Poitras wasn’t well enough to race, leaving Keith to carry the Canadian team’s hopes. Keith didn’t disappoint, leading the 1340 class from start to finish to give the team two wins in a row. This time it was Chris Souliotis second, while John Hanson scored another podium finish. Eric Wagner (Eastern / Turn 3 Motorsports) also impressed in Race 2, recording the fastest 1340 lap of the race.
Antoine Comeau and Turn 3 Motorsport continued their winning ways in the 1500 class on Sunday, and Rafols continued to play bridesmaid. However, this time it was Jordan Missig (3rd) who joined Comeau and Rafols (2nd) on the podium. Further down the field multiple battles raged, including a race long bout between Dan Schildgen (Moorespeed, 9th) and Gary Ball (AMS / WISKO Racing, 10th).
Eyes were also on the fight for second in the Masters class. Working his way up from tenth on the grid, Will Lin picked off Judd Miller before chasing down Terry Olson. However, with the gap less than 2 seconds Lin spun on lap 13 and tumbled down the order. With the pressure off Olson retained second place behind Jim Booth, while Judd Miller inherited third. Impressively Miller had also recorded the second fastest time of the race, meaning he would start on the front row of the grid for race 3..
Initially in Race 3 it looked as though Booth would record a clean sweep. Leading until the mandatory pitstop, a mistake saw Booth short-stop by 14 seconds resulting in a ‘stop and hold’ penalty. After passing Olson for second Lin was also looking strong having had hunted down Booth– prior to the pitstops the gap was only two-tenths. However just as it looked as though Lin would salvage his horrid weekend, he too was hit with a penalty for short stopping.
Luckily for Lin his pace had been spectacular and after serving his 6 second ‘stop and hold’ he came out in front of Booth to take the outright victory and the Masters class win. The win was a just reward for the Radical Northwest / Cameron Racing squad after the countless hours put in to get Lin back on track, and an impressive feat given VIR was Lin’s first event behind the wheel of his new SR8. Booth held on to second place, with Terry Olson completing the podium. Scott Wagner (WISKO Racing) had an impressive run in his V8 powered Spyder to finish 4th.
Antoine Comeau and Turn 3 Motorsport went three for three to start their 2019 championship campaign in the best possible way. Comeau was lucky to escape a clash with Rafols and Schriber when the three went for the same piece of tarmac as the green flag flew. Schriber spun, as did the following Missig. And while Gustavo Rafols survived that melee, his luck ran out six laps later, with a suspected upright failure preventing him securing another second place finish.
At that point it looked as though One Motorsports was set to score a podium or two, with Gerhard Watzinger and Greg Gorski sitting third and fourth. However, Watzinger found the wall on lap 8, and Gorski was leapfrogged in the pits by eventual podium placers Louis Schriber (2nd) and Jordan Missig (3rd), who both had remarkable comebacks. The latter’s stop was timed to perfection by Team Stradale, coming within seven one-hundreds of the minimum stop time.
In the 1340 class, the pitstops didn’t appear to make or break the race. Instead it was the pace of rookie John Hanson, who found a full second over his personal best in Race 2. Hanson further impressed by soaking up the pressure to secure his first Blue Marble Cocktails Radical Cup victory. Ron Keith came away with another podium, this time second place, while Chris Souliotis also finished the weekend strong with third.
It was clear from the large crowd, which gathered to watch the champagne being sprayed for the final time, that the Blue Marble Cocktails Radical Cup had been a fan favorite during the Blancpain GT World Challenge weekend at Virginia International Raceway.
The series now heads to Barber Motorsports Park where it will provide a modern twist the HSR Barber Historics event, May 17-19, before joining the NTT IndyCar Series for the REV Group Grand Prix at Road America, June 20-23. Entries for both events are still open but filling fast - for more information and to join the grid visit the Blue Marble Radical Cup page via the button below.Blue Marble Cocktails Radical Cup