COMPASS360 RACING GIVE ACURA TOP FINISHES IN UTAH
Compass360 Racing once again delivered Acura's best result in a KONI Challenge Street Tuner (ST) race, this time at Miller Motorsports Park outside Salt Lake City, Utah. It was the team's fifth time in succession as the top Acura (going back to Watkins Glen (1st) and including Iowa (3rd), Trois Rivieres (1st) and New Jersey (7th), keeping the manufacturer in a tight battle with Chevrolet for top honors in Grand-Am's Street Tuner class.
Unsurprisingly, a podium was never on the cards for any of the normally-aspirated cars. "At this altitude, the turbocharged cars make a lot more power than those without forced-induction," explained Team Principal Karl Thomson. "Their computers compensate for the thinner atmosphere up here and simply push more air in to the motor. Unfortunately, the non-boosted cars can't do that."
Indeed, C360R's #76 TSX was the only non-forced-induction (which includes turbo- and super-charged motors) to qualify in the top seven. 2007 Street Tuner co-champion Trevor Hopwood put the Fischer Skis / Sunday Group Management car in an astonishing third place during Saturday qualifying. "I'm not sure everyone showed their full hand here in qualifying," noted Hopwood. "(Technical Director) Ray Lee and the Compass360 guys did a great job once again and I was happy to bring Fischer Skis a good qualifying result out here in ski country. To be up here in a normally-aspirated car shows how hard these guys work when at a disadvantage."
As expected, Hopwood faced the daunting challenge of keeping ahead of the forced-induction cars that qualified behind him, but did a spectacular job of keeping his #76 car in the top five during the first half of the two-and-a-half-hour race.
Meanwhile, the other C360R cars made significant improvements on their qualifying positions. SPEED World Challenge ace Robb Holland started the #74 Honda Civic Si just outside the top-ten in 11th, and took advantage of an early yellow flag to try an aggressive strategy that saw co-driver Christian Miller get in just after the thirty-minute mark. "We decided to throw the dice when Robb came in early on," noted Miller. "The car was great and we expected a late-race yellow that would allow the race to come to us."
Indeed, Miller ran a solid third-place for much of his lengthy stint, giving the team's 2009 platform (the Civic Si) some valuable television time.
Jeremy Willard, in the #75 Pure Shampoo and Body Wash TSX started 27th. He relentlessly picked off the cars ahead until he was up into seventh before handing over to co-driver Kenny Wilden on lap 17. Wilden continued Willard's progress and moved back into the top ten after a late-race caution bunched the field.
Newcomer James Rowen, paired with Speed Secrets coach Kevin York, made great strides during the course of the weekend, notching his best time of the weekend during the race in the #73 GoEnzo.com Acura RSX-S. "I had a great time and learned a lot," remarked Rowen of his first pro event. Rowen's sponsors were impressed with the Miller facility, the level of competition in Grand-Am's KONI series, and the professionalism of the Compass360 Racing team. "We'll be back for more races next year," promised Rowen.
With the race winding down, the #73 car ultimately finished 23rd, just behind Miller's #74 car, which fell victim not only to the aggressive fuel strategy but to being punted off the track by one of the Cobalts on the penultimate lap. "We played it tight on fuel," admitted Miller, "and I got hit from behind while running third which dropped me down the order a couple of laps from the end."
Wilden brought the #75 home in ninth for it's second top-ten of the year, with Adam Burrows pulling out all the stops to finish a respectable sixth. "We hope Grand-Am will look at applying a performance-balancing formula next year," said Burrows. "At a track like this, the cars that aren't turbo- or super-charged just don't stand a chance."
"We'll take two top-ten as a great success here," remarked Lee. "The points keep us in the championship hunt."
The season-ending race is at Virginia International Raceway in two weeks. And although the Driver's Championship appears to be all but decided, the Team and Manufacturer's titles are up for grabs, and C360R is right in the thick of the battle. Watch http://grand-am.com and http://C360R.com for details.
The Grand-Am KONI Street Tuner race from Miller will air on SPEED Channel on Sep 27 at 3:00 PM ET.