After some inspection, Luiz did in fact drop a valve on cylinder #4 and punched a hole in the piston. Once again, bad luck Luiz! HSM will get it back in shape for the next race don't you worry!
Richard 'Schoolboy' Hunter and Griff traveled early Saturday morning down to Millville, NJ for the race events that day to spectate and cover the media end of it. Hugh and the rest of the team had arrived there in the wee hours of the morning before traffic got really congested. It was a hot and somewhat humid day at NJMP and literally hundreds of water and gatorade bottles surrounded the HSM paddock alone.
Not only was there NASA Races and Time Trials taking place, but also the new, Global Time Attack organization which had numerous, high-horsepower Nissan's and Subaru's, as well as Christian Rado's 1400 horsepower Scion tC.
The track was quite greasy, and many drivers went off-course onto the grass on a number of occasions. During qualifying for the Lightning Race Group, HSM's own Jonathan Vasquez only posted a time of 1:17 flat due to breaking a motor mount and cracking the exhaust header completely. Still, he started 2nd of 4 cars in class just behind Pablo Crespo in his red Porsche 968.
"I definitely could have done 1:15's no problem. Oh well. We'll see what we can do to fix it for the race," Vasquez said.
|Jonathan Vasquez prepares for the race in GTS2.|
During the race, Jonathan tried to stay with Pablo as best he could, but the 968's straight line speed overpowered the wounded BMW. Pablo pulled out a considerable 15+ seconds on Jonathan in throughout the first half of it. Jonathan battled with H2 leader Jon Baker for a while in his Yellow/Gray Integra Type-R but then passed him for good around lap six.
As the race went on, Jonathan stayed consistent, clocking 1:15 and 1:16 lap times despite the car sounding louder and louder as the temporarily-fixed header had probably broken itself again. With sheer courage, Vasquez kept his foot to the floor and slowly began closing the gap to Crespo. Completely getting up on two wheels on almost every lap in the first turn, the HSM team knew their driver was going at 10/10ths.
Pablo seemed to get stuck in traffic every now and then and the distance between the #127 BMW and #75 Porsche decreased. Unfortunately, Jonathan could not catch Pablo in time, but it was a great race as always. With a broken car, JVR still managed an incredible 1:15.661 best lap time.
|JVR and Pablo congratulate each other on a great race.|
During qualifying for the Thunder Race Group, Hugh qualified 3rd in class out of 7 cars in GTS3 with a respectable 1:13.645, behind a very quick Mark Lounsbury in his M3 and Joe Guinta in his Porsche Cayman. Cecil, getting back in the swing of things after his engine failure at Pocono, qualified with a 1:16.249 in his BMW, landing him in the 6th starting spot.
|Hugh waits on the pre-grid as prepares himself for the race.|
The race start was pure madness as always, as the cars went a full three-wide into the first turn, and continued three-wide down to the second turn! You could see the various team members cringe as the cars entered the turn. This was racing if anyone ever saw it.
|Three-wide madness at Turn One!|
Hugh got a good start and ran beside Joey G in his #613 Porsche Cayman in the first turn. Jeff Ricca running his Nissan 240SX in Super Touring 2, ran just ahead of Hugh's BMW, and was forced to stay on the outside as Greg Suchomel's Corvette and Mark Lounsbury's M3 had the inner lines. Cecil was smooth and consistent and soon moved up to 5th in class. Well done!
In the second half of the race, Hugh conserved his tires and was able to close the gap to Joey G, who had pulled a considerable gap on him. The lighter weight of the BMW undoubtedly helped keep the tires in check and Joey's Cayman seemed to run much more sluggish and was sideways through a lot of the turns. Hugh clocked a 1:14.414 as his best time on lap 14, much later than any of the other GTS3 cars aside from Steve Katz in his Porsche 944T, which ran a 1:15.3 on lap 12. Weight does matter!
And on lap 15, the gap between Hugh and Joey G lessened to less than a second as they went into 'The Bowl' (last turn onto the front straight). As they came towards the start/finish, Hugh was right on Joey's back bumper, just waiting for the opportunity to pass. Soon enough on that lap, Joey G turned into the corner early at Turn 6 to block a move from Hugh but the car plowed outwards and exited the turn slowly. At that point, Hugh had stayed back and got a run on him out of the turn. But that Cayman really had the legs on the straights as Joey tried to come back on the inside but he braked early giving the position to Hugh.
Next on Hugh's agenda was to catch Lounsbury, but there were not enough laps left so he got 2nd place in GTS3. Cecil stayed in 5th place and finished there. Not too bad for the Rookie!