Mosport, the sixth of twelve races on the KONI Challenge schedule, was a very rewarding weekend for the Kensai Racing with Compass360 team. Each of the team's three cars finished the race, with solid performances from all six drivers. Karl Thomson...
Mosport, the sixth of twelve races on the KONI Challenge schedule, was a very rewarding weekend for the Kensai Racing with Compass360 team. Each of the team's three cars finished the race, with solid performances from all six drivers. Karl Thomson and Billy Johnson drove their #76 Acura TSX to victory with a dramatic last-lap pass for the lead, while Taz Harvey and Beau Buisson gave the #75 TSX its best result of the season by finishing fifth. Matt Pritiko, meanwhile, put another solid result in the books to keep his Rookie of the Year hopes alive.
THOMSON AND JOHNSON TAKE THIRD VICTORY
Billy Johnson passed the leading Turner BMW of Trevor Hopwood on the very last lap, snatching victory and edging to within one point of the championship lead. "As he always does, Karl gave me the car in a good position (fifth) and in great shape, with lots of tires and brakes," remarked Johnson. "I'd moved up to third by just past mid- way through the race and was staying with the leaders, doing my best to save the car for a sprint at the end. But after the second yellow flag, at the restart Pierre (Kleinubing in the #82 BMW Z4) and I had to avoid a slower car. I hit the brakes but they weren't there and I ended up going way off track in corner two."
The off-track excursion dropped Johnson to fifteenth place, and he worked tirelessly to make his way through traffic. With only ten laps left, Johnson was fourth, Kleinubing in first, Nick Wittmer in his TSX in second, and Hopwood in third. Kleinubing and Wittmer had gambled on a mid-race pit strategy, and unfortunately it didn't pay off this time, with the Z4 running out of gas and the i-MOTO TSX having to pit for fuel, handing the lead to Hopwood.
"Billy and I normally chat quite a bit on the radio," chuckled Thomson. "But when he finally caught Trevor and was working on the pass, he told me to shut up so he could concentrate. That's when I knew he was really working hard!"
The win marks the duo's third of the season, and helps to solidify Acura's lead in the manufacturer's championship, with 197 points, 14 more than BMW's 183. Johnson and Thomson now have 163 points, one behind the Turner team-mates with 164.
HARVEY AND BUISSON FINISH FIFTH
Beau Buisson halted his five-race unlucky streak with a solid top- five result at Mosport. The fifth place finish was all the more remarkable because it was accomplished with a car that started the race clearly worse for wear. "I was following (Jamie) Holtom in the #01 Cobalt during qualifying" noted co-driver Taz Harvey. "Going through corner three I got it a little sideways and just kept it drifting to the exit, but the car hooked up and I ended up nose-first into the wall." Still, Harvey qualified twelfth.
With less than an hour and a half to repair the #75 Acura between qualifying and the race, the Kensai crew went to work, the result being a fully-functional, if somewhat visually impaired, race car. The hood was held in place with Crew Chief Ray Lee's "special" packing tape, and the bumper with a rather large collection of zip ties.
Harvey settled into a good rhythm after the start, taking the car up to as high as ninth place before handing it to Buisson during the first caution period. Beau took the reigns and gradually made up places, limited by his inability to draft. "I'd get a good run on the car in front through the corners, but when I pulled up behind on the straight the water temp would get too high and I'd have to pull out to cool the engine," he said. Like Johnson, Buisson made a great last- lap pass, in this case taking fifth place from the #127 Fountain BMW of Guy Cosmo.
PRITIKO CONTINUES STRONG ROOKIE YEAR
Matt Pritiko shared the #74 Acura RSX-S with Dave Ciekiewicz, who currently lies third in the Canadian Touring Car Championship GT ranks. Pritiko's had an amazing rookie year in his very first season in street stock racing; he's currently in seventh place in the KONI Challenge ST driver's championship, and Mosport provided an excellent opportunity to continue his progress up the leader board.
"Matt's been a great study this year," noted Thomson. "His results are all the more impressive when you figure that not only is this his first time outside of an open-wheel car but he's also new to every track!"
Ciekiewicz started the car from 16th position, and the team elected to try a different strategy for #74, leaving Dave out for the first yellow in the hopes of another one mid-race, just within the car's fuel window. Unfortunately, like the #01 Cobalt, the #74 had to pit under green flag conditions for gas, tires and a driver change.
Although Ciekiewicz had managed to bring the car up to ninth place by mid-way through the stint, the green flag stop meant that Pritiko returned to the track in 16th. He valiantly moved through traffic, but was a lap down to the leaders. Like the other two Kensai/ Compass360 Acuras, Matt managed some good late-race improvements, moving up two positions in the last three laps, finishing in 11th.
With only two days before the rigs leave for the next KONI race (at Mid-Ohio), there's much repair and preparation to be done at the Toronto-based Kensai Racing shop, but there's no doubt the team is up to the task!