Engen handed the win in second Masters Formula Atlantic Plus race at Watkins Glen, as Blain gets penalised
Travis Engen (Ralt RT1) took the spoils in the second Masters Formula Atlantic Plus race at Watkins Glen when on-the-road winner Bob Blain (March 76A) was given a 40-second time penalty for jumping the start.
Engen and Blain were involved in a monumental scrap all race and were soon joined from the back by Peter Greenfield (Ralt RT4) and Gray Gregory (Chevron B39), both scything past Alex MacAllister’s RT1 and Dave Zurlinden’s RT31 to make it a four-way battle at the front.
Greenfield initially put Blain under immense pressure before dropping back to fourth halfway into the race. Engen then put on a late charge to move past Gregory and close down the gap to Blain, who going into the final lap fended off Engen to take the chequered flag in first. Blain’s subsequent time penalty, however, demoted him to sixth place, and handed the win to Engen.
From his pole position, Travis Engen’s Ralt RT1 was beaten away into the lead by Saturday’s winner Bob Blain, who had been penalised with one spot on the Sunday grid having gained an advantage by jumping the start of the first race. MacAllister was third ahead of Zurlinden, while Gray Gregory (Chevron B39) and Peter Greenfield (Ralt RT4) bounced back from their mishaps on the previous day.
Soon, though, the question was raised if Blain in his March 76A had once again jumped the start to get ahead of Engen, but for the moment he was leading the race, while Greenfield had made short work of Gregory and Zurlinden to be fourth when the opening lap completed. The man on the move, Greenfield dispensed of MacAllister and Engen on the next lap, and was already chasing Blain hard for the lead. Gregory followed in his wake, taking third from Engen, as the top four remained split by a mere six tenths.
At the end of lap 3, Blain still hung on to the lead but only barely, as he and Greenfield broke away from Gregory and Engen, both now trailing by more than a second, as MacAllister was left fighting Zurlinden over fifth place.
With Saturday’s polesitter and initial runaway leader Howard Katz missing, this was turning into a much more tightly fought over contest than the first race, as Gregory and Engen closed back on to Blain and Greenfield to regroup into a leading bunch of four covered by less than a second. But still, the issue of that jumped start was looming over Blain’s fate…
At half-distance, the order in the top four was shaken up when Greenfield after an apparent mistake suddenly dropped two places to Gregory and Engen, and had some catching up to do, now trailing Blain by three seconds and having to watch MacAllister who was just a second behind.
Freed from Greenfield’s intimidating presence, Blain got the hammer down to set fastest lap of the race and separate himself from Gregory by 1.3 seconds, with Engen still just three tenths behind Gregory’s Chevron in third. In fact, the Ralt RT1 driver produced some magic himself by lowering Blain’s fastest lap mark by a full second to pass Gregory and close up to the man in front, who in the space of one lap saw his lead evaporate to less than six tenths.
Now in a groove, Engen slashed Blain’s slender lead even more, bringing it down to less than three tenths on lap 9, as Gregory began to fade away. Greenfield in fourth, meanwhile, was needing to watch MacAllister, who now led Zurlinden by ten seconds.
As they raced towards the line, Blain consolidated his lead going into the final lap, and continued to set the fastest lap of the race as he received the chequered flag well over a second from Engen – but it was all for nothing. As the March driver was indeed deemed to have jumped the start, he was handed a 40-second penalty that dropped him well down the order. So Engen was the winner ahead of Gregory, Greenfield, MacAllister and Zurlinden, with Blain classified in sixth place.
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