The 2023 Porsche Club of America (PCA) Racing season officially arrived in the Midwest with the race at Heartland Motorsports Park in Topeka, KS. This long standing race put on by the Kansas City Region has been a welcome fixture on my spring calendar for a good number of years. The 2023 race did not disappoint, but did come with a wide array of challenges for the racers and Driving Education (DE) drivers to work through.
Friday kicked off the event with open lapping sessions and temperatures reached the mid 80’s with plenty of sun. Saturday featured rain and an early afternoon thunderstorm that saw temperatures drop into the mid 40’s and even included a period of hail and lightning. Sunday started cool and very windy and a drying track with forty degree weather and 20 mph gusty wind. This was not going to be a “set up your car and just drive it” type weekend. Each day posed challenges regarding tire selection, car setup, and even risk analysis.
The KC Region did a masterful job of coordinating the event through the challenges. Club President Jeff Hallam and Club Race Chair Dave Stadtmueller and their many volunteers deserve a hearty round of thanks and applause for navigating through the weather and keeping everything moving smoothly.
PCA emphasizes multi class racing with a wide variety of cars on track at one time. This race was no exception with a wide variety of cars ranging from a 991.1 911 Carrera Cup Car, various Cayman platforms and plenty of 944’s and Spec Boxsters. Overall, there were forty registered cars representing thirteen classes. The biggest groups were SP1: 944’s with eight cars, GTB1 Caymans with seven, and Spec Boxster with an impressive field of nine cars.
Race 1 was full rain conditions and probably some of the worst conditions I have seen at Heartland Park. Standing water, ongoing rain, and generally windy and challenging conditions made for tough racing. The PCA racers handled it perfectly and we ran a full forty minute race without serious incident. Glen Wiendenbeck took 1stposition in a Spec 996 with Chris Arbuckle in 2nd in the 911 GTC3 car. Steve Coomes had an impressive drive in his Spec Cayman taking 3rd overall. Kris Pippin won the SP1 race and Keith Slankard took honors in GTB1. Bradley Toews won the Spec Boxster class. A number of cars did not take the green flag due to the challenging weather and who could blame them for sitting out.
Race 2 on Sunday morning was a completely different event. Gone were the puddles and driving rain and we had a drying track with chilly, but much improved conditions. John Bleazard won overall with his 991.1 Cup car with Jeff Robbins in a GTD1 Cayman and Glenn Wiedenbeck in the Spec 996 rounding out the top three. Keith Slankard again bested the GTB1 group and Pat Heptig shook up the SP1 944’s with a class win in race 2. Steve Watkins was on top of the Spec Boxsters again.
Race 3 followed after the lunch break and we saw the best racing conditions of the weekend. The better conditions led to tighter racing and a few more contested spots throughout the field. Overall, John Bleazard took the win in the 991.1 cup, Dale Hartzell was 2nd in a GTA1 911 and finished just in front of Jeff Robbins in his GTD1 Cayman. Steve Watkins swept the day in Spec Boxsters with a second win of the day with a narrow winning margin of 1.9 seconds. Keith Slankard continued his hold on the GTB1 Caymans, making it three straight wins across the weekend. Richard Bennet was a quick 3.5 seconds over the 2nd place car of Kris Pippin for the win in SP1 944’s.
I jumped out in front of the GTB1 field in the third race and was happy to be hanging on to 1st in class and 6th overall for the first laps. Keith eventually sorted things out to his advantage and I had to work hard to stay in front of Shawn Keeler, who was charging from his 3rd place position.
I have to throw in a quick word of compliment to the SP1 and SPB drivers who do a great job of managing their class race while also dealing with the faster cars coming around about half way through the race. There is a lot of trust and driver skill in play, when you have different speed cars contesting corners and looking for an edge. I always try to give a little wave when a car opens up a corner for me. I know that means they have compromised the corner for their own lap and I am sure that must be frustrating for them at times. This coordination on the track is a big part of keeping club racing safe, while also having competition in class races.
Next on the Midwest calendar is Motorsport Park Hastings (MPH). If you are a racer or a DE driver looking for track time, MPH is a great track and always a fun event. I hope to see you out there!