TOPEKA, Kan. (Feb. 7, 2017) -- Sports Car Club of America® has named Hans Saurino the 2016 Kimberly Cup winner and Neil Verhagen the 2016 Jim Fitzgerald Rookie of the Year. Both drivers, who each recently graced the cover of SportsCar® Magazine, competed in the Formula F class.
The Kimberly Cup, donated by James Kimberly -- a former President and Governor of SCCA, as well as a champion car owner and driver -- is selected by the Club Racing Board and awarded to the SCCA driver showing the greatest improvement in the past year. Previous winners include Augie Pabst, Roger Penske, Mark Donohue and Peter Revson.
After starting the 2015 SCCA National Championship Runoffs® in the 12th position at Daytona International Speedway, Saurino tangled with another competitor in Turn 1 on the opening lap to end his race. But he came back strong at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for the 2016 Runoffs.
Saurino, David Livingston Jr., Russell Ruedisueli, Andy Brumbaugh, John Benson and Andrew Melvin found themselves in a six-car battle for the last two podium spots at Mid-Ohio. Saurino was first to make a big move, running from fourth to second under braking on lap five. That didn't last long, however, as he fell back to third on the next lap, and made the pass into second on four different occasions throughout the race. His biggest challenge, however, came on a restart after Melvin bounced off the curbing trying to make a pass going into the keyhole and ended his day, as well as the day of Benson and Brumbaugh. Livingston filled up his mirrors, but Saurino forged ahead to claim the runner-up finish.
"I was very fortunate to get out ahead early on," Saurino said. "Every lap was a battle. I went from fifth to second more times than I could tell."
The Jim Fitzgerald Rookie of the Year, selected by the Club Racing Board based on nominations submitted by Executive Stewards, is presented to the Club Racing driver showing the greatest promise based on driving ability demonstrated during the first season of SCCA National competition. Previous Rookie of the Year winners include Claude Bourbonnais, Mark Dismore and Eric Curran. Fifteen year-old Verhagen earned the honor this year by winning the Formula F Runoffs event at Mid-Ohio, the youngest driver to ever win a Runoffs Championship.
Along with his Runoffs victory, the high school student claimed the SCCA U.S. Majors Tour® Nationwide Points Championship and Northeast Conference Championship in FF, and triumphed overall in the F1600 Championship Series. He also received the 2016 Road Racing Drivers Club's Mark Donohue Award for outstanding performance, competitiveness and sportsmanship during Runoffs.
On top of all that, Verhagen was recently named to the Red Bull Junior Programme. He is schedule to compete this coming race season in the Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup.
Photo: Hans Saurino (left) is the 2016 Kimberly Cup winner and Neil Verhagen (right) the 2016 Jim Fitzgerald Rookie of the Year winner.