Multiple-championship-winning team hopes for podiums in Florida and Utah.
(Homestead, Florida and Salt Lake City, Utah) -- The rigs have arrived and parked; the cars are ready to be unloaded and are ready for battle. And there's the hope of podiums in two very different locations for Toronto, Canada-based Compass360 Racing.
For the first time ever, C360R will field eight Honda Civic Si's on a single weekend. Four cars will compete in the ultra-competitive Grand-Am Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge event at Miami-Homestead Speedway. Four additional cars will vie for the top prize in the Pirelli World Challenge triple-header at Miller Motorsports Park just outside of Salt Lake City, Utah.
"We are ready to win at both tracks," remarked Team Principal Karl Thomson. "We'll be running a mix of new 2012 Civic Si's and 2011-spec cars. Both series are really competitive and we're expecting tight fights at the front in Florida and Utah, but we are coming in to both weekends locked and loaded."
The team, which notched its first pro start in 2004 in Grand-Am and has been first or second in the championship five years running, started the 2012 season well with two second-place finished in the World Challenge season-opener at St. Petersburg, FL. The Grand-Am squad has had similarly strong results, notching seventh and tenth at the most recent round in Barber, AL.
"Logistically there's a lot of work to do beyond the normal car prep and set-up," noted Technical Director Ray Lee. "There isn't a lot of track time at either weekend and we need to make sure the cars and drivers arrive at the track in fighting form."
Both series start on Thursday with promoter test days; Grand-Am's two-and-half-hour race is on Saturday; World Challenge's short three-race sprints are Saturday and Sunday. Grand-Am races require two drivers with a mandatory driver stop, while in World Challenge it's all up to the lone pilot.
On the east coast in Florida, Andrew Novich and Adam Burrows will drive the #74 Dr. Kimberly Henry / Speed Secrets Honda. Ray Mason and Ryan Eversley will helm the #75 Columbus Truck / Children's Tumor Foundation car, while John Kuitwaard and David Thilenius will race the #76 Metropolitan Foods / HPD Civic. Zach Lutz, who finished third in the 2011 championship returns to the squad for the first time this year, sharing the #77 Joe Marina Honda car with Bo Roach.
In Utah, Shea Holbrook, the only female winner of a World Challenge race, will look for another win in her #67 TrueCar / Lucas Oil Si. Thomson, returning to driving duties after a strong win with Eversley at Virginia last year, will helm the #70 Honda Performance Development car, while Todd Lamb will look to improve upon his two second-place finishes at St. Petersburg and take the championship lead in his #72 National Kart News Honda. And Ryan Winchester will put the disappointment of St. Pete's behind him, where he was taken out of a certain top-five position by an out-of-control VW in race one, with hopes to get his #72 Ligon Industries Civic on the box.
"We've had a lot of good discussions with the SCCA folks over the past month or so," noted Crew Chief Enrico Diano. "I am confident that drivers losing control of their cars will be dealt harsh hands, as we simply can't have more incidents like saw with Ryan at St. Pete's."
For the Team Princpal, though, it all comes down to focus within the team. "Running eight cars in series as competitive as Grand-Am and World Challenge is hard," said Thomson. "Making sure they can all run at the front is even harder. We've done the best we can to stack the deck in terms of driver talent this weekend, and I for one am really excited to see how it turns out."
Both races will be televised. The Grand-Am Kia 200 from Homestead will be on SPEED May 12th at noon. The PrivacyStar Utah Grand Prix will air May 27th at 11pm on NBC Sports. The latter will also be available on http://worldchallenge-tv.com streaming during the race.