Canadian racers Ashley McCalmont and Kirk Spencer finished a competitive 17th in the ST class in the ...
Canadian racers Ashley McCalmont and Kirk Spencer finished a competitive 17th in the ST class in the #00 Georgian Bay Motorsports prepared Chevrolet Cobalt SS at Daytona International Speedway. The January 25th Fresh from Florida 200-mile endurance event marked the season opener for the 10-race 2008 Grand-Am Koni Challenge street stock sedan based road racing series. The 76-lap event also marked the professional debut for McCalmont, who has competed at the club level at tracks around her hometown of Toronto for several years.
With a total field of 93 cars, 50 of which were in the ST class, one couldn't fault McCalmont for feeling a bit nervous before her first professional start, but Ashley took the event in stride, showing a confident demeanor and some competitive times from the first practice. McCalmont qualified 29th on a lap of 2:12.724 and took her first pro start at 2:15 pm EST on the 25th for the scheduled 3-hour enduro.
Ashley's intent was to run a clean stint, and to try and move the #00 Toronto Tank Lines backed Cobalt forward in the field as the race went on. All appeared to be going to plan until contact with the #63 Roar Racing Mazda RX-8 dropped McCalmont back to 32nd. Ashley was undaunted however, and after a long series of quick laps, she was able to regain the lost ground, moving her way forward to 16th before bringing the car in under green flag conditions on lap 28 for fuel, tires and the mandatory driver change required by Grand-Am rules. Ashley's hard drive netted her a quick lap of 2:11.357, placing her amongst some of the faster drivers in the enormous ST field.
McCalmont's teammate, Kirk Spencer, took over at the stop and continued to capitalize on the solid speed of the Georgian Bay Cobalt. An unlucky full course yellow left Spencer with a hard road ahead and a lot of cars to get by. Kirk, a successful veteran competitor both on and off the circuit, bided his time however, and worked his way through much of the ST field cars to finally secure 17th in the ST class as the checkered flag flew on lap 76 of the race. Kirk's 2:10.871 quick lap was one of the fastest of the race in the ST class, and showed that the hard charging driver was giving all he had.
By any standard, McCalmont and Spencer teamed up for a successful debut event. Both drivers are capable of turning competitive laps, and the Georgian Bay team is undeniably one of the best in the ST paddock, having engineered multi time Grand-Am race winning cars in the past. Despite yet another clearly highly competitive field of Koni Challenge machines, the McCalmont/Spencer duo are hoping to finish even closer to the sharp end of the field as the year progresses.
Ashley McCalmont -- Driver #00 T.T.L. Georgian Bay Chevrolet Cobalt SS
"Going into the race I was really excited. I really didn't know exactly what to expect on the start because it was my first race start in the Grand-Am Koni Challenge Series. It went really smoothly though until the bump from the #63 Mazda RX-8, which dropped us down to 32nd (in class). After that I just continued working my way back up through the pack until I made it into 16th place when we made our driver change. Unfortunately, we had some bad luck with a caution right about then. All in all though, I think it was a great start to the season. I was running consistent times, which were pretty close with those drivers running in the top ten. I am looking forward to the next race and think we are going to do great. I have my eye on that rookie of the year award!"
Kirk Spencer - Driver #00 T.T.L. Georgian Bay Chevrolet Cobalt SS
"We had a pretty good car for the race. Ashley drove really well. She kept her head straight even after the contact with the #63 and gave me a decent car to finish out the race. The yellow caught us out a bit, but that's the way things go sometimes. We've got a good car and team, and I'm hoping for some strong finishes as the year goes on."
There will be a long break before the next event on the Grand-Am calendar as the second race on the 10-race 2008 schedule will be held at Lime Rock in Connecticut on May 23rd.
-credit: JMS Motorsports