Contact Prevents Better Results for M1’s Bowlin

LEEDS, Ala., April 27 —M1 Racing’s Walt Bowlin persevered to finish 14th in the GTA class Sunday in the second half of a Pirelli World Challenge doubleheader at Barber Motorsports Park with his Tampa Bay Jaw Surgery Centers Audi R8 LMS ultra.

Bowlin, from Tarpon Springs, Fla., started the 29-lap race in 15th position in class, survived several incidents, had good battles with two drivers of Porsche 911s, and set his fastest lap of the race on his final trip around the 2.38-mile, 17-turn road course near Birmingham, Ala., with a time of 1:28.841.

Bowlin rose two positions at the start of the race when a car ahead of him stalled during the standing start and the driver who started second, Nick Catsburg, got pushed off the track and into a gravel trap. Unfortunately Bowlin got hit in Turn 1 on the same lap, and a little later more contact sent him off the track and pushed a fender into one of his tires.

Despite the handicap he had a good battle chasing down Victor Gomez, and passed Gomez’s Porsche on lap 14. Three laps later there was a full-course caution when Johnny O’Connell’s Cadillac burst into flames. O’Connell got out of the car under his own power and even helped the fire crew put out the flames.

The green came out again with about 5 minutes remaining. Bowlin’s next assignment was to try to catch Jorge De La Torra’s Aston Martin while holding off Eduardo Cisneros’s Porsche. He and Cisneros both passed De La Torre working lap 25. Despite additional contact, Bowlin took the checkered flag in 14th place, finishing behind Bill Ziegler’s BMW and ahead of De La Torre. Cisneros had problems and dropped back.

Bowlin didn’t fare as well in the first half of the doubleheader on Saturday, as he was out early due to contact.

The doubleheader will be telecast on the CBS Sports Network at 2 p.m. Eastern time on Sunday, May 3.

Bowlin cannot compete in all the events due to business conflicts. Qualified and funded drivers who would like to substitute for him can obtain more information by contacting M1 Racing’s owner, Paul Mata, at pmata77@gmail.com.

M1 Racing’s Web site is at M1Racing.co. It’s also active on Facebook and Twitter.

Info on the series can be found at world-challenge.com and world-challengetv.com.

Bowlin’s post-event quote follows: “Practice started off well, but we blew a transmission in our final practice session so we did not get to take any hot laps on new tires. We could’ve been significantly faster if we would’ve had the opportunity.

“On Saturday morning qualifying went well, but I only had one optimal lap in the rain until I spun. I think we could have improved by several positions if we had more laps.

“The race on Saturday was just one of those rolling starts where everyone was trying to position themselves ideally and everyone was brake checking, which caused me to hit the car in front of me, ending my day.

“Sunday I had a good start but was hit in the first turn by another driver, and in Turn 6 contact sent me off the track and pushed my fender into my tire. We struggled on, just trying to get laps in for practice at that point.

“After the second rolling restart we ran competitively with the other drivers in my class, but I was ultimately hit again in Turn 5, nearly ending my day. We managed to finish the race, but it literally was a practice session.

“I would like to thank M1 Racing for their hard work getting my car back together on Saturday afternoon. We had a good car, but contact and accidents were our downfall again. I look forward to my next race at Road America in June.”