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Willow Springs Race report.

Tony G

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Willow Springs 2003


Round #3 of the 2003 Camaro-Mustang Challenge rolled into Willow Springs International Raceway for some hot action on Memorial Day weekend. Temperatures soared on Saturday and were accompanied by some strong winds. Still, the drivers of CMC put on a great show of close racing action on the fast 2.5 mile circuit.


A field of 18 cars took to practice Saturday morning with many driving this track for the first time. Some drivers had tested on Friday and were continuing to test their abilities especially through turns 8 and 9, the highest speed turns on the track. Nick Steel’s #45 Camaro and Brad Simpson’s #36 Camaro both had fresh motors and thus took this time to break them in.


Saturday’s qualifying session was split by NASA to allow more clear laps for the CMC cars, a move welcomed by the CMC drivers. Tony Guaglione’s #55 Mustang and Greg Robinson’s #12 Mustang experienced cooling problems that would be an omen of things to come. Dave Adams in his white #74 Mustang put in quite an effort despite suffering from an intestinal bug the night before. A great effort by Sam Stowell in his #4 Mustang put him on the pole. Less than one second behind was Greg Righetti in his # 60 Camaro. …


Race #1 on Saturday had a clean start and looked like a tough battle throughout the field in the early laps. A few laps in however, things began to change. Guaglione’s #55 Mustang overheated and forced an early retirement. Erick Van Wagenen’s #21 Camaro lost 5th gear but continued on despite losing a few positions. Brad Simpson in his #36 Camaro was anxious to finish his first race but ran out of fuel before the checkered flag. Greg Robinson’s #12 Mustang suffered from overheating and was forced to back off the pace to save the motor. Al Fernandez in his #5 Camaro had a great view of Steve Sparklin’s spectacular off-track excursion in turn 2 in his #19 Mustang. Final results showed…Stowell crossing the finish line first ,but would later take second place due to a yellow flag infraction ,which put Righetti in first followed by Stowell ,and David Morin taking 3rd.It was then Steel, Trask, Varon ,Fernandez ,Robinson, Van Wagenen, Plum, Sparklin, Bullock ,Bergman, Adams, Simpson, Helldin, and Guaglione.


Race #2 was an 8 lap sprint held during the first portion of the three hour enduro. This race featured an inverted starting grid based on the results from Race #1. Van Wagenen managed to put in a new transmission between races and make the starting grid thanks to a transmission from Julie Bergman who had recently borrowed it from Mike Plum! Drivers Per Helldin, Steve Graves and Al Fernandez elected to run a CMC car in the enduro and prove that a V8 powered Camaro could compete. The Helldin/Graves #81 Camaro normally would compete in CMC. More on their enduro effort later.


Guaglione, who started in last driving Sam Stowell’s # 4 Mustang, passed the entire field to take the lead, was chased closely by Ed Varon in his # 24 Camaro. Varon was a little too aggressive in turn 4 and punted Guaglione out of first place, on the last lap. Both cars would spin off turn 4 and allow Righetti to move into the lead and take the eventual win followed by Van Wagenen, Morin, Steel, Fernandez, Helldin, Simpson, Sparklin, Robinson, Bullock, Ellison, (in his first CMC race), Guaglione, and Varon with a DQ for Punting Guaglione.

Many drivers stayed after Race #2 to cheer on Team Esse’ in the #81 Camaro as they competed in the three hour enduro. Driver Steve Graves took the initial driving duties followed by Al Fernandez at dusk leaving Per Helldin to drive the final leg as darkness fell. These drivers did an outstanding job and stayed true to their projected race pace. Graves gave the team a great starting position and managed the tires well allowing Fernandez to take over and turn consistent laps at 1:44 each for several laps in a row. Fernandez would later be black flagged for non-operational tail lights but the team responded quickly and made good use of the repair time by refueling at the same time. Despite a long hot day and some fatigue halfway through his stint, Helldin did a great job bringing the #81 Camaro home in one piece to finish 10th overall. Everyone involved with CMC congratulates Team Esse’ on a great effort and representation of what a CMC car can do.


Sunday proved to be cooler and a lot less windy which provided for more comfortable conditions for both car and driver. Hot Rod TV and KDOC TV were on hand to interview Guaglione, and Steel, to show the differences in a Mustang verses a Camaro and film the action in and around the pits as well as on the track. Qualifying showed everyone getting faster as they got used the track. Again, Sam Stowell led the field and took the pole .

Don Trask was unable to compete due to a broken windshield caused by a hood that decided to open unexpectedly.


Race #3 was a standing start and provided some great drama early on. Greg Righetti’s Camaro had transmission trouble which prevented him from launching at the green flag. Erick Van Wagenen, who was just behind Righetti , had to take major evasive action to get around Righetti, but impacted him in the left rear, but both cars continued. Mike Plum in his #38 Camaro experienced brake problems in turn 3 which made life exciting for Dave Morin in his #68 Camaro and Greg Robinson in his #12 Mustang. A few laps in Nick Steel also suffered brake problems which put him out for the race. Al Fernandez suffered clutch failure and had to be towed in. Despite a hard charge by Robinson, Stowell came home with the win. Final results showed Stowell with the win followed by Robinson, Morin, Van Wagenen, Righetti, Varon, Helldin, Simpson, Bullock, Fernandez, Steel, Sparklin, and Plum.

It was another great weekend of CMC action and camaraderie off the track. CMC continues to enjoy a great reputation among the various NASA race groups, something I think all CMC drivers should be proud of. A big thank you to all the drivers who participated this weekend.


Round 4 will be at Infineon Raceway at Sears Point June 28-29. See you at the races!


Greg Robinson

Tony Guaglione

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Great Write Up and coverage from Willow Springs! Those deep in the heart of Texas feel at home reading the update and hope to have as much fun at our CMC event in August!

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