With two race weekends left to go in the 2011 championship, Team BTM Motorwerks returned in full force to Infineon Raceway at Sears Point. Andy had done some between-race testing and identified a weak point on both the new #19 and the venerable #91 car that benefited from some re-freshening and after a few nights wrenching all three team members would be ready to race, Brad again in the mighty 91, Andy back in Spec e30 with the 19, and Ross taking the 19 in GTS Challenge. Beautiful Sonoma California obliged with gorgeous mild October weather in the mid 70s with no chance of rain, and the entire field was excited to get back racing.
The weekend started off in fine fashion with Andy laying down a blistering lap in qualifying to take the first Pole Position of the weekend. Mike C of the always-fast Team Courtney-Olivier set a time only four one-thousandths slower, Lauren T a relatively distant one one-hundredth behind Andy. Brad in the 91 qualified three-tenths behind that group with Bennett M two one-hundredths behind him. As usual being a second off the pace would put you down somewhere between 13th and 18th
Over twenty other Spec e30s took to the track behind the leaders, as the canny NASA officials decided to mix the racing action up by mandating a rolling start instead of the typical standing start. Generally seen to be an easier, less incident-filled method of starting a field of cars, the field managed its full quota of mayhem the first lap.
Andy had opted to start on the outside of Turn 1, noting a huge oil slick from an earlier race's incident on the outside of Turn 2, but as the cars took off under green, Andy and Mike stayed side by side through one, and either the NASA safety crews had done an exemplary job of cleaning up the track, or the speedy #10 car had mystically found grip through the mess. In any case, going side-by side worked fine through the first part of the track, rarely led to anything good happening in the turn 3 left-right over crest complex at Sears Point. Andy tucked in behind Mike rather than potentially becoming a hood ornament to Brad and Lauren's onslaught.
Brad had fared better, getting around Lauren at the start, and snuggling up to Andy's bumper. For about four laps, Mike, Andy, Brad, and Lauren made a high-speed train, with Andy getting occasional peeks around his bumper, to keep him honest, but finding no advantage large enough to capitalize on.
Finally, after nearly getting alongside Mike approaching T8, Andy had a slightly compromised run through T10, and Brad made his move on the inside. Andy gave him room on the inside of T11, but unfortunately Brad went just a little late into T11, locked his front tires, and slid into the the #10 car. Andy and Lauren quickly darted to the inside and Brad managed to untangle himself and get back underway in 5th. Brad would later apologize to the team of the #10 car admitting to an uncharacteristic mistake in the midst of the close and hard fought action.
From the mayhem, Andy re-took the lead with Lauren close behind. For the last half of the race, the #19 and #69 cars fought for inches over the same 5 car lead that Andy held since the incident. Finally with the checkered flag literally just around the corner Andy missed a shift coming out of T11. This allowed Lauren to come alongside the 19 car, and just like in qualifying the two cars finished inches apart, Lauren just twelve thousandths ahead of Andy.
Although Andy would have much preferred the top podium step, 2nd place was a great result, and best result the new 19 car had seen all season. The entire team was happy the car has proven it can run up front. Unfortunately, for the contact that the #91 and #10 car had, NASA officials ruled it avoidable, and DQ'd the championship leading car. The team accepted the result, and focused on the next day's race.
Sunday's festivities began with an announcement by the NASA officials that Group A Spec e30 and Spec Miatas would be running a modified course – the long Turn 4 to the long Turn 7, essentially the NASCAR course. Laptimes quickly dropped into the low 1:33s during qualifying, and when the dust was settled, Team Courtney-Olivier cranked out a 1:32.9 for pole position. Steve F slotted in right behind, and Brad qualified the #91 BTM Motorwerks in third.
On the heels of a brilliant qualifying session the previous day, Andy started a smoking fast lap, then suddenly realized he'd corded a rear tire right at the start of the session. With no time to swap tires out, he heroically threw down the fastest lap possible under the conditions, but given the competition, he was to start 13th.
On the start Brad was held position in 3rd, poking his nose around the Steve F's car, with Paul B and Rick M right behind. Everyone held steady for several laps until Brad mis-shifted in T2 and both Paul and Rick got around him. He was able to re-take 4th, but though he got alongside Rick twice going into Turn 2, he wasn't able to make the pass stick and had to settle for a non-podium position.
In the middle of the pack, Andy steadily worked his way up to 8th before being punted on the last lap by car 20, and getting knocked back to 13th again.
Team BTM Motorwerks will return in just one weeks' time to Infineon Raceway at Sears Point for the season finale where the season Championship will be decided between their venerable #91 car and the #69 car driven by Loren Trefethen...only 4 points separate the two. Stay tuned to this blog or follow us at the addresses below to be sure not to miss a moment of the hard charging racing action!
Brad's twitter - @btmmotorwerks
Andy's twitter - @mmmotors
Thanks to QStarz Racing, and Livermore Performance Inc!