GTWC America Acura NSX GT3 Evo
- Matt McMurry
- Rodrigo Sales
- Michael Di Meo
- Ashton Harrison
- Mario Farnbacher
2010 Champions Fight to Overcome Series-Mandated Restrictor in Alabama
(Birmingham, AL) -- Grand-Am's reigning Street Tuner Champions valiantly fought the heat and new series regulations, but ended up only managing a 13th-place finish in the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge event at Barber Motorsports Park on Saturday.
David Thilenius, 2010 Driver Champion, qualified his iconic orange #74 JC Concrete Honda Civic Si in 11th place, just 1.4 seconds behind the pole-sitter. Keith Carroll, in his second race with the team, put the #75 Racing4Research Honda in 18th, while Dan Rogers qualified the #77 Speed Secrets Civic in 27th.
With qualifying complete, it was further proof that a series-mandated restrictor which had been fitted to the Civics at the beginning of the season was working too well. "These are cars that qualified well into the top ten last year, often in the top five," remarked C360R Technical Director Ray Lee.
Indeed, the team hoped that their race pace and the Civic's notorious ability for being easy on its tires would help move them up the order at the track, which is known for its abrasive asphalt. All three cars got good starts, with each of the starting drivers managing to move up a few places.
At the 45-minute mark, cars 75 and 77 pitted under yellow, with Ryan Eversley taking over for Carroll, and Rogers handing off to up-and-coming star Andrew Novich. Another yellow followed shortly thereafter, with Zach Lutz taking over for Thilenius while Novich received a quick splash of fuel, meaning 74 and 77 were good to go to the end.
Another mid-race caution proved an opportune time to pit Eversley and give him a new set of tires and a full tank of gas. "We tried to put all three cars on a slightly different strategy," noted Team Principal Karl Thomson. With fresh tires Eversley was able to make his way back up to his team-mates, and all three Hondas ran closely together in the mid-pack until Novich was forced to pit with a broken suspension. The team worked quickly to repair the damage and got him back out in short order, albeit a few laps down.
Meanwhile, Lutz and Eversley ran nose-to-tail, trying to work through traffic and up to the front. "These Hondas have always had great handling," said Lutz, who finished third in the 2010 Driver standings. "But the restrictor means that we just don't have enough power to fight against the other ST cars."
In the closing stages, with their eyes set on finishing positions just inside the top ten, Eversley's motor let go, and he retired, leaving 74 as the lone Compass360 Racing Honda on the lead lap, with Lutz finishing 13th. Novich drove well and managed to get a lap back, crossing the line in 20th.
Making up for the on-track frustration, the team continued its rewarding partnership with the Children's Tumor Foundation, welcoming over fifty children suffering from Neurofibromatosis (NF), their families and top local fundraisers. "We were really amazed by the turn-out of our NF Heroes here in Birmingham," exclaimed Jill Beck, Program Director for the CTF's Racing4Reasearch initiative. "Ryan and his Compass360 team are really helping us spread the word about NF and to encourage donations." So far this season, R4R has raised over $1.4 million for NF research. Donations can be made at http://racing4research.org.
"Over the past few years our cars have been very successful in the Continental Tire series," noted Thomson. "We're hopeful that the Competition Department will have a good look at the performance of the Street Tuner class over the past three races and do something about the restrictor. Then we'll see if we can claw back some points at the next event!"
The Grand-Am Barber 200 will be televised at 2:00pm on April the 16th on SPEED.