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Aug 12, 2008 / reports

Triumph for C360R’s Willard and Wilden at Iowa

Newton, Iowa—Compass360 Racing (C360R), fresh off their win at Watkins Glen, brought three cars to Iowa in hopes of scoring their second win in a row.

Adam Burrows and Trevor Hopwood, who notched their first-ever KONI Challenge win at the hands of their C360R TSX a few weeks earlier, took to the track in their #76 Skunk2 / Fischer Skis / Sunday Management Group TSX, while rookie Jeremy Willard was joined by season-long team-mate Kenny Wilden in the #75 Pure Body Care / Skunk2 TSX. Christian Miller and Benoit Theege, both long-time Grand-Am competitors and Compass360 drivers, piloted the team’s new #74 C360R / King Motorsports Honda Civic Si.

All three cars were strong in each session, with the crew working through some early teething troubles with the #74 Civic. Come the end of qualifying, Burrows put the #76 TSX in a strong fourth position, with Willard notching the first top-ten qualifying of his career.

The team knew that this race would be one of attrition. For the front-wheel drive cars, the combination of the tight oval and the tight infield means it’s very hard on the drivetrain, which is entirely in the front end. For the rear-drive cars, it’s easy to over-drive the car on corner exit, which means you’ve no tire left to put down the power at race end (resulting in some rather spectacular power slides). And that transition from infield to banking is hard on all of the cars!

Burrows did what the team has come to expect from him: move towards the front. Within a few laps he was second, a position he held until handing over to Hopwood under a mid-race yellow. Although Willard had fallen back a few places from his ninth-place starting position, he was still on the lead lap and handed Wilden a car with lots of brakes and tires, and with nary a nick on the bodywork. After the damage he’d taken in the few races prior, this was the kind of great driving the team knew he’d deliver. Theege and Miller had some troubles during their driver change, which (due to the very short Iowa track), put them a two laps down.

With twenty minutes to go, Burrows was comfortably in second, with Wilden power-sliding his way through the oval banking into the top seven. Miller, though, was on fire in the new Civic, managing to make up a lap and find himself knocking on the door of the top ten.

Iowa is the embodiment of “it ain’t over ‘till it’s over”, and so with just a few minutes to go, heartbreak ensued with Trevor’s #76 losing a drive shaft going into the infield section, putting an end to their day. “It would have been real scary if that’d happened on the oval,” remarked Hopwood. The #76 TSX ended the day in 17th place.

Christian, meanwhile, was turning times lap after lap that were better than the front-runners, finishing a strong eighth. If the race had been longer (or their driver change been flawless), there’s no question that the new Civic could have been on the podium. A good event for the new car, then! “I love the new Civic,” exclaimed Miller. “It’s such a great platform, it’s wonderful to give it a top-ten in this car’s very first race.”

But the glory has to be reserved for Jeremy Willard and Kenny Wilden, who take their first podium for Compass360 Racing, snagging third. It’s one of many for Wilden, but it’s the very first for Willard, and it’s richly deserved. The team cheered the duo as they took to the stage and sprayed the champagne, for what the team is sure will be the first of many. “We knew Jeremy and Kenny were two great drivers,” noted Team Principal Karl Thomson. “It’s wonderful to see them deliver on the promise we knew they have. I think we’ll see more solid results for the rest of this season!”

The C360R team has just a few short days to repair and freshen the cars for their race in Trois Rivieres, Quebec, an event that promises to be at least as exciting as Iowa.