Alton, VA – After coming off a great performance at COTA, everyone at ST Racing showed up for the Pirelli World Challenge Grand Prix of Virginia completely pumped up and ready to go racing again. The VIRginia International Raceway is known for its beautiful CALM country setting. However, anyone who has driven the 3.27-mile road course knows how technical and unforgiving this track can be.
During Saturday’s qualifying for Round 3 of the Pirelli World Challenge championship, Aurora Straus experienced problems on the first lap, and her #36 BMW M4 GT4 went off track ending her session and bringing out a red flag. The car sustained damage on the left side and the crew rushed back to paddock to get it ready in time for the afternoon’s race. Samantha Tan was quite pleased with her qualifying session but felt she could have gotten an extra second if she’d had the extra green time. Tan’s #38 BMW M4 GT4 qualified 21st overall in a 37-car field (14th in Pro-Am class).
During Saturday ’s race, both Samantha Tan and Aurora Straus had a great start. Tan gained two positions as soon as the green flag flew, and, by Lap 2, Straus had moved up seven positions. Unfortunately, on that same lap, car #69 (Harry Gottsacker) ran off the track and hit the tire wall causing a full-course yellow. When the race went green again on Lap 6, there were only a few laps left before halftime pitting. Both Tan and Straus drove solidly before handing over the car to their co- drivers.
When Tan’s co-driver Nick Wittmer left the pits, it was ruled that he left too early and was required to do a drive-thru penalty. Before serving his penalty, Wittmer had already passed many cars and moved up to 10th place while recording fastest lap (1:54,377) by Lap 18. Wittmer then pitted, served the penalty and rejoined the field long enough to take 17th place overall (10th Pro-Am class) before another full-course yellow came out. A few laps later, the 60-minute race checkered under yellow with Wittmer obtaining second fastest lap. The end results certainly did not reflect the great drive by both Tan and Wittmer.
Straus’ co-driver Jon Miller had a good run, passing cars one by one, making his way up the grid, finishing 14th overall.
Perhaps the full moon had something to do with Sunday’s race. Nick Wittmer started from the front row, took the lead early in the race and held it until it was time for him to hand over his #38 BMW M4 GT4 to his co-driver Samantha Tan. Tan went out and led the pack for a few laps before being advised that she had to do a drive-thru penalty because of leaving the pits before the 75-second required pit stop. On Lap 18, she came into pit lane to serve her penalty and rejoined the field to finish 17th overall (12th in Pro-Am class) before two separate incidents brought out a full-course yellow and ended the 24-lap race.
Meanwhile, Jon Miller had gone from 15th to 10th place before coming into the pits at the halfway mark. His co-driver Aurora Straus had a solid drive and captured first place in the Am category, giving ST Racing a podium for the weekend.
“Team principal Kenneth Tan had mixed feelings about the weekend. “The team had worked very hard leading up to this weekend’s race to ensure success and our cars performed as expected resulting in car 38 putting in the fastest lap and breaking the lap record at VIR as well as the win for car 36. All our drivers drove really well too and I am very proud of their performance. As for car 38, we had a podium finish in our grasp but were penalized for not making the minimum stop time by less than a blink of an eye. There are 1000 milliseconds in a second. A blink of an eye takes about 300 milliseconds.”
On Saturday, for car 38, we missed that mark by 40 milliseconds and 200 milliseconds on Sunday. So close, but oh so far. The drive for perfection at STR cost the team a drive through penalty for car 38 during both races which resulted in loss of precious points it could have had and a chance to move up to P3 overall in the championship.”
On the one hand” added Kenneth Tan, “you could say it was almost done to perfection both days which resulted positively for car 36 but negatively for car 38. If the series timer was set to round things to the nearest second, then we would have avoided the drive through penalties and finished in the top 5 for both races. I am obviously very disappointed with the outcome for car 38 but I am proud of our team’s obsession for perfection, which resulted in the win for car 36 in race 2. Looking at it from that perspective, we were consistent both days and the few milliseconds we missed could have gone the other way very easily. That is as close to perfection as you can get and that’s how we run things at STR. We have a great team and we will continue our drive for success for both cars on the next race. We are extremely close to the mark.”
Sunday’s Driver quotes:
Samantha Tan (GPI- BMW M4 GT4 #38) “Overall, we had an okay weekend. We didn’t have the best outcome that we wanted but we did our best. We did get some points and I think we’re still in the run for the championship, which is great. Today, it was exhilarating to lead the pack once again, and I was excited to keep on leading, but unfortunately we got another drive-thru penalty. But, you know what, we’re not going to make that mistake again. We’re going to keep it in first at Lime Rock.”
Nick Wittmer (GPI-BMW M4 GT4 #38) “On the positive side, we had an amazing weekend. We gained some points, and we finished both races without putting one scratch on the car. On the negative side, we messed up on the pit stop strategy, trying to go out a little too quick, and that hurt us by having to do a drive-thru penalty. We need to fix that and work on our timing in the pits. We’ll correct that for Lime Rock and for the rest of the season. That will not happen again. A great big thank you to ST Racing for doing an amazing job with the car. It handled really well. We were the fastest BMW, we got fastest lap. We gave the other guys a break this weekend, but we’ll get them next race.”
This weekend’s GTS SprintX Rounds 3 & 4 will be broadcast on CBS Sports Network, premiering Wednesday May 9, at 8 pm ET.
Be sure to join us for the Pirelli World Challenge’s next official race on May 25-26,28 2018 at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut. The race will be live streamed on www.world-challenge.com and available on SiriusXM Channel 383 and the SiriusXM App Channel 983.
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 2017 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), “Touring Car B-spec” (TCB) since 2012, 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.