SCC: VIR: Automatic Racing preview

Automatic Racing: Season Finale and a Busy Schedule ALTON, Va.--The 2009 KONI Sports Car Challenge season wraps up this weekend at Virginia International Raceway, but Automatic Racing isn't planning to slow down any time soon. After the final ...

Automatic Racing: Season Finale and a Busy Schedule

ALTON, Va.--The 2009 KONI Sports Car Challenge season wraps up this weekend at Virginia International Raceway, but Automatic Racing isn't planning to slow down any time soon. After the final checkered flag of the season, Automatic will immediately launch their off-season test program.

The Bosch Engineering Octoberfest at VIR caps the season with a four-hour enduro on Sunday. Automatic Racing has fared well at the Virginia track in the past, including a podium finish two years ago.

Charlie Putman and Charles Espenlaub took eighth in the four-hour finale last season, fighting their way through the field after going a lap down earlier in the race. This year, the drivers of the no. 91 Automatic Racing BMW M3 have their sights set on the podium.

For Putman, the weekend holds two extra perks: VIR is his favorite track, and he particularly enjoys endurance races. "The first event Charles and I did together was a 12-hour race, and we've done a lot of endurance races since then. They really separate the people who can stay mentally and physically focused for long periods because you have to be consistent," said Putman. As for driving at VIR, he commented, "The uphill esses have got to be one of the scariest pieces of road in North American roadracing! They're a thing of legend. VIR is a challenge to drive and that makes it enjoyable."

Mark Hillestad and Barry Waddell have considered 2009 to be a learning season since both drivers recently returned after extended time away from racing. Nevertheless, the two have been consistent this year and they have earned a number of top-ten finishes in the No. 99 Automatic Racing/H&S Tool (www.handstool.net) BMW M3. Many of the tracks on the series schedule have been new to Hillestad and Waddell, and VIR is no exception.

During a recent test at the 3.27-mile course, though, Hillestad had nothing but praise for the historic track. "VIR is my favorite track so far," he said. "It's such a fun track: it's fast and it's got a great layout."

Hillestad was also optimistic about the long race. "The longer the race, the better! We've got strategy on our side, and we hope to end the season on a high note."

The four-hour season finale kicks off at noon on Sunday, October 4.

After finishing the season at VIR, the Automatic Racing crew has just one week before their off-season test program begins with a weekend at Sebring International Raceway.

-credit: ar

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Charles Espenlaub , Charlie Putman , Mark Hillestad , Barry Waddell
Teams Automatic Racing