From Pole to Podium, APR Motorsport Wins GRAND-AM 200 Ian Baas and Ryan Ellis Drive to Victory at Daytona International Speedway in the Season Opener of the Continental Tires Sports Car Challenge
Less than a month ago if you were to visit APR's Performance Campus in Opelika, AL you would have seen a Carbon Steel Metallic VW GTI MK6 seemingly collecting dust in the parking lot. Little did that GTI know it was soon to be on its way to setting a new track record at Daytona.
APR Motorsport has fielded 2 to 3 VW GTI MK5's in the CTSCC since 2008 with amazing results and in 2010 added the brand new VW GTI MK6 to their car lineup in order to develop the new VW chassis. After a tough season in 2010 with the MK5's finishing well and securing multiple podiums, APR's GTI MK6 was able to win the final race last year at Miller Motorsports Park providing some insight to what the 2011 season may look like for APR.
As the 2011 season approached and APR Motorsport began finalizing their driver line up for the season, the decision was made to add a second GTI MK6 to the arsenal and retire one of the previous generation GTI MK5's. Ryan Ellis of the VW TDI Cup and Ian Baas, mainstay APR driver of many successful battles, were excited to learn the new #171 would be their race car to vie for the 2011 season championship. "I've fallen in love with VW's newest GTI even more so than the previous generation. I have a lot of memorable moments in those MK5's but opportunities like this to prove the merits of a new chassis before anyone else is doing it is one of the reasons why I enjoy my time with the APR Motorsport team so much.", said Ian Baas.
And prove the GTI MK6 was a serious competitor is exactly what Ryan and Ian were able to do this last Friday at the 2011 season opener. Last year's development car, the now #181 GTI MK6, was driven in practice by Chris and Kevin Gleason, setting a blistering pace. Ryan was working with Ian and the team to help get the #171 car dialed in to his liking and was able to consistently bring his times closer to the already sorted #181 GTI MK6. In the final practice session before qualifying, it looked like APR could expect both GTI MK6's to challenge for the pole until Kevin Gleason was caught up in a GS class onslaught into the infamous "bus stop" resulting in an off track excursion that retired #181 for the weekend.
Ryan Ellis was left to carry the standard for APR Motorsport in ST class qualifying and did so quite handily. Setting a new ST class track record at Daytona in the process, Ryan put the #181 on pole and the weekend was looking up again for APR Motorsport. As the flag flew to start the race, Ryan Ellis was first up and rocketed ahead of the pack due to some slow starts by the competitors lined up immediately behind him. By the half way point of the first lap, the VW GTI MK6 was developing a commanding lead over the field. However Ryan, and later Ian, was quickly learning this was no walk in the park and both were soon to face fierce attack from the other contenders.
With the 2011 season showing some serious new competition from the Porsche Boxster teams and with the consistent and fast BMW teams apparently able to make some rather dramatic improvements in the off season as well, Ryan was beginning to feel the pressure from the field behind him. "About half way through my stint, I really had to pull out all of the stops and take full advantage of lap traffic drafting on the banks and find all of the available clean air in the infield. APR Motorsport did a fantastic job of preparing our new race car and I'm glad they did as it took everything I had to keep the competition at bay", said Ryan after turning the car over to Ian.
Ian Baas returned the GTI to the race in 9th after the pit stop and driver change. However, the 8 cars ahead require at least one more stop and APR's car is able to finish the race due to excellent strategy by Jeff Mishtawy. So, Ian was focusing on keeping the car healthy as he skillfully kept ahead of the other competitors that were fully fueled and able to finish the race without a stop as well. As Ian reclaimed the lead after all competitors made their final pits, a serious battle began to emerge.
V-Pack Motorsport's BWM was nearly pushing Ian around the track for several laps as race time began to wind down. As multiple cautions were limiting V-Pack's chances to pass, the BMW began making daring and expert moves on Ian to exchange the lead 4 times on the last few laps of green. "Whew! That was some intense racing! That BMW was just all over me and I was so surprised I was able to keep taking the lead back every time, what an amazing car the team gave Ryan and I for the opener", commented Ian while on the podium.
A final caution was thrown when the BMW lost control in a corner in another attempt to pass Ian. GRAND-AM Officials and SCCA Track Volunteers quickly cleared the debris and the race was able to restart for two final laps. Ian Baas crossed the finish line in the lead winning one of the most exciting races in APR Motorsport's history in the series. Director of Motorsport at APR, Jeff Mishtawy summarized, "This was a true testament of our team's maturity and expertise fielding VW's in motorsport. Our race winning GTI has performed nearly flawlessly and I can't thank enough the individuals that come together as a team to make this happen. The team just did a fantastic job preparing Ryan and Ian's new GTI and really proved how much they can accomplish in a short time due to their experience, dedication and passion for excellence."
-source: apr motorsport