Goulart opens 50th SCCA Runoffs with victory

Elivan Goulart, of Shelton, battled all race long in the rain with Marc Hoover, of Cameron Park, Calif., coming out on top in Super Touring Under to take the first race of the weekend at the 50th SCCA National Championship Runoffs in Elkhart Lake, Wis. Joel Weinberger, of Hinsdale, Ill., finished third.

Rain showers fell just before the start of the race, but it didn’t curtail the fight as Goulart averaged 86.176 mph in the 13-lap, 52-mile race to win by just 0.286-second.

Goulart started second in the No. 72 KRUGSPEED/www.SCDA1.com Lotus Exige, and right away took the battle to Hoover’s SafeRacer polesitting No. 98 Hooverspeed/NRA/Necksgen/Redline Mazda Miata. With rain falling, the power of Hoover’s Miata seemed to almost be a disadvantage, pitching him sideways exiting corners from the start.

The Lotus took the lead for the first time in turn six of the opening lap, and while Hoover settled in, Goulart stretched out the lead by a couple of seconds. Hoover rejoined the battle by lap six, and Hoover was back in front on lap seven.

With the track still soaked, lap eight brought even more drama. The pair swapped the lead three times in corner five, six and through the carousel, with Goulart emerging with the lead again.

With Hoover in tow to the finish, Goulart never put a wheel wrong. Hoover’s last chance at the lead was a strong run out of the final corner and to the checkered flag on the final lap, but Goulart escaped with the narrow final margin and his fourth national championship. Goulart also turned the Hawk Hot Lap, running a 2:44.539 (87.517 mph).

“It’s an exciting feeling to be back here again,” Goulart said. “We won in ’01 and ’02, then took a little break and won Spec Miata in 2011. That was a similar situation, where the pass was made in the same corner for the national championship. We didn’t come last year, but I thought, for the 50th, we’ve got to come back. So I’m glad to have four in a row now.

“This is one of the most exciting races I’ve been in in a long time. Marc did a phenomenal job driving. A few times out there, I thought he was going to go off. And just when I thought that — he was throwing it sideways and everything — I thought that I had this. Then he saved it. I was like, ‘Aww, come on.’”

“But my car was really hooked up in the rain. It handled really well and the braking was great on it. He had more power, so it was a balance, give and take. And as he said, we were doing similar lap times, but it came down at the end to that final move. I was glad to be in the right place at the right time, that’s basically what it boiled down to.”

Hoover spent much of the race fighting a huge slide with the power down, going perpendicular to the track on a number of instances, but collecting it up before ending his day. Hoover was thrilled with his second-place finish, the fourth podium of his Runoffs career. His sideways slides earned his the GoPro Hero Move of the Race.

“It was a whole lot of fun, is what it looked like from my seat,” Hoover said. “I had my advantage and he had his advantage. The biggest advantage he had was age. He wore the old man out.

“It was a 100 percent workout, 100 percent of the time. Elivan, he got the move in the carousel. I knew we were going to bump, but I was hoping we weren’t going to bump too hard. He was so much better off there than I. We got into a corner, his car would rotate; my car pushes, then it snaps, that’s just what it’s going to do. I was like, hang onto it. I had a lot of fun with it. I don’t think either of the two of us were concerned with throwing the car away. We were going for it. That’s the way you’re supposed to do it. It was just a fun race with a great prize at the end.”

Though the battle for the win was a minute and a half ahead of any other competitors, Weinberger earned his fourth-consecutive STU podium with a steady drive. The class veteran started ninth in the No. 9 Continental Audi/Castrol/BFGoodrich Tires Audi A4, using the all-wheel-drive in the rain to keep his car on track and climb through the field.

That progression earned Weinberger the Sunoco Hard Charger award.

Eric Heinrich, who started third in the No. 10 BFGoodrich/2002Racing.com/Pagid RS BMW M3, hung on to finish fourth, followed by Anthony Simmers. Simmers started 10th in the No. 45 Backcountry Pizza/Autohaus Boulder Volkswagen GTI.