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Race report by Drew Ellis
The 2011 Byron Fuels Nitro Challenge was held on June 24-26 at Leisure Hours Raceway in Joliet IL. Around 90 drivers from the United States were in attendance to make for some great competition. This is a great race to attend for many reasons including the great facilities, central US location and the IFMAR style race format with its 10 minute qualifiers and 1 hour long final. The event included 1/10 sedan, 1/8, and the 1/8th GT classes, with RC America participating in the sedan and 1/8 classes.

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Sedan Qualifying:
There were 4 rounds of qualifying with a qual points format, best 2 out of 4 to decide the starting order for the final. The TC division was very tight with a different person as TQ each of the 4 rounds. In Round 1 it was Paolo Morganti who took the TQ. In Round 2 it was Andy Powers, followed by Vincent Jackson in Round 3. Paul Lemieux secured the final round’s best time. Andy Powers would take the overall top spot with the best 2 round total, with Paolo starting second and Vincent in third. Even with his 4th Round TQ, Paul would have to start in the 8th position with only one clean run in qualifying. Fellow XRAY NT1 drivers Diatta Collymore, Eric Jones, Melvin Aulston, and Loran Whiting were able to make the remaining A Main spots, giving XRAY six direct qualifiers in the final.

1. Andy Power XRAY NT1
2. Paolo Morganti
3. Vincent Jackson
4. Scotty Gray
5. Diatta Collymore XRAY NT1
6. JJ Wang
7. Eric Jones XRAY NT1
8. Paul Lemieux XRAY NT1
9. Melvin Aulston XRAY NT1
10. Loran Whiting XRAY NT1

Sedan Final:
Bumping up from the B Main, Chris Doseck gave XRAY a very strong field in the final, with 7 NT1’s competing for the win. At the tone, it was Andy Powers with his NT1 who would set the early pace for the field. After a couple rough opening laps, Lemieux had moved up through the field from his starting position. By the first pit, it was Power in the lead with Paul and Morganti running second and third. On the 20th lap, Lemieux took control of 1st place and was able to gradually pull away. At the mid point of the race it was still Lemieux and Powers in 1 and 2, with JJ Wang, Vincent Jackson, Melvin Aulston and Eric Jones looking to take the final podium spot. From that point, the top two spots didn’t change with Lemieux and Powers finishing 1-2 with their XRAYs. JJ Wang was able to hold off Vincent Jackson for 3rd.

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1. Lemieux, Paul XRAY NT1
2. Power, Andy XRAY NT1

3. Wang, JJ
4. Jackson, Vincent
5. Jones, Eric XRAY NT1
6. Doseck, Chris XRAY NT1

7. Morganti, Paolo
8. Whiting, Loran XRAY NT1
9. Lino, Rino
10. Collymore, Diatta XRAY NT1
11. Aulston, Melvin XRAY NT1

12. Gray, Scotty

1/8th Qualifying:
The 1/8th class was the focus for the RC America factory team at this year’s Byron Fuels Challenge. With the new car, we are still learning about the RX8 with each time on the track. Ralph Burch, Paul Lemieux, Eric Jones, Loran Whiting, Dana McKee, Fabio Evangelista, and OV Opheim were all working together to dial in their new rides. Burch had not run since the Worlds in Florida, and used that car with only a small shock oil change as a starting point for qualifying. His Max Power’ed RX8 was fast in Round 1, but issues didn’t let him finish the qualifying first run. TQ honors went to Lemieux for R1. With clean runs, Ralph would come back to TQ Round 2 and 3 with Lemieux in 2nd, and Ralph was also TQ in Round 4 over Morganti.

1. Ralph Burch XRAY RX8
2. Paul Lemieux XRAY RX8

3. Paolo Morganti
4. Ted Hammer
5. Eric Jones XRAY RX8
6. Jason Conley
7. Mike Pulfer
8. Richard St Cyr
9. Jeff Zuccatell
10. Sean Lue

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1/8th Final:
Advancing from the B Main, Loran Whiting proved to be a quick study with the RX8 and to the 1/8th class. Her strong performance in the B Main placed a 4th RX8 in the A Main. At the tone, everyone took off cautiously to avoid trouble in the beginning of such a long race. In the early laps, Lemieux and Morganti were able to move past Burch as he was in the fluff after going wide in a turn. By the first pit stop, Paul was extending his lead over second, with Ralph was making up lost time after a small crash which put him a couple seconds back from Morganti. Ralph and Paolo would swap positions a couple of times over the next few minutes before Ralph was forced to retire due to engine issues.

At the 30 minute mark, it was Lemieux still in front with roughly a 1 lap lead over Morganti. At the midpoint of the race, Lemieux came in for his tire stop giving the lead to Morganti. Shortly after Paulo would do his tire stop as well. After cycling through the tire changes, Paolo had made up a lot of time closing in to just 2 seconds behind the leader. Paul’s second set of tires looked hard to drive and Morganti was able to close in over the next few minutes. Just as Morganti had closed to Lemieux’s bumper he clipped the sweeper and that would end his race. From there, Paul settled in and cruised to victory with his RX8, followed by Eric Jones in 2nd and Jeff Zuccatell rounding out the podium. Loran was able to complete a long day of racing (2 one hour A Mains and a 45min B Main) with an impressive 5th place finish to put 3 RX8’s in the top 5.

1. Lemieux, Paul XRAY RX8
2. Jones, Eric A XRAY RX8

3. Zuccatell, Jeff
4. Hammer, Ted
5. Whiting, Loran
6. Pulfer, Mike
7. Morganti, Paolo
8. Lue, Sean
9. Conley, Jason
10. Burch, Ralph RX8
11. St.Cyr, Richard
12. Desoto Jr., Joaquin

gratulations to all and we hope everyone had a great weekend. Thank you to Leisure Hours Raceway and Byron Fuels for the great event!

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