USTCC Round 5: Gary Sheehan overcomes first-turn disaster to earn comeback podium finish in Subaru WRX
Fontana CA, U.S. Touring Car Championship round 5: After finding himself rear-ended and spun off-course in the opening turn of the race, Gary Sheehan, driving the 2002 Subaru WRX, turned the fastest laps of the race on his way to a dramatic, comeback third-place podium finish in Sunday's feature event at California Motor Speedway's new road course.
Sheehan, second in qualifying and starting from the front row, was hit hard in the right rear of the car going into turn one, dislodging the trunk-mounted battery, and badly damaging the car's body and right rear wheel. For a moment, it appeared that Sheehan and teamSMR would suffer an unfortunate DNF, but the day would eventually see a far better end indeed.
Sheehan commented, "The All-Wheel-Drive gave us another fantastic start. I went into to the first turn with a nose out on the BMW; then BAM, I was hit, and off the track[Author ID1: at Wed Dec 19 15:28:00 2001 ] facing backwards. When I got back on, we were at the very back [Author ID1: at Wed Dec 19 15:29:00 2001 ]of the pack. The WRX was still OK, so I [Author ID1: at Wed Dec 19 15:29:00 2001 ]just drove really hard - with no regard for the car - to get back into the race for championship points".
Drive hard he did. Turning in laps nearly a full half-second faster than the eventual winner James Sofrones [Author ID1: at Wed Dec 19 15:29:00 2001 ]in the BMW 328, Sheehan turned anger into determination with a crowd-inspiring drive through the large thirty-car field, topping it off with a last-lap drag to the line, securing third place and a podium appearance. The effort also preserved the team's third place position in the season-long points championship, with two races still to be run, (at Sears Point and Laguna Seca, both near the team's home turf in Northern California.)
"Even with the crash damage, the car was fantastic. Joel Gat (Chief Mechanic) has done a great job preparing the car; it was so fast today. I thought this course may have too many low-speed turns to suit us well, but the WRX's torque down low was really getting us out of the corners", Sheehan said. The 2001 season is teamSMR's first campaign with the Subaru WRX.
The United States Touring Car Championship is sanctioned by the National Auto Sport Association, and is America's premier grassroots Touring Car racing series.
California Speedway's road course is a 1.5-mile road-racing layout, with 13 turns, located in Fontana, CA.
The 2002 Subaru WRX embodies Subaru's legendary motorsports history. Featuring The Beauty of All-Wheel-Drive, and the Turbocharged 2.0 liter boxer engine, the WRX boasts three World Rally Championships to its pedigree, as well as countless other motorsports victories around the world.