Posted (03/09/2010) -
HOMESTEAD, Fla.—The second round of the GRAND-AM Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge season was a memorable one for Automatic Racing and RSR Motorsports. Sarah Cattaneo earned the Street Tuner pole in the Automatic-prepared No. 197 RSR Mini Cooper S, while teammates BJ Zacharias and Craig Conway took home third in the No. 198 Mini.
The 2.5-hour race at Homestead-Miami Speedway started with Cattaneo on the Street Tuner (ST) pole, the first time a female driver has qualified on the series pole in three years. Cattaneo held down second place during her stint, and it seemed that she and co-driver VJ Mirzayan would hold on for a podium finish. A mechanical problem dropped them back, though, before their eventual retirement.
Meanwhile, Conway and Zacharias stayed busy working their way up from 29th on the starting grid. The No. 198 Mini pitted during a caution, allowing Conway to hand over to Zacharias without losing too many spots on the track. From there, Zacharias continued moving to the front.
The third-place finish was RSR’s first podium in the series. “It was a three-lap dash to the end for the top three cars,” said Zacharias. “It’s great to be back with RSR; Randy (Smalley) really deserves credit for what he’s done with this program.”
RSR Motorsports team owner Randall Smalley is happy to finally add a podium finish to the team’s list of successes. “We’ve knocked on the door of the podium with fourth place many times, but this is the first time we’ve walked away with a champagne bath,” he said.
The No. 196 RSR Motorsports Mini Cooper S of Smalley and Owen Trinkler held on for the 23rd spot in ST despite setbacks. The hatch back popped open, prompting an unscheduled pit stop. Electrical problems also kept them from being as competitive as usual.
“We really focused on our other two cars and our efforts really showed in qualifying,” said Trinkler. “Sarah had a great car, and to get the pole was great for her. She’s developed really well as a driver.”
Mark Hillestad and Barry Waddell had a solid run in the No. 99 Automatic Racing/H&S Tool BMW M3, finishing eighth overall. The Grand Sport car ran as high as third during the race.
“The car is getting faster and our bond with Chris Lerch, our new engineer, and the rest of the crew is really developing. It’s an encouraging result for us,” said Hillestad.
“The field was split on two different fuel strategies,” noted Waddell. “Our strategy should have given us a top five, but the last restart just wasn’t to our advantage. However, we finished with a top-ten and we’re fairly happy with that. We’ve got good points and a good finish here in the early part of the season.”
The No. 99 Automatic Racing/H&S Tool M3 also carries sponsorship from LandAir, Rogue Engineering, The Imported Car Store, Sparco, Motul USA, and Cobalt Racing Brakes.
RSR Motorsports is sponsored by Cruise America, Four Winds International, Onan RV and Mobile Generators, Performance Friction Rotors, OS Giken Racing Clutches and Limited Slip Differentials, Midway Ford Truck Sales, Mini North Scottsdale, Helix Minisports, Motul USA, and Cobalt Racing Pads.
Automatic Racing and RSR Motorsports will be on track again in April for round three of the GRAND-AM Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge at Barber Motorsports Park. In the meantime, keep up with the teams online at www.AutomaticRacing.com and www.RSRMotorsports.com.