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May 27, 2008 / reports

Two Top-ten Finishes for C360R at Lime Rock

LAKEVILLE, CT—After a four-month hiatus, Grand-Am’s KONI Challenge series returned to action with a busy Memorial Day weekend at the tight confines of legendary Lime Rock Park. Compass360 Racing brought its four-car team with high hopes of continuing its front-running effort led by Travis Walker and Karl Thomson, who sat atop the Driver’s Championship after the season-opening race in Daytona.

Team-mates Christian Miller and Kevin York in the #75 Acura TSX came into Lime Rock sixth, with 2007 Champions Adam Burrows and Trevor Hopwood (TSX #74) also inside the top-ten in ninth. New to the team were Kenny Wilden and Jeremy Willard in the Pure Hair and Body Care #73 TSX, hoping to notch a good finish to kick-start their year.

The Lime Rock event marked the inaugural event for the new Compass360 #76 Honda Civic Si. The car had shown promise in testing during the weeks leading up to Memorial Day, and would be driven by Thomson and Walker. “The Civic is clearly a car we’re in the process of developing,” noted Thomson prior to the race, “but the guys built a car that’s really good right out of the box, and we think it’ll be ready to get into the top-ten.”

With 48 cars on track in the Street Tuner class, qualifying was a crap shoot as expected. The session was cut short with a car off-track, which meant none of the C360R cars had the opportunity to set a fast lap. York had the best qualifying, in 18th, with Thomson in 27th and Willard in 36th. Hopwood’s #74 car had an electrical glitch that surfaced during morning practice, which the crew had repaired by mid-session, but the early end to qualifying meant that he would start from the very back of the pack.

All of which promised to offer the large number of fans in attendance a very exciting race!

At the fall of the green flag, the C360R cars started moving up the leader board. Most impressive was the #74 TSX of Hopwood, who carved through the traffic into the top 20, after starting 42nd. Thomson also made progress, up to 19th, with York close behind in 22nd. Willard was also making progress, which was hampered by contact with another car which necessitated a lengthy pit stop to remove some damaged body work. He continued on and made up places throughout his stint.

On lap 43, Thomson was tagged by a back-marker while battling for position going into corner one, Big Bend. The contact resulted in a spectacular five-barrel-roll crash, bringing out the second caution of the day. While Karl was getting out of the upside-down Civic, the team pulled their TSXs in for pit stops, the #74 and #75 taking the opportunity to change drivers.

Those team cars had a great battle throughout the remainder of the race, with the Miller/York car coming home sixth at the checkered flag, with the #74 car of Burrows and Hopwood in seventh. “Today we had a great battle between team-mates,” remarked Miller. “Adam and I gave each other room to race, and it was really good fun!”

It was an amazing result for both cars, especially considering Hopwood started the race nearly dead last. “We started back in the pack because of the electronics glitch, but Trevor and I couldn’t be more pleased with the results considering our starting position,” said Burrows. “We’re quite energized to be back in the swing of things and overcoming the adversity really sweetened the pot.” They’re now in third position in the Street Tuner Driver’s Championship.

Miller and York are one spot ahead, having finished in sixth place two times in a row. “We all want to win races, but this series is about consistency,” explained Miller. “We’re going for top-tens every race, and I know we’ll be on the podium soon.”

The early contact put Willard two laps down, and he handed the #73 TSX to Wilden mid-way through the race, with Wilden battling traffic and crossing the finish line in 22nd position.

The wreck of the Civic move first-place duo Thomson and Walker just outside of the top-ten in the Driver’s Championship. “The combination of shortened qualifying and back-markers really screwed up our race,” said Walker. “This puts Karl and I back in points, but we’ll bring back our Acura RSX for the next few races and hopefully we can win a few so we can get back on top.” Indeed, while the crew build a new Civic Si, the #76 duo will return to their front-running RSX-S campaigned by the team in 2006 and 2007.

“While I’m frustrated by my result, I’m thankful to the guys for building such a strong car,” exclaimed Thomson. “Big kudos to King Motorsports who built the cage—it was amazing to walk away from a violent crash like that!” He continued, “I’m really thrilled for Christian and Kevin, and Adam and Trevor, who are now at the front of the stick in points. An amazing job by the team and our drivers!”

The KONI Challenge heads north of the border to Mosport International Raceway for the next round, on the Father’s Day weekend. For details, visit Mosport.

Photo credit: Wes Duenkel.