Grantsville, Utah –The race weekend got off to a great start as ST Racing’s Nick Wittmer clocked the fastest time on Friday morning in preparation for Rounds 9 & 10 of the Grand Prix of Utah. The Utah Motorsports Campus is a beautiful facility surrounded by the Rockies, however this time, the mountains were hardly visible because of smoke emanating from the California fires. And, this is where Samantha Tan celebrated her 21st birthday on Friday night, in the paddock, as the young Canadian was surrounded by her Team members, competitors and the Series officials. Everyone at ST Racing was pumped up for the last race event of the Pirelli World Challenge GTS SprintX season and looking forward to a great weekend.
This was also the weekend where the Michigan State University research department chose to come and record some data on both Samantha Tan and her co-driver Nick Wittmer.
Assistant Research Analyst, Samuel Barthel arrived in time for Friday’s first session and began to monitor the drivers’ vital signs right away. “We have a physiological monitor that we put on the drivers” explained Barthel. “It’s basically a fancy heart-rate monitor that records the drivers heart rate, body temperature, and breathing rate. All this combined tells us if the drivers need to change their training or add more cardio to their training, do more hydrating, or if other precautionary measures need to be taken to improve their driving.” MSU do this kind of testing on drivers from other Series, such as Formula 1 and IndyCar.
During Saturday morning’s qualifying for Round 9 of the Pirelli World Challenge championship, Samantha Tan had to qualify on a very dusty track. “It was windy this morning” said the young Canadian. “I could feel it down the front straight. There was a lot of dust out there today. The grip was okay and I did better in this session than my practice session. I went three seconds faster, so I can’t complain. I would have liked to have gotten a higher qualifying position, but we’ll bring it up in the race.”
By the time Saturday’s race started, the mid-day heat had shot up again, and competitors were worried about cars heating up and going into limp-mode. For the ST Racing Team, the race was not an easy one.
“This wasn’t our best day” said Tan. “The start wasn’t good at all. The back-half of the field did not bunch up in time for the green flag. I was waiving at the guy in front of me to get him to speed up, as we’re coming up to the Esses, and I got the green when I was coming into the last corner. It was terrible. I did my best and I did avoid a crash when a car in front of me spun out. I kept going, and brought the car to Nick (Wittmer) in top shape, at half-time. Unfortunately, he got hit and his door flew off. It didn’t end well for us today. But, we’re going to fix it and give it our best tomorrow.”
After being hit by car #40 (Gallagher), losing his door, getting called in on a black flag and ending his race in the pits on Lap 22, Nick Wittmer stepped out of his car, and commented: “We had a good car. Samantha had a good drive, kept the car in mint condition. Everything was going well. I jumped into the car, and started gaining about 8 positions, until I got stuck behind this Mustang, waiting for him to make a mistake. We finally got side-by-side for three corners, and on the fourth corner, he decided he didn’t want me beside him anymore. He hit me, my door flew off as I kept driving, and we both ended up not finishing the race. Everyone at ST Racing did a good job, and we will get them back tomorrow.”
In the Amateur category, Jon Miller had a great start and took the lead from his 3rd starting position as soon as the green flag flew. Even though he had a solid drive, Miller fell back down a few positions before handing over his #36 ST Racing BMW M4 GT4 car to his co-driver, Aurora Straus. The Straus/Miller duo finished 4th in their category.
The ST Racing crew worked diligently to replace the door and get the #38 car ready for Sunday’s race.
Sunday’s race was exactly what everyone expected the last race of the season to be. A smash-up derby! The 33-car field filled with hungry drivers and championship contenders had barely crossed the start line when a multi-car incident happened right on the front straight, causing a full-course yellow. But, just before the yellow was brought out, Nick Wittmer had already passed five cars on the start, going from 10th to 5th position. Because of all the debris on track, the running cars were sent to pitlane, and on Lap 4, the race went green again. Wittmer battled his way up to 4th before pitting for the driver change at half-time.
Co-driver Samantha Tan joined the field and drove well doing her best to stay out of trouble despite a dusty track, and brought her #38 BMW M4 GT4 machine up to 9th place before another full-course caution came out. With just 2 laps to go on the re-start, Tan got squeezed into a pile of cars battling it out on both sides of her BMW. The young Canadian kept her cool, drove intelligently, and even though she lost a few positions, she brought the car home clean, finishing 13th overall, but 10th in Pro-Am Class.
As for the #36 ST Racing GPI car, it was a disappointing race for the Straus-Miller duo, as they had a good chance at winning the Amateur Class Championship. Unfortunately, Jon Miller got caught up in the last multi-car incident and that ended his race.
Everyone on the ST Racing Team worked hard to achieve great results throughout the season and even though they knew they had done their very best, there were sad faces at end of the day. But, in the end, doing your best and gaining experience is all you can ask for of a young Team.
Team Principal Kenneth Tan reflected on the season. “I am both disappointed and encouraged with how our overall season went this year” he commented. “On the one hand, I believe we performed better than what our total points would show. However, I am very encouraged given what we accomplished this year as a very young team. We consistently had one of the fastest BMW, if not car, in every race. I think Nick Wittmer is one of the quickest drivers in the Series and I am very happy to see Samantha improve so much as a race car driver from last year. It was a steep learning curve for us as a team running in GTS for the first time and against a field of excellent teams and highly-skilled drivers. Having said that, we progressed a lot and were always a contender. With that, and the very strong bond we have as a team, we will come back that much stronger for next season. I’m very excited for the future. I want to thank my crew for keeping the dream going and for all their hard work. We all love this sport and it’s a blessing to be able to participate in it.”
Round 10 driver quotes:
Samantha Tan (GPI-BMW M4 GT4 #38) “There was a lot going on today. Personally, I didn’t think it was my best performance. But, we did our best, and we were the first BMW in our class, so I’m happy about that. It’s a bittersweet ending to the season but we learned a lot, and I can’t wait till next year. I need to thank our Team who put in many hours of hard work to give us a great car every weekend.”
Nick Wittmer (GPI-BMW M4 GT4 #38) “I thought it was an awesome race despite everything that went on. I had an amazing start. I went from P10 to P5, and then I just got totally blocked behind this Mercedes. I was so much faster than him, but I just could not get by him. He kept closing the door everywhere on me. At one point, he almost made contact. I handed the car over to Samantha, and, with all the stuff that was going on, she held on really well, and brought it home to P10 in class. Compared to yesterday’s race, today was better. And overall, we’re happy with our results this year. I can’t say it enough. I so appreciate what Samantha Tan Racing and the whole team has done for us all year. I want to thank Samantha Tan and Mr. Tan for everything.”
This weekend’s GTS SprintX Rounds 9 & 10 will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network, premiering Wednesday August 22, at 9 pm ET.
Samantha Tan’s race fans can follow her on samanthatanracing.com, Instagram (@samanthatan_racing) (samanthaatan), Facebook (STRSamantha) and on Twitter (@STR_Samantha).
About ST Racing:
ST Racing was officially launched last October (2016). A Team of experienced guys was put together for this year’s 2018 Pirelli World Challenge season. Both ST Racing drivers, Samantha Tan and Nick Wittmer are driving a new car, the BMW M4 GT4 in the GTS SprintX class. Kenneth Tan is the Team Principal, Ben Distaulo the team manager, and Alex Dupré, team engineer.
About the Pirelli World Challenge
The Pirelli World Challenge is a North American auto racing series that is managed by WC Vision. The World Challenge series was born in 1990, and celebrated its 25th anniversary season in 2014. The series consists of seven driver classifications and six classes of vehicles: Grand Touring (GT), GT Cup (new for 2015 – for Porsche 991 Cup cars), GTS, Touring Car (TC) and “Touring Car A” (TCA), new in 2014. In 2014, a new GTA driver classification was established for professional drivers that do not make their living primarily from racing. In 2016, the Sprint X class was established: a two-driver, 60-minute sprint event with GT and GTS cars, for a total of eight classes. The purpose of the Pirelli World Challenge® Championships is to provide teams, manufacturers and aftermarket suppliers a competitive production-based race series in which to prove their products.