GT Daytona McLaren 720S GT3
- Corey Fergus
- Jeff Kingsley
- Paul Holton
Newton, Iowa – Despite promising practice times which had the Compass360 Acuras near the top of the charts, the team suffered on-track calamity and mechanical woes that kept all three of their cars out of the top-ten at Iowa Speedway this past weekend.
Travis Walker and Karl Thomson were fourth and fifth-fastest in Friday practice, a scant 0.017 seconds between the team-mates in their TSXs. Unfortunately, although the team didn't realize it at the time, a drive-shaft was weakening in Thomson's car, which affected qualifying; while Walker qualified in second place, Thomson only managed twelfth. Matt Pritiko, in his Acura RSX-S, qualified immediately behind in 13th. In the short hour between qualifying and the race, the team prepped the cars while the drivers were introduced to the good-sized crowd that attended the event. The Iowa Speedway made for a good venue with more than ten thousand enthusiastic fans enjoying the close racing of the KONI Challenge! In the first corner those fans were treated to an example of just how close the racing is, when seventh-place qualifier Bob Endicott passed four cars in the first corner. Unfortunately, he tried unsuccessfully to pass for second place and get inside of Walker, which damaged the left rear suspension of the #75 TSX, putting Travis and co-driver Beau Buisson out of the race. Thomson, struggling with a rapidly deteriorating driveshaft, still managed to take his #76 TSX into ninth place before handing the car to Billy Johnson during the first caution period of the day. Johnson soldiered on, turning consistent yet careful laps, finally bringing the Acura to the checkered flag in 11th place. It was a tremendously important drive, as it kept Johnson and Thomson in the championship hunt; they're now just three points behind the leaders. "Billy did a simply amazing job bringing the car home today," said Thomson. "One small hit on the curbing or a bad angle of attack on the banking, and the drive shaft would have given out. The championship race is really close, and every point counts."
Matt Pritiko, meanwhile, had moved rapidly up the field, taking his Dupont and NAPA-sponsored #74 RSX all the way up to 4th position. "It's important to remember that this was only Matt's third start in a Touring Car," noted Crew Chief Ray Lee. "We're really proud of the maturity he showed today being able to run up at the front with the big guns." Daniel Columbie took over from Matt during a mid-race green flag stop, which put the car in 11th position. Bad luck prevented a good finish for the pair, though, when a front shock gave out just three laps from race's end, stranding Columbie on track. The #74 car was scored 18th. The team returns to their Toronto home base to prepare their Acuras for the series' next race at Laguna Seca on May 18-20th. "We've scheduled some testing before Laguna to work on the suspension settings," remarked Lee. "The next few races are on road courses, which require a different set-up from the 'rovals' that started the year." The team did well at Laguna last year, with the Thomson/Johnson duo leading the race and eventually finishing fourth, and the team hopes to continue its fight for the ST-class championship.