JOY OR POINTS AT PORTLAND FOR NATHAN SWARTZBAUGH Nathan Swartzbaugh - in the XM SATELLITE RADIO VICI RACING Porsche GT3 Cup - fell victim to damage sustained from contact with another competitor during the early race action at Portland last ...
JOY OR POINTS AT PORTLAND FOR NATHAN SWARTZBAUGH
Nathan Swartzbaugh - in the XM SATELLITE RADIO VICI RACING Porsche GT3 Cup - fell victim to damage sustained from contact with another competitor during the early race action at Portland last Sunday. It was a disappointing end to a weekend that had promised much, and attention now focuses on the next round - at Road America - in three weeks time.
20-year-old Nathan (who celebrated his birthday last week) had arrived at the famous Oregon race track - buoyed up after a successful two day test and learning session, and with the IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge title race still wide open. Since joining XM SATELLITE VICI RACING in time for the last round (held at the Mid-Ohio Sportscar Course) ,the had team organised a two day test session at the Willow Springs Raceway in California, scheduled for the weekend prior to Portland's IMSA GT Cup event. With regular Porsche European Carrera Cup and Supercup racer, Robert Renauer, on hand to tutor Nathan, as well as to provide back-to-back comparisons of the GT3, the test was judged by all to have been a great success. "At the beginning Nathan was two seconds off Robert's pace, by the end he was just half a second adrift," commented VICI RACING Team President Ron C. Meixner last weekend, before adding "We were delighted, especially as the conditions were unbearably hot. The test proved to be a real success and hopefully it will form a real springboard for Nathan to pick up a good result at Portland this weekend."
The single free practice session for the eighteen IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge runners was held - in dry and warm conditions - at the Portland International Raceway on Friday morning. Nathan quickly dialled the Porsche in, setting a 1:18.535 lap, good enough for the third fastest time - 0.376 seconds off the provisional pole driver - title arch-rival Jay Policastro, despite the VICI RACING driver having to learn the track, and set the car up.
Circuit conditions continued to improve during Saturday morning's 30-minute qualifying session, and as times tumbled, so did Nathan's as he got to grips with the technically demanding track, his eventually best time - a 1:17.663 from 13 laps - putting him firmly into third place on the final grid, 0.306 off pole winner Kevin Roush (Wheel Enhancement Racing), and with Jay Policastro (Orbit) slotted in between.
The race was very brief - and eventful - for Nathan. Caught up in a melee of action on the opening lap he sustained damage to the car's radiator, forcing the youngster to retire on the second lap. With his title rival Jay Policastro going on to win, and claim a maximum haul of points, Nathan now drops down the order, with championship still mathematically possible, although his chances are realistically rather remote. "It's a disappointing result, for sure, but that's racing: lap one accidents can occur," commented Ron after the race, "Nathan's put a lot of hard working into improving his driving skills, and it has been paying off. He's a very quick learner, very critical with himself, and these are the qualifications a young driver needs to progress. I'm totally confident he can make it up the sportscar ladder, and we're all looking forward to the next race now."
The next round of the inaugural IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge (round 4 of 5) will take place at Road America in three weeks time (19-21st August). In the meantime, the Porsche GT3 Cup will be shipped to VICI RACING's California 'base' for the minor repairs to be carried out, while a further test session for Nathan is scheduled prior to the next race.