61st Rose Cup Races run under perfect weather
It was a perfect weekend for the annual Rose Cup Races at Portland International Raceway. With temperatures in the 80s tempered by cool breezes on July 10, the 61st running of the races was generally free of incidents, allowing the competitors to rise as far as their skills and their cars could take them.
As it has been for many years, the annual Portland Rose Festival race event was specified for sports cars, touring cars and silhouette stock cars. However, the Friends of PIR group that organizes the event threw a new twist into the race this year: $10,000 in prize money at stake for the winners.
"Feature prize money will be awarded for winning the Gary Bockman Pole Award on Saturday," said Darrell LeBlanc, President of Friends of PIR. "The Sunday race will pay overall podium positions, class winners and the Hard Charger Award, which is presented to the driver who makes the most dramatic improvement from his or her starting position."
The prize money by itself wouldn't cover the cost of fielding a top racing car in the Rose Cup, but it's a strong draw for racers up and down the west coast. The 38-car field that started the race was among the largest in recent history.
Sitting on the pole position was Tom Burt of Woodway, Washington, in his No. 45 Audi R8 LMS Ultra, sponsored by AR Motorsports of Tigard. Outside on the front row was Chris Evans of Portland, driving the No. 92 Ford Mustang. Third on grid was Michael McAleen of Tacoma, Washington, driving the No. 3 Superlight SLC which resembled a prototype sports racer. Peter Baljet of Duncan, British Columbia, sat fourth in the No. 6 Bentley GT3.
At the start, McAleen leapt forward into the lead, putting a sizable gap between the Superlight and the heavier sports and touring cars in the opening laps. However, it was not his day, and McAleen retired early with mechanical difficulties. That left Burt in the lead, with Baljet chasing in second place. The sun was shining on Burt as he expertly covered the field, putting slower cars a lap down, but Baljet couldn't seem to catch a break and was balked encountering traffic in the corners.
A late caution period for a car that caught fire allowed the field to bunch up, but Burt had enough left in his Audi that Baljet could not catch him in the much heavier Bentley. At the checkered flag, Burt claimed the 61st Rose Cup win by a margin of 6.477 seconds over Baljet. Darryl Becker of Battle Ground finished third in the No. 73 Ford Fusion stock car.
Because the Rose Cup draws so many entries, Friends of PIR has divided the race into three classes for cars with different speed potentials. All three overall winners were from the fastest RC1 class. The RC2 class victory was claimed by Greg Anthony of Beaverton, driving the No. 23 BMW M3, sponsored by Prime Roofing and AR Motorsports. Class honors in RC3 went to Kyle Keenan of Vancouver, driving the No. 82 BMW 330CI, also sponsored by AR Motorsports.
Several Rose Cup supporting races were also held on Sunday. SCCA Spec Racer Ford was won by Cooper Becklin of West Linn, while the Spec Miata race was won by longtime Miata racer and multiple-time local champion Ken Sutherland of Sherwood. The race for small-bore production sports cars was won by Austin Bradshaw of Dundee for the second year in a row. In the Vintage Racing group, the Wemme Trophy lifetime achievement award was presented to Mike Smith, driver of the No. 17 Ford Mustang, for his long history of participation and work on behalf of the racing community.
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