Northern California’s Classic Sports Racing Group’s annual Charity Challenge took place last weekend, September 29-October 1, at Sonoma Raceway, with competition in the usual CSRG race groups — as well as this year’s featured event, the Can-Am Mini Challenge — providing intense racing all weekend.
Sunday’s featured Can-Am Mini Challenge event was essentially a race for 2nd place, as the Class M4 #77 Sprite-powered rear-wheel-drive “Mini” built by Joe Huffaker and piloted by his son-in-law Ethan Shippert ran away from the pack after the first two turns of Sonoma Raceway’s twisty 2.89-mile track.
With a safety car bunching the field in the early laps, the times got slightly closer, but then spread out again. Finishing 2nd was the #11 Fortech Mini — a front-drive setup — driven by former SCCA National Champion Doug Peterson, who had been out of the car for five years, while 3rd was taken by the similar front-drive #17 Mini with Welshman Endaf Owens at the wheel as a guest driver, sorting a car that had been out of action for at least four years.
An example of what are commonly called “tube-frame Minis,” the #11 car, sponsored by Seven Enterprises, is now owned and campaigned by Andy and Rachel Nelson from Grimsby, Ontario, Canada, who reunited Doug Peterson with the car in which he’d won the first Mini Challenge in 2009. The 3rd-place #17 car, sponsored by Mini Mania, is owned and built by Ward Barbour of Portland, Oregon.
Finishing first in Class M3, driving car #441, was Geoff Tupholme from Pritchard, British Columbia, Canada; first place in Class M2, car #177, was Dennis Racine from Grass Valley, California; and taking first in Class M1, car #41, was Holger Mishal from Santa Clara, California. These drivers prevailed from a total field of 32 Minis.
Among the weekend’s other races was the third round of this year’s Formula 5000 Drivers Association championship, where Jim Stengel won overall, taking Class B (1972-1976) with his 1973 McRae GM1-Chevrolet, and Bruce Leeson topped Class A for pre-1972 cars with his 1969 McLaren M10B-Chevrolet. Both Stengel and Leeson now lead their respective class championships with only November’s finale at Circuit of the Americas remaining,
Tickets for the CSRG Charity Challenge help support Sonoma Chapter of the Speedway Children’s Charities, as do donations for the thrilling laps around the track in two-seat racecars as well as Ferraris, Mustangs and Corvettes. Since its inception in 2004, the Charity Challenge has raised $830,000 to support the success and wellness of Sonoma’s children.