June 10, 2012 - Mansfield, Ohio: MINIs finish 1-2 again in Grand AM Total Performance Challenge
Starting a new class and trying to equalize different brands of cars for close competition can be an impossible task, but the Grand AM racing group (a division of NASCAR) seems to have found the keys to success. In the third ever race for this new series, the competition was close and exciting, again having another driver win their first event, this time at the Mid-Ohio Race Course in Mansfield, Ohio. The famous 2.4 mile 15 turn Road Course is one of the most challenging in the US and provided a great battleground for a tight race.
After two sessions of qualifying, the top five cars were separated by less than ½ a second. Ed Magner from Detroit, Michigan was the fastest qualifier in his MINI Cooper, followed by Brian Audet of Alexandria, Virginia in his MINI Cooper and Robbie Davis in the MINI of Charleston MINI starting from the third position. On the drop of the green flag the start of the 45 minute race looked more like a one lap shootout. Shawn Young in his Mazda 2 jumped from 4th to 1st in turn one leaving a 4 wide pack behind him. As expected, 4 wide in a turn at a road course does not usually end well and pole sitter Ed Magner wound up being bumped off the track and slid lightly into the protective tire barrier. Ed rejoined the race in 6th, but even with him setting the fastest lap of the race, he was unable to get any higher than 5th. “I was upset that I got a poor start and was just behind the pack, but when I saw them go four wide fender to fender in turn one, I was lucky to be an observer not a participant in that mess. At the end of the race there were more donuts on the doors than a Crispy Crème giveaway”, said Davis. “We had some guests from our sponsor MINI Financial Services in nearby Dublin, Ohio and they got a great opportunity to see some incredible racing.”
Meanwhile at the front of the pack the MINI of Chip Howell of QSR/Pioneer Racing took 2nd and stayed in hot pursuit of the race leading Mazda 2. Howell faded into the grasp of the next 4 cars and the battles were incredible heated for all of the positions. All of the top 5 racers turned laps faster than their qualifying times. The PA announcer continually said the racers would “calm down” and pace themselves, but the calm never materialized with Davis turning the 2nd fastest lap of the race on his final lap! Brain Audet managed to work past Howell and a couple of laps later Davis also got by Howell and caught the leading Mazda of Young. Audet ran flawlessly and even as Davis closed in the late stages, held on for the win, finishing .6 of a second ahead of Davis.
The six race series resumes competition in July at Watkins Glen International Race Course in upstate New York and promises to be another exciting event.