It’s a Wrap… Stevens wins Honda Cup ’06
This past weekend was the final event for the 2006 Honda Cup season, two races on the high-speed circuit at Willow Springs International Raceway. With two races to go, the championship was still undecided with the top three drivers, Derek Stevens, Rylan Hazelton, and Richard Laifatt, all still in contention.
Saturday was an adventure… There were dark rain clouds on the horizon all day long in the very chilly Mojave desert, but the rain cooperated by staying away until the sun went down, allowing the races to proceed in dry conditions.
Hazelton seemed to have an excellent shot at overtaking the series leader Stevens, by turning in some exceptionally fast lap times in the qualifying session. Unfortunately, his car developed clutch problems that prohibited him from participating in the qualifying session. Stevens and Laifatt were able to qualify one and two respectively.
Although he would have the option of starting from the back of the pack, it looked as if Hazelton would have to forfeit the race as he and his intrepid pit crew was still working on the car when the final call came to come to grid for the start. As the pace car took off with the race participants in tow, Rylan was ready to throw in the towel. Instead… he decided to give it his best shot! As the pace car came around to lead the race group towards the starting line, the crew pushed Rylan and his S2k until he could get it into gear and moving. With only 4th gear available, he started out well behind the final car as the green flag lowered. Stevens and Laifatt quickly put the rest of the pack well behind them, with Derek slowly extending his lead over Richard each lap with some exceptional driving. Meanwhile, Rylan was busy working his way through the pack with only one gear to choose from. After finally getting by a slower moving Porsche that would not let him pass, and deftly avoiding a t-bone collision into an Integra that had spun out directly in front of him Rylan closed in on third place. On the final lap of the race, he managed to overtake Jeff Owen (last year’s champion) to take third place and secure his second place position for the season.
Derek’s first place finish gave him a nearly insurmountable lead for the season, and as long as he finished Sunday’s race, he would be crowned the ’06 champion. Laifatt’s second place finish in the race secured for him a position on the championship podium in just his first year of Honda Cup competition.
Sunday would bring much less drama, as the only way the standings could change was with a DNF for Steven’s Hondata sponsored screaming yellow Civic. A new master cylinder took care of Hazelton’s clutch issues, but the race would finish as the season would… Stevens first, Hazelton second, and Laifatt third.
First and foremost… S2ki wishes to congratulate this year’s champion Derek Stevens. As this is mainly an S2000 website, our editorial staff took more than one potshot at the Hondata Civic calling it the “megabucks” car. Truth be told, the technological advantage the Civic possessed was due to the phenomenal automotive engineering skills of its owner/driver. When a driver is blessed with the combination of technical prowess and driving skill that Stevens has, his competition is in for a very tough fight. While we still feel that the S2000 was significantly hindered by the ’06 rule changes, it doesn’t in any way diminish the accomplishments of the Hondata team, and we at S2ki salute Derek and his crew… well done!
Regrettably, the two S2000 teams that were in contention this year will not return to Honda Cup next year. Hazelton has decided to add forced induction to his car and move exclusively into SCCA ITE competition for ’07. Laifatt is moving on as well. He’ll be moving to open wheeled cars for the ’07 season, and competing in Formula 2000. He’s selling his S2000 race car, (the venerable Grey Ghost) back to its original owner (original S2000 track legend) Dave Kennedy, but Dave hasn’t yet announced his plans for the ’07 season. Stevens too may be moving to ITE next year, so the future for the Honda Cup Series is somewhat in doubt. Hopefully, there will be plenty of fresh entries for the ’07 season and Honda Cup will continue as an SCCA race series. We wish all the competitors the best of luck as they continue their racing careers in their respective new race series’, and we’ll keep you posted on the status of Honda Cup as soon as we have more information.
Later this week… the final results from the S2000 Challenge series which also wrapped this past weekend.