Weekend Preview: Points Leaders Closing in on Championships

Aug. 11, 2010
Michael Harker, GRAND-AM

Co-pilots of the No. 48 BMW M3, Charles Espenlaub and Charlie Putman, have a 10 point lead in the Grand Sport points standings.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The production-based Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge returns to action with the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres, held on the city’s 1.521-mile street course, in Quebec, Canada. Take at the the leading storylines heading into race nine of the 10-race season.

Points Leaders Closing In On Respective Championships

Charles Espenlaub and Charlie Putman (No. 48 Sparco/Fall-Line BMW M3) have spent most of the 2010 GRAND-AM Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge Grand Sport (GS) season atop the driver standings. With two races left, the duo looks to hold onto their lead, which now stands at 10 points (228-219) over Joey Hand and rookie Michael Marsal (No. 97 Turner Motorsport BMW M3).

The 21-car GS field is set to compete in a two-hour race at Trois-Rivières on Friday night, which is the first time the series will compete at the track under the lights. Factor that in with an already tight racing surface, several low-speed corners that are tough on transmissions, and walls on both sides of the track.

Also still in the running for the GS championship are Billy Johnson and Jack Roush Jr. (No. 61 Roush Performance Products Ford Mustang GT) and Terry Borcheller and Andrew Hendricks (No. 45 Stable One/Fall-Line BMW M3).

The weekend also marks the second and final event the series’ two classes will race separately. The Street Tuner (ST) class, headed by points leaders Seth Thomas and Bill Heumann (No. 81 Performance Friction/Rays Engineering BMW 328i), will compete Saturday morning. Thomas and Heumann took the championship lead at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and now lead Lawson Aschenbach and David Thilenius (No. 74 Skunk2/HPD Honda Civic Si) by 10 points (235-225). Thilenius earned his only win prior to this season at Trois-Rivières in 2006.

Roush, Johnson Still In Grand Sport Championship Contention

If someone were to tell either Billy Johnson or Jack Roush Jr. (No. 61 ROUSH Performance Products Ford Mustang GT) they would be in contention for the Grand Sport (GS) championship after their season-opening race at Daytona International Speedway, neither probably would believe it. Especially with two races remaining.

Yet, the pair still has a mathematical chance at taking the GS title. The two have climbed to third in the driver standings on the strength of two victories, including the most recent race last month at New Jersey Motorsports Park, and seven top fives, all consecutively after a mechanical problem at Daytona forced a 37-place result, which yielded zero points.

Additionally, Roush has a season-high three pole positions.

“We’re full board, going ten-tenths trying to go for this championship,” said Johnson, who last Saturday at Watkins Glen International made his NASCAR Nationwide Series debut. “That first race (at Daytona) definitely put us in a hole, so we’ve been digging ever since then.

“Our season since has been consistent, despite each weekends’ fields being so strong. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain, so we’re just going to go out there and try to win both races. If luck falls our way, we may even take the title-who knows.”

Johnson and Roush finished second in last year’s Grand Prix de Trois-Rivières. Johnson also earned second in 2007 in the Street Tuner (ST) class and was third driving for Rehagen Racing during the 2008 season.

Freedom, USMC Team Together To Give Marines Driving Lessons

Reigning Grand Prix de Trois-Rivières Street Tuner race-winning team Freedom Autosport teamed with the U.S. Marine Corps on July 31 to give driving lessons in Mazda MX-5s and MAZDASPEED3s at Camp Lejeune in Lejeune, N.C.

Marines put their skills and cars to the test, performing slalom, threshold braking and lane change exercises. The HMH-464 Squadron is comprised of CH-53 helicopter pilots and crew, but performance driving was a new kind of school.

“It really was an enjoyable experience to be able to give these Marines a chance to challenge their own four-wheel vehicle skills since they’ve been used to the challenges of flying their CH-53 helicopters overseas,” says Freedom Autosport team manager Tom Long (No. 26 Life Lock Mazda MX-5), who led the program.

Freedom Autosport and Long Road Racing-which prepares the Freedom Mazdas-both received plaques in honor of their support and efforts.

“Some people say they support the troops, and some make a real commitment,” said Lieutenant Colonel Tim Anderson. “Freedom Autosport says they support the military, and they mean it.”

Freedom Autosport made history last season when regular driver Andrew Carbonell (No. 26 Life Lock Mazda MX-5) joined with his father, Alfredo Carbonell, to score the first victory for a father-son combination in more than five seasons.

Carbonell has not had the best season of his young career, though he started off 2010 by posting a best finish of third at Daytona International Speedway with regular co-driver and team co-owner Rhett O’Doski.

Q & A With Former Series Champion, Race Winner Trevor Hopwood

Trevor Hopwood (No. 12 Mobis/Infinity Audio Kia Forte Koup), who earned the 2007 Street Tuner title with Adam Burrows, answered questions about his summer and the Grand Prix of Trois-Rivières, which he won in 2008.

Q. – Talk about what you have done this summer outside of racing.

T.H. – It’s been a completely flat out but fun summer. I am the Assistant Director of the Adventure Camp in Kittery, Maine. It’s a camp for middle school students, and every day we go a field trip. We might go to an amusement park one day, or ice skating or a trip to the beach the next day. This week prior to Trois-Rivières, however, is special; it’s the annual camping trip. For two days, we take about 45 kids to Northern Maine. The trip includes a 14-mile canoe trip down the Saco River, plus other games, activities and a talent show. It’s a tradition, and something everyone looks forward to each year.

Q. – Let’s talk about the Kinetic Motorsports program and the new Kia Forte Koups.

T.H. – It has been quite an interesting season. When the cars rolled off the truck at Daytona we had one goal: to finish that race. We did and we have finished every race since then. We know the Kinetic guys will develop the car like mad and the speed and results will come as we have seen so far. That race at Lime Rock Park was definitely the best of the season; we had a top-five finish and I led. I never had a doubt in my mind that the car would get faster and it is continuing to get faster.

Q. – What sets Trois-Rivières apart from some of the places we visit on the circuit?

T.H. – Obviously, it is a street circuit so that alone makes it unique. But there are many other aspects that make it such a special weekend. It’s our only stop in Canada, which is very important for the series. We have many teams and drivers from Canada, so it’s great for them to all have a home race. The Canadian fans are incredible as well. It is easily the highest attended race of the year for us. They love their racing there and hopefully we can put a good show on for them. No other city puts as much effort into promoting an event and having all sorts of activities at night downtown.

Q. – What are the chances the Kia can break through for a victory at Trois-Rivières?

T.H. – I think we have a good shot. It will be an interesting race. They have increased the time back to two hours, which will play into our hand a bit. It’s a small but strong field this year. The race is going to be all about saving the brakes. Adam is finishing this weekend so hopefully I can leave the car in really good shape so he has something to fight with at the end. Kinetic, Adam and myself have all proven we know how to win here.

source http://www.grand-am.com

If you enjoyed this post, please consider leaving a comment or subscribing to the RSS feed to have future articles delivered to your email!

Related Racing News

    blog comments powered by Disqus

    Featuring Recent Posts WordPress Widget development by YD