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Jul 30, 2012 / reports


New Team-Mates Notch Solid Result in Series' First Visit to Famed Track

(Indianapolis, IN) -- Grand-Am's Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge made history last weekend by being the first sports car series ever to run at the hallowed Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Mother Nature added to the excitement of the one-day event at the World Center of Racing by providing a torrential rainstorm in the mid-point of the race.

With practice, qualifying and the 2.5-hour race compressed into a single day, it was important for the cars to run without incident in each session. While this was true for three of Compass360 Racing's four Honda Civic Si squad, the same couldn't be said for the #77 Luna-C Racing / HPD car of Sarah Cattaneo and Lee Davis, which suffered a blown head gasket in its very first session out. The resulting engine change meant that the duo missed qualifying and started the race at the back of the pack.

The team's trip to the Speedway earlier in the month proved fruitful as qualifying saw Gareth Nixon, in his first time with the team, notch a solid eighth-place grid slot in his #76 Driving Your Mind / HPD Civic. Andrew Novich put his #74 Bellissima Be Beautiful / Speed Secrets Honda in eleventh, while Ray Mason posted a time good enough for 22nd in the #75 Columbus Truck / Children's Tumor Foundation car.

As they have throughout the season thus far, Novich and Mason made great starts and moved up through the field during their stints. Nixon similarly impressed, while Cattaneo made the most of a replacement motor that was inexplicably down on power.

The traffic was nose-to-tail through much of the first stage of the race, and the temperature in Mason's #75 car began to rise, with the engine getting very hot indeed. When Ryan Eversley took over from Ray, the engine quickly expired, putting paid to what looked to be a potential podium for the squad. They finished 29th.

When the rain deluge came, driver changes had been taken, and the team elected to keep all the cars out. This proved a prescient move, as Grand-Am red-flagged the race due to huge puddles on the front straight and in the pit lane. Although the cloudburst was over reasonably quickly, it took over a half-hour for the jet dryers to clean the standing water to allow the race to resume. At this point, Adam Burrows in the #74 car and David Thilenius in #76 looked in strong positions to be in the top five and potentially be on the podium. 

Alas, with a few laps to go, a BMW lost control of its brakes in the infield section, and struck Adam hard enough to throw him into a gravel trap. The safety crews did extricate the car, however, and it soldiered on to finish 21st, one lap down and just ahead of the #77 of Cattaneo and Davis in 23rd.

It was left to Thilenius to uphold the Team honours, and he rose to the task, driving in difficult conditions in the closing laps of the race to take a well-earned fourth place finish, welcoming new team-mate Nixon to the squad in fine form.

"It was just about keeping it on the track today and staying out of trouble," enthused Thilenius. "I've really enjoyed driving with Gareth this weekend and am looking forward to the rest of the year."

"I'm thrilled for Dave this weekend," noted Team Principal Karl Thomson. "He won the Driver, Team and Manufacturer championships with us in 2010, and although he hasn't had a great year, this drive really saw him dig deep and come home with a great result."

Photos courtesy of Sideline Sports Photography. Enjoy some additional shots: