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St. Pete: Brass Monkey Racing event report

Solid Debut for Brass Monkey Nissan GT-Rs at St. Petersburg ST. PETERSBURG, FL - Brass Monkey Racing unveiled its brand-new World Challenge GT Nissan GT-R race cars this weekend at the Acura Sports Car Challenge of St. Petersburg, scoring top-10...

Solid Debut for Brass Monkey Nissan GT-Rs at St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - Brass Monkey Racing unveiled its brand-new World Challenge GT Nissan GT-R race cars this weekend at the Acura Sports Car Challenge of St. Petersburg, scoring top-10 qualifying efforts and a pair of top-10 finishes.

The cars hit a racetrack for the first time Friday morning in the opening practice session. Team drivers Tony Rivera and Steve Ott put the all-wheel- drive turbocharged machines through their initial laps with promising results. After a second practice session mid-day, the afternoon closed with a single 25-minute qualifying session that would set the starting lineup for both the Saturday and Sunday races.

Qualifying The team entered the weekend with modest expectations and exceeded them in qualifying, placing the cars seventh (Rivera) and ninth (Ott) on the grid and well within two seconds of the pole-winning Volvo.

"I didn't have a real time expectation of what I figured we'd be off the Volvos and Porsches this weekend," Rivera said. "But to be just 1.7 seconds off in our first weekend-the first time the cars ever turned a wheel on the track, we were really pleased because there is a lot of work to be done to these Nissans."

Saturday, Race One

Both Rivera and Ott were anxious to utilize their all-wheel-drive launch on the standing start of Saturday afternoon's race. Unfortunately, neither car got away as expected.

Rivera worked his way up to fifth by the end of the first lap in the #97 Nissan/Brass Monkey Racing Nissan GT-R. Despite not initially moving at the start after the car's launch system dropped the car into neutral, Ott maintained ninth at the end of the first lap, but was hit by a Porsche in Turn One, breaking the right side suspension in the process and ending Ott's debut World Challenge race with one lap complete.

Rivera stayed in fifth for most of the race, despite most of the car's fluids running warmer than desired. The Dodge Viper of Jason Daskalos was falling back into Rivera's clutches as it dealt with a rear differential problem and it looked like Tony would work into a solid fourth place.

Unfortunately, the lap Daskalos pitted after receiving a mechanical black flag for dropping fluid, Rivera's car suddenly went into "limp-home" mode, a condition both cars had experienced in practice. As he cycled the ignition and power to the car, he fell back four positions to eighth on lap 27. He would eventually finish the 33-lap race in seventh, where he started.

Sunday, Race Two

After spending a long night working to repair the suspension on the #96 car and work on ducting in both cars to assist in the cooling, the GT-Rs took to the grid in the same positions as the day before.

Both cars got away from the standing start better than the previous race, with Rivera moving to sixth and Ott in a tight fight for seventh. As the field exited Turn Three, Ott made a move to the inside of Lindsey, who looked to protect his line. The two touched and Lindsey's Porsche spun across the front of the Nissan, which climbed over its hood. With a full- course caution out to clean up debris from the contact, Ott pitted his Nissan for a quick inspection from the Brass Monkey crew and then returned to the fight.

Rivera held on to sixth for several laps after the restart before the car again went into "limp mode," dropping the car off the pace momentarily and to 10th place on lap eight. Meanwhile, Ott was making up ground quickly before brushing the wall on lap nine and damaging a wheel, ending his day once again.

Running ninth behind the Dodge Viper of Jeff Courtney for a dozen laps, Rivera finally found his way past on lap 25 into eighth place, a move that would garner him the MTM Special Ops Move of the Race. He held on to eighth for the remainder of the race.

Tony Rivera:
All-in-all, we're happy with the first weekend. This has been quite an undertaking, but the cars show great promise and we need to get back home to work on improving the cars before Long Beach.

The Nissan GT-R is an impressive car to start with. These cars are very stock when it comes to the engine, engine management and drivetrain. We even used the stock brake calipers at St. Pete. The entire package makes for a fast car, but we need to work on making it be a good racecar. We need to focus on cooling and computer programming to make the car happy over a long run, as well as getting some more weight out of the cars. We're more than 300 pounds heavier than the next heaviest car in the series!

We were more competitive than we expected at St. Pete, but there is still a lot of work to be done to fight for the pole position and race wins.

Steve Ott:
When you look back on the weekend as a whole, it was a successful debut for the cars. We're about a second and a half off of qualifying pace and a second off race pace right out of the box, so there is clearly a lot of potential for the team this year.

I thought about the races a lot on Sunday and Monday and reviewed my in- car. Aside from getting into the wall by myself on Sunday, I wouldn't do anything differently. Not much I could do about the incident on Saturday. On Sunday, I was alongside Lindsey far enough that I couldn't even see his car in the camera. I guess he didn't know I was there and turned down. Probably looked more exciting that it was in the driver's seat, but I got up in the air pretty high.

The car drove okay after that, but I got into the wall later and that was it. Not a great way to start the year points wise. Its one of those weekends you need to put behind you and look forward to Long Beach.

-source: brass monkey racing

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Series PWC
Drivers Tony Rivera , Jeff Courtney , Jason Daskalos , Steve Ott