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Austin, TX -- Compass360 Racing and it's three full-season Pirelli World Challenge Touring Car drivers delivered a dominant performance at the series' season-opening round at the epic Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. At the helm of their new Honda Civic Si's, Ryan Winchester (#72 Ligon Industries/HPD), Brett Sandberg (#70 GearTie.com/HPD) and rookie Remo Ruscitti (#71 Ultimate Racing/HPD) were a force to be reckoned with.
Winchester laid down the gauntlet early by claiming pole position, and taking two flag-to-flag wins in the two sprint races on Saturday. These two 25-minute races, run with just 15 minutes between, demonstrated the team's commitment to equality between its drivers, with the C360R Hondas running nose to tail, with Ruscitti challenging for the lead on every lap. Sandberg, meanwhile, was fending off Dan Martinson (who interestingly had driven with the C360R Grand-Am squad at Road Atlanta just a few weeks before) in his Pontiac Solstice. On the last lap, Martinson used the strong power of the Pontiac to squirt past Sandberg, denying the team of its first series podium sweep. In post-race tech the Solstice was found to be out of compliance with the rules and was given a fine and loss of points.
The Compass360 Hondas were not to be denied in race two, however, with Sandberg getting back past the Solstice into third, and the trio delivering the team's well-deserved 1-2-3, with Winchester leading Ruscitti to the line.
"This is such a big day for me and for the team," enthused Winchester. "Today I got my first World Challenge win and followed it up with another, with us being able to sweep the podium. I can't thank our guys enough, they delivered in such a big way today."
On Sunday it was Sandberg's top time in race two that gave him the pole for race three, with Ruscitti lining up second and Winchester third ahead of the Solstice. Jon Miller in another Civic was fifth. The 45-minute race was full of action, including Martinson retiring after contact with a lapped car, a Boxster sending a B-Spec car up on two wheels in front of the leading pack, and a battle to the finish that saw Winchester pip Ruscitti in the final stages to deliver another 1-2-3 finish for the team (the final result was Sandberg, Winchester and Ruscitti).
“It feels awesome to get the first win,” Sandberg said. “I’ve been in the series a few years now and I’ve been struggling quite a bit. I finally got together with these Compass360 guys and I think we’re in for a good season. Traffic was a lot better than yesterday. The TCB guys showed a lot of respect to us today, considering they need to keep that momentum up. I got lucky a few instances in traffic and I was able to get a gap. The car was great from the beginning to the end. If anything, the car got better and better as the race went on. This is the second-straight day that Compass360 swept the podium and it’s just awesome. I know it means a lot to [team principal] Karl [Thomson]. He’s done it in other series and to be a part of it here is really an honor.”
Ruscitti, who now sits in first for Rookie of the Year, was nonetheless disappointed to have not stood on the top step. “Great result for us in our first weekend in Pirelli World Challenge,” Ruscitti said. “It was a little frustrating when I was getting into the traffic, with some of the cars not letting me by. It was a great race between me and Ryan [Winchester] at the end. We were going two-wide through the shortcut section, which you really shouldn’t be able to do. Overall a good result for the team.”
Thomson, expectedly, was extatic. "It's such a strong result for us, and a real reflection on the high level of driving talent we've brought to the series this year, and to the our team's technical depth." The World Challenge podium sweep now means that Compass360 Racing has run the podium in all series that it has fielded cars, including filling the podium at Grand-Am's New Jersey event in 2010, and the Trois-Rivieres round of Canadian Touring Car that same year. "That's one heck of an accomplishment and I am so proud of our guys," enthused Thomson.
Following his pair of wins, Winchester still sits atop the Pirelli World Challenge Touring Car drivers’ points with 405. Sandberg is 59 markers behind, with Ruscitti sitting third after collecting 300 points in three podium finishes.
The series next compete at Lime Rock park June 4-6. Full details, along with complete race videos at http://world-challenge.com