Cliff White named 42nd recipient of annual RRDC Mark Donohue Award

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – attached is digital image of Cliff White in action at Road America (No. 58). Photo credit: Mark Weber

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CLIFF WHITE NAMED 42nd RECIPIENT OF ANNUAL RRDC MARK DONOHUE AWARD

HILLIARD, Ohio (Oct. 18, 2012) – Cliff White, 26, of Huntsville, Ala., was selected as the 42nd annual recipient of the prestigious Road Racing Drivers Club Mark Donohue Award for his outstanding Spec Racer Ford class victory at the 2012 SCCA National Championship Runoffs at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis., in September. White will be officially presented the award on March 2, 2013, at the SCCA National Convention at the South Point Hotel, Casino & Spa in Las Vegas. He will also be honored by the RRDC at its annual dinner at the Rolex 24 at Daytona in Florida on Jan. 23, 2013.

White is a CPA and MBA who runs the family business operating assisted-living communities. He is a veteran of the Spec Racer Ford (SRF) class with 11 years in the seat – he started at age 16. This is his first SCCA National Championship.

His drive to victory was anything but leisurely. According to Don Knowles, who chaired this year’s Donohue Award selection committee, “I watched the SRF race from turn 13 and then on the live computer broadcast. Cliff and the other three SRF frontrunners ran what is almost unheard of – a clean Runoffs race! Three leaders on the last lap with Cliff coming from fourth to first – a real tough tactical battle. Winning the arm-wrestling contest with that field is a great driving accomplishment.”

White credited his car’s performance to the communication he has with his mentor and mechanic, Mark Eaton, who works for the southeast division’s SRF customer service representative (CSR), Robinson Motorsports. “We just put our heads down all week and kept working on the car,” said White. “The fact we’ve done this together on and off for 10 years, we speak the same language. He knows the car inside and out and he knows my driving. So we said to ourselves, ‘We’re going to win this thing.’”

For the entire 13 laps around the 4-mile circuit, four drivers – Scott Rettich, Brian Schofield, Todd Harris and White – plotted, probed and parried for the lead. They were still at it on the last lap. Here’s how White saw it.

“I got the warning that we had two laps to go, and I took assessment of where we were and who was fast and not and where. So I relaxed the tires for a little bit until about halfway through the last lap, and I guess started making my move going into 5 (the hard left at the end of the Andretti Straight).”

Driving now to maximize corner exit speed, White had moved to third as the train swooped down on Canada Corner, a hard right that is the third from the last major turn at Road America. With Schofield and Harris battling for the lead, “I knew Brian and Todd would defend the inside and go as deep as possible for the win,” said White. “Instead, I braked early and stayed on the normal racing line to be able to get underneath Harris on the exit of Canada.”

White pulled abreast Harris and managed to hold the outside line through the left-hand Bridge Turn. This put White on the inside line for the final corner where he passed Harris for second. When leader Schofield twitched a bit on exit, White said, “I knew I had him.”

There was a bit of weaving about on the uphill home stretch, but White nosed ahead to take the checkered flag in perhaps the best race of the 2012 Runoffs.

“I couldn’t have done this without my parents,” White said. “That’s a kind of a cliché no-brainer; but really, Dad and I are some of the last privateers left in our class. He finished 29th. Of the top six finishers, five are running out of a prep shop or are a CSR or SRF driving school instructor. So really we are a family race team and maybe that delayed me winning one of these things; but that makes it all the sweeter.”

White was thrilled to be named the RRDC Mark Donohue Award winner by some of his peers. “Honestly, I’m still on Cloud 9 from winning the Runoffs and receiving this award,” he said. “I was aware of the award but until Don Knowles called me I didn’t realize who my peers now were, in terms of the previous recipients. With the number of drivers who compete at the Runoffs, to know that I stood out that much is an incredible feeling. I am aware of what Mark Donohue and the other drivers who have received this award had accomplished, and it’s an incredible honor.”

Every year, the RRDC Mark Donohue Award trophy is an engraved glass top mounted on a special, racing-experienced wheel, provided through the efforts of an RRDC member. This year’s wheel was donated by RRDC President Bobby Rahal on behalf of Rahal, Letterman, Lanigan Racing. It was mounted on the BMW Team RLL M3 GT during the American Le Mans Northeast Grand Prix at Lime Rock Park, Conn., this past July.
Rahal, a Runoffs champion long before he won the Indianapolis 500, emphasized the Mark Donohue Award is “about personal spirit and performance behind the wheel. Those qualities are more important for this award than winning the race. This year, Cliff White did both.

“Mark Donohue would have been proud to see Cliff win this award,” said Rahal. “The communication between Cliff and his engineer proved key to his dramatic victory. Mark was both driver and engineer and knew better than most the importance of that linkage.”

About the RRDC:
The Road Racing Drivers Club was formed in 1952 as a way to give champion drivers a say in their sport, particularly in the areas of safety, and has evolved to serve the future of road racing by mentoring new drivers on both amateur and professional levels. The Club’s membership includes leading industry professionals, race officials and motorsports journalists, in addition to prominent racing names.

In 2011, the RRDC launched a free on-line training seminar – www.SAFEisFAST.com – featuring more than 30 RRDC members and other industry experts in high-quality videos covering subjects from physical and mental preparation to driving techniques, driver safety to car setup and sponsorship. The videos are updated regularly. Each week, a professional from the world of motor racing answers readers’ questions on the site in a feature called “Ask a Pro.”

President Bobby Rahal is the 1986 Indy 500 winner and is co-owner with David Letterman and Mike Lanigan of the 2004 Indianapolis 500-winning Rahal, Letterman, Lanigan Racing team. Ten-time SCCA National champion John Fergus (who also has three Pro Sports 2000 crowns and one IMSA championship) is the Club’s Vice President/Treasurer, and five-time SCCA National champion Tom Davey is the Secretary.

In addition to RRDC members lending their expertise to up-and-coming drivers, the Club presents three annual awards: the Phil Hill Award for rendering outstanding service to road racing; the Mark Donohue Award for personal spirit and performance at the SCCA National Championship Runoffs; and the Bob Akin Award – the top award presented to amateur and semi-professional racers – for speed with style, passion, sportsmanship and contribution to motorsports.

The RRDC also supports the Team USA Scholarship, which has been assisting young Americans in the early stages of their careers since 1990. Membership in the RRDC is by invitation only. Additional information on the organization may be found at www.rrdc.org.

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