Burrows, Hopwood, and Bentinck-Smith Close out 2009 KONI Challenge Season at VIR

ABS makes KONI Challenge Debut with RSR Motorsports

(13 October 2009)--Adam Burrows and Trevor Hopwood had been hoping to extend their streak of podium appearances in the season-ending Bosch Engineering Octoberfest at Virginia International Raceway this Sunday, but the duo will look to make it back onto the barn-based rostrum next season as the 2007 KONI Champions closed the season out with runs to 8th and 15th position in the four-hour enduro.

The race outing saw the champs joined by a new name as Andy Bentinck-Smith (ABS) made his KONI Challenge racing debut after having long established himself in SRF competition with Motion Dynamics.

With a season that has seen the No. 198 Fischer Ski MINI Cooper S show flashes of brilliance, the target was clear as a podium appearance would be a fitting finish for an up and down year. And that goal was looking like it was well within reach as a shift in team strategy made Hopwood a busy man on race day.

After starting the race in the No. 198 Fischer Ski MINI Cooper S from the sixth row of the 55-car Street Tuner (ST) and Grand Sport (GS) grid, Hopwood then moved over to share the No. 197 Mini, which had taken a strong pole position with team driver Owen Trinkler behind the wheel. The shake-up in strategy saw Hopwood's fitness training put to good use as he effectively drove the first three hours of the race.

But their pace in the No. 197 was hampered late in the race by a motor that went soft after a cooling element in the Mini motor was cracked, robbing Trinkler and Hopwood of the chance to convert the pole into a podium for team owner Randy Smalley.

"I'm pretty disappointed because obviously this car was quick today so it would have been great to get a podium for Randy to finish the year," said Hopwood. "It was fun driving both cars today-what else could a guy ask for than to get to drive two different cars in the same race? Thanks to Fischer Skis for the support all season long, and to Randy, Tim, and Frank for the effort every race weekend. And congratulations to our old teammate Kenny Wilden for taking the GS Championship today!"

The eighth place finish for the No. 198 marked the fourth consecutive top-ten result for the screaming yellow Mini as ABS proved up to the task in his first KONI race start.

"I survived out there!" said ABS, who had to acclimate himself to scores of new factors in his first-ever production-based race car experience, not least of which included having a roof over his head, view-blocking A-pillars and safety netting to contend with, and also front-wheel drive. "Even though I've raced here at VIR several times, there was a lot to get used to and I didn't want to interfere with the guys racing for the championship today. But I was pretty happy with how consistent our times were and how much we improved through the weekend.

"I was worried about the driver changes because I just didn't have any experience with them before this weekend, but they turned out even better than when we practiced, fortunately!" said ABS. "I had a blast racing with Trevor and Adam and I just want to thank Randy Smalley for letting me be part of the weekend."

Even though the season's denouement event didn't carry the same championship drama for the two as it has in previous years, the switch to the four-hour format still saw the duo running strong at the rural Virginia country-club setting.

"Congrats to Christian (Miller), Karl, Ray, and all the guys at Compass on winning the championship, it's been a long time coming," said Burrows. "This was a fun weekend to have ABS with us and even though we weren't able to make it up on the podium for the RSR guys, it was good to race to the finish in the top ten. I want to thank iRacing for their support all year long and to Randy for creating this opportunity for us to race here at RSR Motorsports. ABS did a great job, even in the driver changes that he was so worried about. Maybe we can get him to do a little more of this KONI racing next year..."

-credit: sgm