Watkins Glen round of the Blue Marble Cocktails Radical Cup was action packed. Let’s take a look back before the WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca finale next weekend.
Watkins Glen may have been the penultimate round of the 2018 Blue Marble Cocktails Radical Cup, but winding down was not part of anyone’s agenda. An influx of Canadians and two fresh faces in the 1340 class generated action packed races. Gustavo Rafols and Indy Al Miller both came away with three wins apiece while Moorespeed’s Judd Miller scored his first victory.
Jointly serving as a round of the regional Canada Cup as well as North America’s premier Radical series meant the largest contingent of Canucks since their home round at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park and ensured tough competition in the 1340 class. Additionally, Dan McBreen (Splunk Racing) and Team Stradale young-gun Jordan Missig made their series debut, with the latter immediately impressing. In the first two practice sessions only 1500 class points leader Indy Al Miller (Blue Marble Cocktails / One Motorsports) circulated faster than 20-year-old Missig, who had never navigated a lap around the famed 3.37mile former Formula 1 circuit prior to the weekend.
Come qualifying, though, it all clicked for fellow young-gun and class championship hopeful Gustavo Rafols (WISKO Racing) who put it on the class pole, while Missig’s effort was somewhat marred by a track limits infraction. Yet amazingly it was another driver, Tim Sanderson (Rilli Racing / Northwest Atlantic Motorsports), who led the 1340 class and Rafols for the first few laps of Race 1, before Missig leaped into the top spot. Ignoring his ‘rookie status’ Missig withstood the pressure until a minor mistake on lap 11 dropped him to fourth. By that time Rafols was back in command to take the class victory from Canadians Sanderson and Matt Graham (Radical Canada / Calabogie Motorsports Park).
Amongst the 1340 melee Alain Derzie (Spring Mountain Country Club) maintained third place in the 1500s behind fellow One Motorsports driver Greg Gorski (smokebuddy) and 1500 class victor Indy Al Miller, while the outright win went to the SR8 of Terry Olson (WISKO Racing) from Judd Miller (Moorespeed).
Missig again made a mark in Race 2, leading the 1340 class for the first six laps including a brief safety car period for Greg Gorski, who’d become stricken at Turn 6. Graham and Sanderson both had turns of the lead as Rafols clawed his way back into contention after getting pushed down the order on the opening lap. The four-way scrap for the lead continued until Missig pitted on lap 12 with a fiery engine failure, which seemed to be a catalyst for two other casualties as Derzie and Earle also pitted with problems.
Their departures paved the way for Rafols’s second win of the weekend, a feat made even more spectacular as the WISKO driver finished third overall, behind the two SR8s. Tim Sanderson and Matt Graham again completed the 1340 podium but this time it was Graham who stood on the second step. Dan McBreen recorded an impressive fourth place ahead of 1340 points leader Louis Schriber (Team Stradale / Shorewood Development Group), who seemed to struggle for pace all weekend.
Gorski’s demise promoted Alain Derzie to the second step of the 1500 class podium, and helped Tad Cusack (Cusack Racing / Moorespeed) spray champagne for the first time. But again Indy Al Miller was the man to beat in the 1500 class, while Terry Olson was the start of the show, taking outright honors from Judd Miller.
Blue Marble’s Indy Al Miller continued his dominance in Race 3 to further extend his points lead over class rival Greg Gorski who kept his championship dreams alive with a classy drive from the back of the pack to second place. Derzie added another trophy to his collection with third in the 1500 class.
Perhaps the biggest storyline of Race 3, however, was the battle for outright victory. Terry Olson initially appeared to have Judd Miller’s match and was the first of the pair to pit for the mandatory stop. But this released Miller, who capitalized on clean air to lay down a series of solid laps. Coupled with a perfectly timed pitstop from his Moorespeed team, Judd Miller came out just ahead of Olson to claim his first ever Radical Cup win.
In the 1340 class Robert Burgess (Radical Canada) and Eric Wagner (Team Stradale) were both caught short in the pits and had to serve penalties, while Louis Schriber was again kept off the podium by Sanderson (2nd in class) and Graham (3rd in class). This made Rafols’s third win of the weekend even sweeter. And in taking a trifecta of pole positions, fastest laps and race wins he’d maximized his points haul from Watkins Glen to close his deficit to Schriber and be within striking distance as the series heads into its final round.
The Blue Marble Cocktails Radical Cup North America season will conclude at Weathertech Raceway Laguna Seca, Oct 25-27, where it will be showcased alongside the SRO’s Intercontinental GT Challenge. Along with deciding the three class drivers’ and teams’ championships, a 2018 outright series champion will be rewarded with a Radical Factory team drive in the United Kingdom. Saturday’s Night of Champions awards banquet will also feature the inaugural presentation of a memorial trophy for sportsmanship honoring the late Jeff Green.