ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., March 30 — M1 Racing’s Walt Bowlin rose five positions to finish 11th in class with his Tampa Bay Jaw Surgery Centers Audi R8 LMS ultra in Saturday’s Pirelli World Challenge race on the street circuit in St. Petersburg.
Bowlin, of nearby Tarpon Springs, Fla., was as high as seventh in the GTA class at one point. He’d hoped for a top-10 finish, but the 50-minute race ended under caution so he didn’t get one last attempt to pass the Lamborghini that finished tenth.
Bowlin qualified 32nd overall and 16th in GTA, but he was able to avoid a big, chain-reaction crash at the standing start that was triggered when a car stalled. The Lamborghini that started right beside Bowlin’s Audi was involved in the accident, as were three cars that started behind him, but Bowlin was able to find a way through and moved into 25th overall and eighth in class.
He advanced to seventh when the class leader, Marcelo Hahn, spun on the rolling restart on lap 10, but then Bowlin had trouble himself a few laps later. He was 25th overall and tenth in class when he posted his fastest lap of the race on lap 15 with a time of 1:17.655.
He stayed in the top 10 in class until there was about 13 minutes remaining in the race, dropping to 12th.
He got 11th when Eric Lux’s Mercedes Benz got up over a curb in Turn 2 and slammed into the rear of Bryan Heitkotter’s Nissan, sending Heitkotter into a wall and bringing out the race’s second full-course caution.
Bowlin hoped to get one last chance to regain tenth by passing Hahn but the race ended under yellow when time ran out, so he had to be satisfied with 11th.
Racing luck didn’t smile on him in the second half of the doubleheader on Sunday. His Audi suffered extensive front-end damage when it was hit from behind in Turn 4 on the first lap and impacted a wall. Luckily Bowlin wasn’t hurt.
“It was a difficult weekend,” Bowlin said Sunday evening. “We had electrical issues that affected the motor. We were down on horsepower significantly for the practice sessions. Thanks to M1 Racing and Audi Sport Customer Racing, we were able to find a solution. We used the first race to get the car up to speed.
“We were really looking forward to the second race. We felt like we had the car dialed in, our times would’ve been significantly better, and we would have been able to compete with the front-runners in our class. The contact was from behind in Turn 4; it spun me into the wall and ended my day.
“I really want to thank M1 Racing for giving me a good car, and to Audi Customer Support Racing for all their help. I look forward to Barber Motorsports Park.”
The St. Petersburg doubleheader, which was presented by MOMO, will be shown on the CBS Sports Network on Sunday, April 5 at 5 p.m. Eastern.
There are two World Challenge events in April: April 17-19 at Long Beach, Calif. and April 24-26 at Barber Motorsports Park in Leeds, Ala.
Bowlin cannot compete in all the events due to business conflicts. Qualified and funded drivers who would like to substitute for him may obtain more information by contacting M1 Racing’s owner, Paul Mata, at email@example.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.