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Pole-sitter Trevor Malone leads 43 virtual Lotus 79s across the line to start the First Medical Miami Grand Prix.
The Lionheart Retro Series launched with 43 classic Lotus 79s fighting for position on the challenging Homestead-Miami Speedway oval. If the inaugural race is any indication, it would be wise to expect the unexpected when it comes to Lionheart’s newest series.
Trevor Malone snagged the pole position but quickly found himself in a battle for the lead with Lionheart Indycar Series regulars James Krahula and Dan Geren. The trio would control the first quarter of the race with each of them leading laps. Ryan Otis, Joe Branch and Ian Adams would later enter the fray although neither were able to sneak past either Malone or Geren.
With three cautions in the first 40 laps, none of the leaders pitted until James Krahula brought his classic Lotus into the pits under yellow on Lap 39. The other competitors remained on track past the halfway point when Trevor Malone was the first to blink, pitting under green on Lap 54. Geren would quickly follow, then Adams, Otis and Bran
The green-flag pit stops allowed Bob Mikes and Chris Stofer, both of whom had stopped for fuel under the earlier cautions, to move up to the front. Stofer’s strong position was especially notable since he’d recovered after spinning on the front stretch on Lap 29.
Mikes and Stofer were still in control when the caution flag flew again on Lap 67 — an ill-timed yellow for the early-race leaders who were forced to take the wave-around as Mikes and Stofer comfortably pitted for the last time.
Following the green, Mikes and Stofer resumed their battle, along with Jason Galvin who now found himself just two positions out of the lead after starting the race in 43rd position due to connection issues. James Krahula also returned to the front as his alternate pit strategy began paying dividends later in the race.
Mikes would eventually surrender positions to both Stofer and Galvin as his tires wore down. When a yellow came out with 17 laps remaining, Stofer was in the lead. However, his night ended unexpectedly under the same caution when his engine blew as he attempted to burn fuel for the re-start.
Galvin went on to lead the remaining 15 laps and take the checkered flag, going down in history as the first-ever winner in Lionheart Retro Series history.
“I can’t believe it,” Galvin said in victory lane. “I started from the pits because I had an internet issue. I was content just running around in the back. It’s like the magic of God stretched out and fixed my internet, and we went forward and caught some lucky breaks with yellows.”
The internet wasn’t the only challenge Galvin faced during the night; he narrowly avoided the spinning car of Dustin Wardlow on Lap 16 and made an equally harrowing escape past Brandon Limkemann on Lap 36.
“I used up a lot of my lives,” he explained in victory lane. Galvin also was lucky to avoid hitting Chris Stofer when his engine let go. “He blew up right in front of me. If I wasn’t paying attention, I would have run right over the back of him.”
Defending Lionheart Indycar Series presented by First Medical Equipment champion Jake Wright finished second after inching ahead of James Krahula just before taking the checkered flag.
“All night, the car felt great. It was a lot of fun running in the pack with these things,” Wright said, who ran in the top 10 most of the evening. “I think everybody had a blast tonight.”
James Krahula wasn’t disappointed with his third-place result despite finishing just behind his No Name Racing teammate.
“We were catching Galvin there. I wanted to at least scare him.” Krahula, who continued to praise the vintage Lotus 79, said. “These races are so much fun, aren’t they? The 79 is one of the best cars. You have to drive these things.”
The 43-car field was the largest in the history of the Lionheart Racing Series. With the race server maxed-out, numerous sim racers who attempted to join were unable to enter, including three-time CART Retro Series champion Bradley Walters along with Lionheart regulars Pete Edwins, Jack Bogan and Dave Barber.
The large crowd might have created some issues, but it was a pleasant surprise for the league’s administration team, who had much more modest expectations after taking ownership of the CART Retro Series from founder Jimmy Eifling in late 2016.
“We had 43 cars show up tonight,” Galvin said. “We filled it up.
“Three months ago when we picked this up, we thought if we got 15 cars on opening night, we’d be thrilled.”
All photos via iRacing