GTWC America Acura NSX GT3 Evo
- Matt McMurry
- Rodrigo Sales
- Michael Di Meo
- Ashton Harrison
- Mario Farnbacher
Hard-fought battle with Kia factory team goes down to the wire at Mid-Ohio
(Lexington, OH) -- Ryan Eversley always knew it would be an uphill battle to help bring Compass360 Racing (C360R) a third straight Grand-Am championship, but the affable Georgian put up a valiant fight all season long, right down until the final laps of the Continental Tires Sports Car Championship season finale at the Mid-Ohio sports car course. Entering the race just three points behind series' leader Nic Jonsson in his #10 Kia Forte Koup and a mere six points ahead of Sarah Cattaneo and Owen Trinkler in their #198 Mini Cooper S, the fierce fight at the front of the Street Tuner class came down to a showdown in Ohio.
Pairing Eversley with Rolex regular and former Grand-Sport champion Craig Stanton in the #75 Children's Tumor Foundation Honda Civic Si, C360R pulled out all the stops in the hopes of repeating their championship victories in 2009 and 2010.
"We really did all we could today, and it was a real treat to drive with Craig," said Eversley. "It's been an odd year, especially given that our Honda has been at a performance disadvantage since the opening race at Daytona. We just kept plugging away and trying to score when the other guys had mechanical problems, but I think today showed that some of the other cars still have a little more get-up-and-go than our Civics."
Stanton qualified 12th, demonstrating the disparity between the Honda and some of the other platforms. "You'd expect a pro driver of Craig's experience and ability to be further up the field, especially against some of the gentlemen drivers that were ahead of him," noted Team Principal Karl Thomson. "But that's the hand we were dealt this year."
From the start Stanton managed to make up a few places, and handed #75 over to Eversley during the second caution of the race just after the 30-minute mark. Most of the other front-runners took a similar early-stop strategy, which assumed the race would feature a multitude of yellow-flag periods. The C360R squad did their usual speedy stop, moving Ryan right into the thick of all the championship contenders who had qualified further up the field. And from there it was game-on, resulting in a two-hour sprint to the finish.
"The Kia and the Mini were much faster on the straights, but our Civic had really good race pace," explained Eversley. We were hoping for long runs where they might burn off their tires, but there were quite a few yellow flags during the mid-part of the race." Towards the end, though, there was an extended green flag period, and Eversley made his way up to fifth. Unfortunately, contact with a Mazda3 that was not in the championship race dropped him to 15th. As Ryan clawed his way back up through the field, the #198 retired with mechanical trouble.
So while the threat from behind was reduced, the Kia had made it to second place, with Eversley in tenth. With a few laps to go the Kia started to drop back, but took the checkered flag in seventh position. Kia had won their first ST championship, with C360R coming home second, for the third time since 2007.
"I'm so proud of our team today," said Thomson. "Ryan put in the performance of his life and our crew did everything they could to make it three in a row. The Kia was stronger than us today, so congratulations to Nic and Michael (Galati) on a great year."
Meanwhile, it was a rather forgettable race for David Thilenius and Zach Lutz, who were in the top ten looking to move forward when contact with a competitor broke the steering rack, forcing their #74 JC Concrete Honda Civic Si to retire. "It's been one of those seasons," remarked Lutz. " We had a lot of bad luck and some racing incidents that put us out of a number of races, but that's the way it goes sometimes." Thilenius was philosophical, reflecting on the hardship of this season compared to the high of winning the championship in 2010: "It was just not my year."
Similarly, the team's #77 Dr. Kimberly Henry/Speed Secrets had a frustrating day with clutch failure putting Andrew Novich and Bryan Ortiz (in his first race with the team) out of contention. "I had a great season with the team, learned a lot and had a few good finishes including fourth at Daytona," noted Novich. "I'm looking forward to next year."
Eversley's second place finish means that C360R has finished first or second in the championship five years in a row. "That's a pretty remarkable achievement, and a testament to our Technical Director Ray Lee and our amazing crew," enthused Thomson. "We'll be back next year with a couple of our new 2012 Honda Civics, which should be just the thing we need for a third championship!"
As with every race this year, the team proudly supported the Children's Tumor Foundation and their Racing4Research fundraising initiative at Laguna. The team's cars displayed their CTF livery, and welcomed a large number of children suffering from Neurofibromatosis and their families to the track. For details and to donate visit http://racing4research.org.
The race will be televised, tape-delayed on September 25th at 1:00pm on SPEED.