KENSAI'S ACURAS RUN IN TOP 10 AT PHOENIX As the first race of the 2006 season to feature separate races for ST and GS classes, the Grand Am Cup event at Phoenix promised great racing in hot conditions, making driver skill to manage speed and the...
KENSAI'S ACURAS RUN IN TOP 10 AT PHOENIX
As the first race of the 2006 season to feature separate races for ST and GS classes, the Grand Am Cup event at Phoenix promised great racing in hot conditions, making driver skill to manage speed and the car paramount.
With the event schedule allowing only one practice session before qualifying, the Kensai Racing with Compass360 drivers settled in quickly. SPEED Touring Car veteran Taz Harvey joined Nicolas Rondet (2001 Barber Pro Series Champion who also competed in the Toyota Atlantic series) in the #76 car, while the talented Travis Walker shared the #75 car with Aaron Povoledo for their fourth consecutive race as team-mates. Clearly, the team was fielding another high-calibre group of drivers, and looked to build on their success at Laguna Seca.
All four drivers settled into their Acuras well, with Walker turning in yet another scorching qualifying performance to put the #75 car on the outside pole, with Harvey very close behind in fifth. To have both Kensai RSXs in the top five is no mean feat and the crew was justifiably proud.
At the start, the usual melee was avoided with all the cars getting through the first few corners cleanly. While Walker settled into third place, he struggled with the car's set-up and by lap ten was back to ninth. Harvey, meanwhile, was on a tear, moving up to fourth and hot on the heels of Mike Galati in the #114 Davis RSX. To see these two SPEED Touring aces battling again was a real treat, and made for some really great viewing on the SPEED coverage.
The cars remained in thus for the first half of the race, with Harvey jumping to third for a few laps. The race was green flag from start to finish, which made pit stops key. Both cars pitted with little fuel to spare, when disaster struck the #76 car. Taz had made his driver change with Rondet in good time, but during the tire change one of the wheel studs snapped off, ending their race. It was a real shame, as Rondet had shown remarkable speed in his short practice stint, and the #76 car looked good for a solid podium if not the win.
Meanwhile Povoldeo, having taken over from Walker, was wrestling with a damaged gearbox. The fact that he was able to turn comparable times to the race leader while missing third gear (a rather important ratio at Phoenix) is a testament to his skill and adaptability. He finished the race a still respectable ninth in the #75 car with the #76 finally classified in 24th.
"We've shown good speed all season long," said Ray Lee, the team's Crew Chief. "The ninth place gives us our second top-ten of the season (Karl Thomson and Billy Johnson placed fourth at Laguna), but we really want both cars well into the top ten."
Now the cars return to Toronto for service before heading to Lime Rock for the next round. Walker will be joined by GS race-winner Tom Nastasi in the #75 car, while Thomson and Povoledo will team up for the first time in #76. It's another split race that promises great racing and a good result for Kensai Racing with Compass360.