For the first time, the Performance Technic team competed in the NASA Championships held at Sonoma Raceway. This was the first year the Championships were to run on both coasts to allow most teams the chance to compete without the long haul to the mid west (Miller Motorsports Park in Utah). This is the biggest and strongest fielded event NASA puts on. The best drivers and teams come from around the country to fight for a national title.
We knew the competition was going to be potent. From drivers like Michael McAleenan in his S62 powered #3 E46 m3 to, of course, Tony Colicchio in his amazingly light #331 E36 M3, both last year’s champions in GTS4 and GTS3, respectively. After facing Colicchio in May with the #46 still in USTCC trim at Thunderhill, we had some work to do. The new 3-way MCS dampers needed some learning, as well as adding aero. The GTS class is very open when it comes to using aero devices and at the beginning of the season we were a bit lacking. “We’re fine in the slow speed stuff”, Matt Powers said after the 100+ degree race in May, “it’s really just mid corner to exit of all the high speed sections where we’re loosing out.”
Fast-forward to last weekend, our test days were complete, the car was ready and it was game time. Friday morning was warm-up, then qualifying. P2 on old tires in warm-up behind Colicchio was not a bad way to start. After throwing on some stickier Michelins, we headed out for qualifying and right away we had realized this was going to be an epic battle. Colicchio was the first across the line with a 1:40.521 then McAleenan sets a 1:40.903 and then Powers sets a 1:40.638; less than .4 separating the top three! Knowing that was the best the tire was going to give, all three come in to impound after lap 2. “The car feels balanced, that bar adjustment helped.” Powers told crew chief and motorsport director, Matt Medeiros, after the #46 gets back from dyno, “Our tires are going to take a lap longer at least to warm up though.” “Perfect, we’ll be strong at the end.” Medeiros states, matter-of-factly.
There are two heat/qualifying races, the first on Friday and the other on Saturday. Both heat races combine to set the grid for the main winner-take-all race on Sunday. The first heat race Tony elected to start on drivers’ right. Powers got a good start and ended up ahead going through turn 1, but Tony had his nose just inside the #46’s rear bumper into turn 2 and held it there through turn 3 as well, and Michael now looking to the inside of Colicchio into 3; finally the three cars are nose to tail over the top of the right hander 3A. A small gap opens behind the #46, but it only lasts until the bottom of the carousel (turn 6), where all three cars are now almost bumping into turn 7, down through the esses and into the very slow U-turn that is turn 11. By the end of lap 1, the top three have pulled away from the rest of the field. You could now hear the #46’s splitter scrape the entire way up turn one. Colicchio again gets a better run out of the carousel on lap 2, but Powers stays to the right to block an inside pass and the #331 looks to the outside, staying there until exit where he has to slide back in behind. The battling continues through the traffic they catch by lap 4. Sadly, on lap 6 when Powers stays to the inside to pass a lapped car exiting turn 2, Colicchio tries the outside and drops 2 wheels off to drivers left spinning off into the banking and very nearly flipping the #331. Powers takes P1 by 6.2 seconds over the #3. We would hear later that night that TC’s car was out of the event.
Heat #2 was less eventful, with Michael pulling out to an early lead because of a Vanos problem on the #46. Getting through traffic Michael, too made a mistake dropping 4 wheels off, allowing the #46 back by to take the win by less than a half second.
The main race was then upon us, 11:30am Sunday morning. The team stayed up late the night before, fixing the Vanos and running test after test to make sure it would not fail again. The track was hot and our set-up changes worked. A good start from Powers and the #46 sets sail. Forty Five minutes later as the checkered flies, a 47 second gap, and the Performance Technic team are National Champs.
We thank our supporting venders and sponsors, WheelDude.com, SpeedFreaks, Bimmerworld, Dinan, Brembo, Ground Control, Epic Motorsports, TC Design, BMW Concord, MCS, AKG, Vorshlag, Griffin Motorwerke, RevoZport and OS Giken. We would like to especially thank Tony of TC Design for inspiring us to race with NASA GTS this season. There is no doubt the weekend would have been much more challenging had the Friday race gone differently for the #331 E36 M3. We are grateful to race with such immense talent and hope to continue to do so.
Below are more photographs for your viewing pleasure.