2017 Can-Am Mini Challenge Race Report

Toybox Racing was very successful at Sonoma, with Doug Peterson driving the #11 Fortech Mini to a second place overall, while Andy Nelson took third place in class M3 and seventh overall in the #52 Mini – a fantastic achievement for the team considering the quality of the competition! Here is a quick event recap:

Thursday was load in, tech inspection, and the potluck. The Mini group had an assigned paddock area, approximately 325’ by 80’ feet. Dennis Racine had worked very hard to layout a master plan of the paddock with the sizes of everyone’s rigs, and our paddock area looked spectacular with all the Minis lined up in a row. It was a great deal of effort; however the final result was having all the Minis in the same area, which was great for the camaraderie, tool lending/borrowing, and the spectators. We were also very fortunate to have our own tech inspectors! Tim Linerud, Mark Kearney, and Michael Dodd did a fantastic job of roving tech, with 90% of the cars being done on Thursday and the remainder on Friday. It was very convenient to have tech in the paddock, and we were grateful to the tech team for their service. Mini Mania hosted the potluck, and the massive pot of Charlie’s Chili we prepared was consumed, along with tasty offerings from the Racine family. No one went hungry or thirsty, and it was a great opportunity to meet our European guest drivers Endaf Owens, Jonathan Lewis, and Rene de Vries who were sponsored by Mini Mania as well as socialize with friends.

Friday was the test day, and our group didn’t start until 2:00pm. This allowed for a relaxing breakfast at our hotel, the Inn at Sonoma, which was excellent. We arrived at the track around 11:00am, and all we had to do was double check the cars and fuel. Testing identified a small to-do list on the Fortech Mini. Overall, our extensive pre-race car prep and event planning paid off, with no major issues for the cars. #52 was flawless, only needing tires and fuel the entire weekend. However, #11 did require a few adjustments, and we were grateful of the opportunity to use Shad Huntley’s dyno, which was on site Friday and Saturday. A small change to the jetting produced a worthwhile boost in power. Oddly, both the CV boots failed, which made a big mess, but was easily repaired. Surprisingly, we also had problems with the steering rack, which caused Doug to miss out on the qualifying session Saturday, resulting in him starting last on the grid for the qualifying race that afternoon.

For the qualifying race Saturday, Doug elected to give the field a half lap head-start before he pulled onto the track. After proving the changes to the car were performing correctly, he proceeded to move up rapidly though the field, finishing third overall behind Ethan Shippert in the Huffaker Mini, and Endaf Owens in the ex-Richard Kraus Mini owned by Ward Barbour. Andy started 16th, and finished in 9th position. Ethan Shippert in the rear-wheel drive Huffaker Mini was clearly dominant, in a class of his own with a commanding lead over the closest car. It was obvious that unless the car broke, none of the front-drive Minis would snatch the winner’s trophy away from him.

Sunday Doug took the Fortech Mini out on the am test session, and everything was working well. Our crew guys, Don, Tony, & Wayne took care of last minute prep on the cars, and we were good to go for our feature race at 11:30am. CSRG was on schedule, and the cars were being called to the grid by 11:10am. It was a great sight to see thirty-two Minis on the grid! This was it!

The excitement mounted as the final minutes ticked away, and the cars started their engines, pulling out behind the MINI pace car for the pace lap. Our flag bearers were at the exit of the hot pits, with Rick Sherman waiving the US flag, and Dave Noel waving the Canadian flag enthusiastically. Everyone was enjoying the anticipation of a great race!

The cars took the green first time around, with Ethan Shippert streaking away and opening up a commanding lead. Doug got by Endaf shortly after the start, and then ran pretty much by himself for the remainder of the race. He was behind Ethan and ahead of Endaf, so after the first lap the video is rather uninteresting. Further back, Andy started 9th, finishing in 7th place overall and 3rd in class M3, and improving his lap time from a 2:00.176 in qualifying to a respectable 1:59.389. When the checker fell, Ethan Shippart had lapped the field up to 18th position, and claimed the second Can-Am Mini Challenge win for the Huffaker Mini. Doug finished a convincing second, and Endaf third, rounding out the top three podium spots. The 10” tire winner was Geoff Tupholme from Pritchard, BC, and we were really proud to see Geoff on the podium after a last minute effort to finish the car before the race.

Everyone headed back to the pits, then converged at the Sonoco Victory Lane for the podium celebrations. Mike Kearney did the honors awarding the trophies, while Rachel called up the winners. Podium breakdown:
st – Holger Mishal; 2nd – John Burman; 3rd – Bruce Houlden
st – Dennis Racine; 2nd – Greg Wold; 3rd – Dale Shore
st – Geoff Tupholme; 2nd – Jonathan Lewis; 3rd – Andy Nelson
st – Ethan Shippert; 2nd – Doug Peterson; 3rd – Endaf Owens


After the feature race, Andy decided to run the Group 2 race. The Minis had to start at the back of the grid due to no qualifying times in the group, so they enjoyed an energizing charge through the field. Andy finished 9th, with Don Racine 8th, and Jonathan Lewis an incredible 4th overall! Just a little extra fun after the main event!

So many people contributed to the success of the event that it is simply impossible to name everyone. However, we would like to make special mention to the following:
We are exceedingly grateful to Doug Peterson for agreeing to drive the Fortech Mini. Doug and his wife Gail are absolutely amazing to hang out with, and we had a lot of fun socializing during the event. Doug has so much racing expertise and experience with the Fortech Mini that having his knowledge on tap was invaluable.
Huge thanks are due to our sponsor, Seven Mini Parts, for sponsoring Toybox Racing during the 2017 season, and for being the title sponsor for the Can-Am Mini Challenge race three events in a row!
Also to our crew: Don, Tony, and Wayne who so efficiently prepared the cars during the race weekend.
A big shout-out to Nick Swift, Swiftune Engineering, for the engine development and advice during the year.
One unique and very much appreciated feature was to have Shad Huntley’s dyno in the Mini paddock. Thanks Shad for bringing your dyno to the Mini Challenge race! It’s not often that racers have access to the equipment and a guy who really knows his stuff at the track.
Our sanctioning club CSRG did a lot of things during the weekend that made the event extra-special, including:  Live Canadian and American anthems, vintage aeroplane flyovers, playing of the “Self Preservation Society” song when the Minis went to the grid, charity rides, event BBQ on Saturday, having all the Minis run in their own group in addition to allowing them into Group 2 for no extra charge, MINI/Mini car corrals, event banners and media featuring the Mini, and maintaining a very punctual schedule on the track. It was a fantastic race weekend, with unbeatable camaraderie, close racing, awesome weather, a great facility, and a challenging track that was perfect for Minis.
And last but certainly not least, thanks to the many friends and enthusiasts who volunteered their time and expertise during the event: David Noel, Rick Sherman, Norman Nelson, Tim Linerud, Michael Dodd, Mike, Mary, & Mark Kearney, the Racine family/Mini Mania, photographers Roald Rakers, Greg Birch, Jeremy Thorpe, Eric Newland, Andrew Ritter, Michael Dodd, George Olson, Terry Smith, & Bob Pengraph; Dyno owner Shad Huntley, and of course the directors and staff at CSRG! It goes without saying that a highlight of the event was to meet or reunite with other Mini enthusiasts, too many names to mention! It is truly amazing how much camaraderie and fun we all enjoy due to our association with the little cars. Thank you to everyone for stopping by to say hello and cheer on the Minis!

An event for the history books – well worth the 5,500 mile round trip tow!

Check out some in-car video #52/Andy Nelson. Part 1, Part 2