Automatic Racing: Speed despite Setbacks at Homestead HOMESTEAD, Fla.--Charlie Putman and Charles Espenlaub were two of the fastest drivers at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday during the KONI Sports Car Challenge Grand Sport race. The drivers...
Automatic Racing: Speed despite Setbacks at Homestead
HOMESTEAD, Fla.--Charlie Putman and Charles Espenlaub were two of the fastest drivers at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday during the KONI Sports Car Challenge Grand Sport race. The drivers of the No. 91 Automatic Racing BMW M3 had an early setback, but rallied by posting the second-quickest time of the day.
Putman started the weekend by qualifying fifth, a personal best in KONI Challenge. His 1:28.217 qualifying time was just the beginning of his success. Putman's first stint in the 2.5-hour race was marked by competitive lap times and the feeling that the M3 might take him and Espenlaub to the podium.
"It was a good confidence-builder for me," said Putman. "I qualified well--that was an excellent showing with such a deep field of talented drivers--and I had a good stint." Unfortunately, things went all wrong on lap 33, when he pitted with a driveline issue. The crew got repairs made in short order, sending Putman back out only 12 laps down. He wasn't fighting for position anymore, but proved that he could have thanks to lap times on par with the race leaders.
Espenlaub laid down one fast lap after another, too, with a best time of 1:28.668. It was only 0.005-second off the quickest lap time of the race.
The No. 99 Automatic Racing BMW M3 sponsored by H&S Tool (www.handstool.net) had a mechanical setback, as well, when a line in the oil system failed. Mark Hillestad quickly went from fighting for position on track to fighting to limp to the garage for repairs. The Automatic crew, headed by team manager Joe Varde, got to work so Hillestad and co-driver Barry Waddell could return to competition.
"I got a full stint for the first time since I came back to racing," said Hillestad. "Barry and I are going to Laguna Seca and New Jersey Motorsports Park before the next round, so we're building our program. We're just trying to keep our heads down and keep going."
Following the race, Waddell was optimistic. "We had challenging conditions, but our lap times weren't hurt," Waddell said. "We felt a level of satisfaction that our times would have kept us competitive. Mark and I have to evaluate what we did as drivers, and we feel we've progressed. Sometimes you have racing luck like this, and things will swing back our way if we persevere."