Team Retains Championship Lead in Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge
Compass360 Racing (C360R) took two of the three podium positions at the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge event at Lime Rock Park this past weekend, marking a record-breaking string of five consecutive top-three finishes for a single team. Lawson Aschenbach and David Thilenius, co-driving the team's #74, were second, with Ryan Eversley and Zach Lutz in third.
"The Compass360 crew gave us a great car today," remarked Aschenbach. "Our Honda was hooked up for the whole race, and I think we could have taken the win if not for that caution late in the race."
Indeed, the 74 and 75 cars ran nose-to-tail for the latter half of the race, after their starting drivers made up for mid-pack qualifying efforts during their stints. The team's star story in qualifying was 18-year-old rookie Alex Kirby, who put the #77 Honda he shares with Greg Liefooghe first of the C360R cars in seventh position. Lutz was ninth, with Thilenius 12th, and John Kuitwaard in the #76 in 25th.
The race started on a damp track after light showers coated the circuit with rain just prior to the start, which made for challenging conditions for the first drivers. Kirby held his own with considerable aplomb, while Lutz, Thilenius and Kuitwaard made their way forward despite the challenge of finding good passing opportunities on the tight, twisty Lime Rock, Connecticut circuit.
A timely caution period allowed the team to execute some of the best pit stops of the race, netting the 74 and 75 cars first and second position on the road. the #76 car, now with Jesse Combs at the wheel, was also well-positioned. Unfortunately, as mis-cue on the radio meant Kirby came in a lap later than the other C360R cars, which put co-driver Liefooghe close to the back of the pack when the green flag fell.
Up front, Aschenbach and Eversley battled for the lead while their main championship contender, Seth Thomas in the #81 BMW, made his way through the pack and eventually up to the front where he joined Andy Lally's Kia and Josh Hurley's VW to form the top five.
While Liefooghe battle through traffic, Combs was battling traffic behind, and unfortunately was tagged by an overly optimistic RX-8 trying to pass on the grass at the end of No Name Straight, which pitched him into the Mini of VJ Mirzayan, ending both of their days on the spot. Ironically, the RX-8 expired just a few laps later. It ended what was sure to be a top-ten result for Combs and Kuitwaard, who won the race in 2009 in the same Compass360 Honda.
Thanks to traffic, Aschenbach had a small lead over Eversley, who had a similar lead over Thomas, and it was looking good for a Compass360 one-two. Alas, a late-race caution came out and bunched up the field. On the restart, Thomas was able to take advantage of the BMW's superior brakes and passed the #75, and then the #74 in the closing stages of the race. "We gave it all we had," remarked Aschenbach, "but it wasn't to be today. The BMW's brakes proved to be stronger than we had today, and it was amazing to see Seth bring that car up from back in the pack."
Added Eversley, "the guys at Skunk2 give us great power out of these high-revving Honda powerplants, and it's great to take two podium spots here at Lime Rock." Liefooghe, meanwhile, brought the #77 up to 12th position, gathering valuable championship points for he and co-driver Kirby.
The BMW win narrows the #74's lead in the Driver's and Team's Championship to just three points (155-152), while Compass360's efforts so far have Honda well in front of the Manufacturer Championship 164-153.
The teams in the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge have only a few days to repair and refurbish their cars before they take to the track at the Continental Tire 150 at Watkins Glen this coming weekend, June 4th and 5th. For details visit http://grand-am.com.