Posted (02/04/2010) -
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.-Friday was a disappointing day for Automatic Racing and RSR Motorsports, after several problems brought the teams' efforts in the Fresh from Florida 200 to an early close.
The results, however, don't reflect the strong performance of the cars during the Grand-Am Continental Tires Sports Car Challenge season opener at Daytona International Speedway.
Sarah Cattaneo qualified sixth in the Automatic Racing-prepared No. 197 RSR Motorsports Mini Cooper S. She worked her way up to third during the race before handing over to her co-driver VJ Mirzayan.
Mirzayan held down third place throughout much of the second hour, and he took over second just 20 minutes before the checkered flag. Misfortune struck at the same time, though, as an electrical problem forced the Mini to retire.
Despite the result, the race showcased the Mini's solid performance. In addition to running in the top three for most of the race, the Mini also tied for the fastest race lap in the Street Tuner (ST) class with a 2:10.144.
"I'm extremely happy with the team, and the car was fantastic," said Mirzayan. "It handled amazingly well. It was a heart-breaking finish, but we're happy to see how competitive the Mini is this year. My co-driver did a phenomenal job and I'm really looking forward to the rest of the season with her."
Cattaneo shares Mirzayan's optimism. "That's the best I've ever run before," she said. "There are a lot of competitive cars this year; Grand-Am has done a great job of getting a lot of cars on the same level, and that makes for great racing. I'm really looking forward to the next round at Homestead."
Randall Smalley and Owen Trinkler co-drove the No. 196 RSR Motorsports Mini Cooper S, but the same electrical problem that plagued the No. 197 Mini sent Smalley to the garage early in the race.
"Qualifying was good and we proved that we could run with the front runners," noted Smalley. "We know what the problem is and how to fix it, and I think the performance of both Minis bodes well for things to come."
The race also ended early for the No. 99 Automatic Racing/H&S Tool BMW M3. The Grand Sport class entry showed promise early with co-drivers Barry Waddell and Mark Hillestad, but contact from the competition sent them back to the garage early with suspension problems.
"The speed was there and our potential has grown. Unfortunately, though, you can only control so much," said Waddell. "That's part of the sport. At least we're showing better performance, so we'll roll on to the next one."
That next one will be the Continental Tire Challenge race at Homestead-Miami Speedway on March 6.