2009 Trans-Am Champion Drissi Struggles While Teammate Ramoutarsingh Earns Second Podium of Rookie Season
ELKHART LAKE, Wisconsin (September 20, 2009) - It was a race neither will forget but RSR drivers Tomy Drissi and Daniel Ramoutarsingh battled through the good and the bad to take home the ultimate achievements as the Champion and Rookie-of-the-Year, respectively, in the 2009 Muscle Milk SCCA Trans-Am Series.
In the Trans-Am season finale at Road America, Drissi started third in the #5 Avatar Jaguar XKR after turning a time of 2:06.647 (115.066 mph) on his final lap in qualifying this morning. "We went out and posted a lap time that put us P2 early on in the session," said Drissi. "Then a red flag came out. I said to my team at that point, 'we already have the championship and we aren't racing for points now, so I want to keep my tires.' So we sat in the pits to wait for one more run at the end of the qualifying session. Unfortunately another red flag came out and Jorge Diaz had gone a little bit quicker then I did and P2 was taken away from me. After a quick cleanup, they only allowed us one qualifying lap left. I was able to run a pretty good lap and without the tires being up to temp, but it just wasn't enough to put us on the pole, where I felt we could have been easily. We had one of the best cars out there."
The second red that Drissi was referring to was unfortunately caused by his teammate Ramoutarsingh, after a trip into the Turn 14 tire wall. Ramoutarsingh had this to say about his qualifying session, "I was able to put down a decent time in qualifying before my incident, but the car was capable of more. I went back out for another run, and I knew I was going fast because I was gaining on the guys in front of me that were running decent times. Coming into Turn 14, the final turn, the car pushed and my rear tire went off the track. The car spun at the exit and went backwards into the wall. The car then rotated and the front hit causing even more damage. I was ok, but when I looked at the car I had my moment of doubt. I know my team can do anything, but I was asking a lot of them this time. I cannot thank these guys enough for the job they did putting my car back together and giving me a car that outlasted and outran every car here. I have to thank Jorge Diaz for his sportsmanship to loan me parts that I did not have to patch this car up and make the race."
Before the incident, the rookie posted a time of 2:08.433 (113.466 mph) which had him sitting seventh on the grid. With only four and a half hours until the green flag, the RSR crew scurried around to repair the major damage done to Ramoutarsingh's #8 Trinrico Steel & Wire Products Jaguar XKR. They were able to put both cars on the grid to make the final start in 2009.
"A little electrical problem cost us a win," commented Drissi on his race. "I was pacing first and second place at the start. I turned up the wick on Lap 5 and could catch them, but then I just said 'you know what, this is a good place to be right now.' About three or four more laps I was going to put the attack on because we definitely had a better car. But before I could do that, we had an electrical problem and I was just losing power. I was playing with the switches and the car came back to me but just as I got to the pit entry I heard this big boom; the header collector blew off. They tried to fix it in time for me not to go a lap down, but they just couldn't get it repaired fast enough. But I went back out there and gave it my all. It is unfortunate that we couldn't end the season with a win, but we still have the championship. The RSR team did a fantastic job for me. It was bitter sweet; we couldn't win this race but it made it a little bit better to see my teammate, Daniel, on the podium."
Despite the setback in the race, the Hollywood native still managed a top-ten finish, crossing the line eighth. "It may have not been the way we wanted to close the season, but it is what it is. I have to thank Paul Gentilozzi and everyone at RSR for assisting me in my championship run. Without them, I wouldn't be here today. They are an amazing group of people and I have been so fortunate to have them by my side. And most importantly, I have to thank 20th Century Fox for their support and giving me this opportunity to compete and be crowned the Champion."
Bitter sweet was the exact feeling Ramoutarsingh had reflecting on his race. "I am just coping with the fact that I might have had my first-ever race win, had I not spun attempting to pass for the lead."
"This is the toughest race I have ever had," continued Ramoutarsingh. "I have never driven my car under conditions like this where it lost everything - tires, braking, everything was gone except the will to keep going. Towards the end of the race, I was having problems with my radio and I thought I heard my crew chief tell me, 'this is it, last lap' and I was three seconds a lap faster then the leader and gaining on him quickly. I went in after him in Canada Corner (Turn 12), but he slowed down in the exit and my nose got in under his bumper. So that threw me off my pace and I spun it. But I was able to get the car restarted and keep going, as it turned out it was only Lap 21 and we still had two laps to go. "
Ramoutarsingh fell back to fourth, but benefited from a last-lap incident between Kenny Bupp and Simon Gregg to move back into second, 15.458-seconds behind the winner.
"It would have been wonderful to end my rookie season by winning my first Trans-Am race," added the Trinidadian. "It would have been really incredible, but what is even more incredible is that my guys could get parts from different teams and put together a car in a couple of hours that out ran every car out here today. I wish I could have won it for my team, but we all know that we had the winning car today. I have to thank Trinrico Steel & Wire Products for giving me this opportunity. And I really, sincerely need to thank my Dad and Paul Gentilozzi. To be part of the Gentilozzi family and to have run with this team, I have grown so much. I just can't thank him enough for taking a gamble on me."
Ramoutarsingh closed the season out with a third and second place finish, and clinched the Rookie-of-the-Year honor. Drissi won the 2009 Muscle Milk SCCA Trans-Am Championship with a total of 191 points in seven races. Ave finished second, with 152, followed by Gregg (138), Ramoutarsingh (123) and Jung (102). Jaguar clinched the Manufacturers Championship after the Watkins Glen round, topping Chevrolet, Ford and Mazda in that order.