It’s been a wild Pirelli World Challenge season so far in Touring Car, and I don’t expect things to settle down much as we finish up the first half of the 2012 season. We’re six races into a 14 race war, with Honda, Mazda, and VW all battling for podium spots and championship points. Michael Cooper’s Mazda came out of the gate strong in the first two races at St. Pete, as did the VW’s, and I’ve spent the last four races in my #71 National Kart News/SafeRacer Honda playing catch-up in the points.
My Compass 360 Honda has been a reliable and consistent performer, with six podiums in six races – great for keeping a points lead, but not so great at making up huge amounts of points when it’s up against the faster turbo cars. We’ve had several things to work out to the advantage of the competition so far this season, and at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca things finally went our way and the C360R team got a much deserved second win for the season. I look at it as a tipping point; we’ve finally turned the corner and we’re leading the points before the halfway mark of the season. This is where the consistency and reliability of the Hondas should pay dividends. It paid off for Lawson Aschenbach and Compass360 last year when they were up against the turbo cars for the championship, so I’m holding myself to the same standard this year.
We’ve tried a number of brake combinations this season, and we finally settled on the StopTech calipers. It was a toss up on StopTech last year with the 50lb weight penalty that came with using them, but this year that penalty is gone so we gave them a try at Laguna. Amazing difference after trying them back-to-back against the stock calipers. I feel like the King of the Late Brakers with less ABS interference!
Teammates Ryan Winchester in the #72 Ligon Honda, and Shea Holbrook in the #67 TrueCar Honda, have both had great seasons thus far, and I expect to see them both on the podium at Mosport (no pressure - HA!). Tristan Herbert’s VW ran into a bit of bad luck getting tangled with Justin Bell at Laguna, but teammate Jeff Altenburg had a solid run and both cars were fast. I expect we’re going to have five to six cars aiming for podiums each race, and you’ll probably see the top step of the podium occupied by the driver that manages traffic, tires, and race strategy the best.
The Touring Cars head to Mosport next for a triple-header weekend with TCB (B-Spec) June 22-24. It’s much easier to run with the TCB cars as we’re the faster class, we don’t have the back of the GTS field to contend with (somehow they always manage to get in the middle of the TC battle), and overall there will be less cars on track at the same time. I enjoy Mosport and it happens to be the home track for Compass, so I’m hoping team owner Karl Thomson will buy me one of those fancy Tim Horton’s coffees while we’re in Canada - I hear it’s the Starbucks of the Great White North.
While Touring Car series gets the next five weeks off, GT/GTS head to my hometown race in Detroit. I’ve been scouring the paddock trying to find a ride for the Detroit Grand Prix, but the few things that seemed promising (and downright awesome rides) didn’t come through. With another two weeks to go I’m hoping something will turn up, but either way I’ll be at the Detroit Grand Prix on Belle Isle for some knock-down drag-out Pirelli World Challenge racing action!