That Championship Season
Driving a race car in competition is a dream that many people have, but it’s never easy to pull off. Assembling the resources, developing the skills, and simply finding the time to step away from day-to-day obligations keeps it a distant dream for most.
For Seth Burgett, founder and CEO of Gateway Bronco, racing has been a lifelong goal, and 2022 is the year he pulled it all together and made that dream a reality at age 52. His first season racing was one to remember. In 7 starts, he took home 5 podiums, 4 wins, 2 track records and 1 championship with the Midwestern Council of Sports Car Clubs.
Burgett raced in two series in 2022, gathering experience from two wildly different types of race cars. In addition to competing in the MCSCC competition in a 2011 Mustang GT, he raced in the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association in a 1967 Shelby GT350. Burgett kicked off his freshman racing season in February at the SVRA’s Sebring SpeedTour event. He competed in the Group 6 B-Production class, home to large displacement sports cars and sedans. Seth’s 1967 GT350 is a car with its own road racing history, including competing in the 1971 and 1972 FIA Sebring 12 Hours Endurance Race.
“It was a surreal moment to return the Shelby to Sebring and run it there 50 years later, especially during the year that Shelby American is celebrating their 60th anniversary,” Seth said. “Qualifying first in my class felt like another chapter in the car’s history.” The race start was a bit chaotic and was the first time on a race track passing cars without a “point by” as used in open track practice sessions. He made some rookie mistakes like over cooking turn 7 on lap 2 and running off the track. This resulted in six cars passing by including a Cobra, split window Corvette and 1965 Shelby GT350. That built a fire in him that led to an amazing comeback, passing all competitors in class. He led the race until the engine started failing on the last lap. Burgett limped across the finish line at 50 mph while getting passed by a Jaguar on the final straight, resulting in a 4th place finish in his first attempt at racing. That car will be back in 2023 stronger and better than ever to compete in vintage racing events.
Burgett’s next event was the MCSCC’s race at Blackhawk Farms Raceway in South Beloit, Illinois, a track where his historic 1967 Shelby GT350 was raced in dominant fashion with a Boss 302 engine underhood decades ago. For his MCSCC debut he raced a 2011 Mustang GT, a car that was campaigned in the NASA championship series in 2011 and 2012. It was built by KohR Motorsports in Holly Hill, Florida, by Dean Martin and now prepared by Capaldi Racing in Michigan.
Burgett drove the Mustang to both a Group 5 overall victory and Super Performance class victory. “We qualified in the rain in P2 and by the time we hit the first corner of the race, we were in P1 and we had a dominant lead the entire race,” he said.
Seth’s racing season continued at the Lake Michigan Grand Prix at GingerMan Raceway, where he broke a track record for his class by 4 seconds! As part of that race weekend, he finished a 2.5 hour endurance race as the solo driver. Returning to Blackhawk Farms in mid-October, Burgett added to his win total where he broke a 2nd track record for his class. The thing about records though, is they are made to be broken, and the previous holder won back his lap record by the end of the race.
As an example of how seriously Burgett is taking his racing endeavors, he hired three driving coaches for the season. For his SVRA efforts, he enlisted Billy Johnson as a coach to help formulate the best way to tackle Sebring. Johnson has both modern and vintage racing success. He is the 2016 IMSA Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge GS champion, and a winner at Spa in the World Endurance Championship in the Ford GT supercar. With Billy’s help the track record at GingerMan was smashed by 4 seconds and Burgett achieved three wins in one weekend. For the balance of his MCSCC season, Burgett’s driving coaches were Zac Anderson, a GT4 class winner at last year’s 24 Hours of Sebring and Craig Capaldi of Capaldi Racing. The professional coaching clearly delivered results. In addition, Burgett noted the contrast between the raw Shelby GT350 and the quick precision of the 2011 Mustang GT was a coaching experience in its own right.
The MCSCC season wrapped up at Blackhawk Farms at the end of October. Burgett entered the final race with the points lead. After an unexpected development with his Mustang, he borrowed a BMW race car from a fellow racer at the track, allowing him to nail down the Super Production class championship against a Corvette. “I feel incredibly grateful to everyone who helped make this season a success. From Capaldi Racing to ensure the car was well prepared to each of my three coaches who did a great job keeping me safe while achieving a freshman year in racing that exceeds my expectations,” Burgett said, following his securing the championship.
One thing is for sure, this season was no “one-and-done affair.” Burgett will be back behind the wheel soon. Winning a championship as a rookie only makes that competitive flame burn all the brighter.
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