In the history of the GT5 class, four Minis have won the SCCA National Championship. On March 20, 2004, a Gathering of Champions was held at the Thunderhill Raceway Park Double National. For the first time ever, all four past champion Minis were racing in the same event.
With this being the last year for the GT5 class it seemed appropriate that the S.F. Region host this special event. Three of the champion cars called the S.F. Region home and the fourth was built by local company, Comptech, as a sister car to the Fortech Mini. The driver's list reads like a "Who's Who" of Club Racing: Doug Peterson, Joe Huffaker, Bill Cooper, Duane Davis, Travis Duder John Becker, and Ward Barbour all had time behind the wheel of these famous cars.
The four Championship Minis in this race were the 1984 Champion Fortech Mini, driven by John Becker; 1986, 1989, 2003 Champion Fortech Mini, driven by Doug Peterson; 1993 Champion Comptech/Richard Kraus Mini, driven by Ward Barbour; and the Champion in 2000, 2001, and 2002, the Huffaker Mini, driven by Joe Huffaker.
Car and Driver Profiles
The 1984 GT5 Championship race was a classic close battle between Peterson in the Mini, Duane Davis in a Renault that he had purchased from Peterson, and 1981 Champion, Jim Dentici, in a Honda. Peterson had previously won two Runoffs in the same Renault Le Car being driven by Davis. Davis, known as one of the winningest drivers in SCCA, was still looking for his first win in Atlanta. For the first time since 1972, a Mini won The Runoffs: Peterson drove the Fortech Mini to win the 1984 Championship.
The 1984 National Champion, the first Fortech Mini, is currently owned and driven by John Becker. Becker is driving in his fourth decade of SCCA competition, virtually all in C Sedan and GT5 class Mini Coopers.
The 1986, 1989, and 2003 National Champion Fortech Mini was the first tube frame Mini built for SCCA competition. It was so revolutionary in design that several rules were written to outlaw copies. The car's trick front rocker arm suspension, right hand drive and IRS were all outlawed in 1990.
In 1986, with Doug Peterson busy racing IMSA, Fortech turned to Duane Davis for this trip to Atlanta. Overcoming new car troubles, Davis won The Runoffs in the car's first bid for the Championship.
Peterson was back in the driver's seat in 1989. He won the GT5 pole by 3.8 sec. and even would have had the pole in GT4 that year. Easily winning the race, the Mini was penalized 100 pounds by the comp board.
Over the next thirteen years the Fortech Mini was driven by Bill Cooper, Travis Duder, and Joe Huffaker, Peterson returning to drive in 1999. The car remained competitive with five second place finishes and one third at The Runoffs. Peterson won Fortech Racing's fourth National Championship at the 2003 Runoffs at Mid Ohio.
This race will be the 100th race for the Fortech Mini. Peterson will be at the wheel.
In 1986 Comptech built two tube frame Minis, the Fortech Mini, and a second for Richard Kraus in Florida. The second Mini took several years to complete and made its first appearance in Atlanta in 1990.
The 1993 Runoffs were to be the last at the Road Atlanta circuit. Kraus won the pole with Bill Cooper second for an all Mini front row. The track was wet but the Minis were able to run a slick tire. As the track dried out it was obvious that front wheel drive was a tremendous advantage and the two Minis drove away to lap the entire field except for third place.
Cooper's years of professional driving showed as he built up a huge lead going into the last lap. The ignition failed on the final lap which put Kraus in the lead to win his first National Championship.
The 1993 Champion Mini sat in a Florida warehouse for years until current owner Ward Barbour purchased it last year. People in Portland know Barbour as a Mini enthusiast for 40 years, and he drove a Mini in SCCA competition in the seventies. He has recently renewed his National license and is making the Thunderhill double National his first race on the road to the 2004 Runoffs.
The Huffaker Mini is in a class by itself in GT5. The car is the state of the art when looking at the small bore GT class. Built in 1997 at the Huffaker Engineering facility it takes advantage of the rules that allow the motor to be turned inline and thus makes this the first rear wheel drive Mini.
Joe Huffaker comes from a racing background and won the FP National Championship five times in his famous black Huffaker Midget. The Huffaker Mini has won the GT5 National Championship three times, in 2000, 2001, and 2002, and is the track record holder at all S.F. Region tracks, Laguna Seca, Sears Point, and Thunderhill.