Hall of fame basketball coach Bobby Knight once said “The key is not the will to win…everybody has that. It is the will to prepare to win that is important.” Perhaps no weekend for S.A.C. Racing proved that mindset to be true more than the Pirelli World Challenge season finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Despite adversity throughout the weekend as well as the season, S.A.C. Racing came away with their second consecutive team and driver’s championships in TCA.
Coming into the weekend, S.A.C. Racing teammates Matthew Fassnacht and defending 2016 PWC champion Elivan Goulart were separated by 12 points in the TCA title fight after Elivan’s DNF at Utah caused by a computer failure. The season came down to one weekend, with the two top drivers needing strong weekends to come out on top. In addition, S.A.C. drivers Daniel Moen and Anthony Geraci were looking for additional success in the TCA and TC classes respectively.
Known worldwide as one of the best racing circuits around, Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca provides its own set of unique challenges to the drivers.
“You have to be wiling to put fear aside here to run it really well,” said Matt Fassnacht I like that kind of track But you also have to be super smooth and super careful on your input so any time that you get amped up or you get nervous you can definitely make mistakes.”
Teammate Elivan Goulart echoed Fassnacht’s sentiments about the Monterey, California circuit.
“You know it is a different track from a lot of other tracks so its up there as far as a challenge level goes,” said Goulart. “I think that helps separate out some of the drivers which is great. Getting a handle on the car is super critical here and I think we have done a good job with that.
In the first race, the drama was high after an early race incident caused Goulart to have suspension damage, relegating him to the back of the pack.
“The car was pretty good and then we had a suspension failure after going over turn 6 curb defending a pass. The car was heavily compromised which set us back quite a bit,” said Goulart. “I was just trying to manage the car and bring it back and try to salvage as many points as possible.”
This development meant that Fassnacht could now turn his focus to securing the driver’s championship in TCA.
“My perspective was basically racing Elivan. We are racing for the championship,” said Fassnacht. “He had an unfortunate incident where he hit the curb in turn six and it compromised his car quite a bit so at that point I was trying to do the best that I can to stay out of trouble. I let a few people by who were a little racier than me and I was kind of just running 95%.”
Fassnacht brought his car home in fifth while Goulart fell to seventh, with teammate Dan Moen finishing in
In TC competition, Anthony Geraci looked to drive through the field in his Audi, but trouble struck early on in
the race for him as well.
“I had a really good start. Unfortunately, in turn three I put my right real wheel on the dirt and it spun me out,” said Geraci. “Luckily nobody hit me. I had a fresh charge from 25th place down. I got past the 17 car and in that action I hit the left curbing in turn six and bend my rim and ended up cutting my tire. I ended up having to retire my car.”
Despite the damage, Geraci was ready just a few hours later for the second TC race of the weekend thanks
to the hard work of his crew.
“I have been racing with S.A.C. since 2012 and they really are a fantastic team,” said Geraci. “I have never missed a race since 2012. They have always gotten me back on track.”
In race two, Geraci moved up from his 14th place stating position to finish 12th.
In TCA, the difficulty in race one all but secured the title for Fassnacht.
“The only scenario [for me to win the championship] is if Matt gets a DNF,” said Goulart before the start. “If I were in his position, I would just be doing laps and not put myself in any harms way to secure points. But you never know, these races can be unpredictable and bring some surprises.”
The race saw spirited racing among all the competitors, but Fassnacht kept his bumpers clean and soldiered on to a fourth place finish, securing his first ever Pirelli World Challenge driver’s championship.
“This year has been a big challenge with Ademir’s health issues, the organization quickly retooled and put people in the right positions and Chris has been fantastic at the top now as head engineer, and Jim Locke and all the other guys have filled in bigger roles and its frankly been seamless,” Fassnacht said after the final race. “This is the culmination of years of dreaming so I can’t believe this finally happened!” For Goulart, finishing 1-2 in the championship shows how strong the team is no matter what obstacles they face.
“We are really proud of [the crew],” said Goulart. “They work really really hard in the background and we have some great guidance from my dad [Ademir Fedumenti] and Chris our main engineer who does a phenomenal job with his attention to detail. We just do everything in our power to control what we have control over and there’s really no magic to it. We are not really fighting the battle but looking to win the war and that is what we are after. Our minds are in the right place and we just had to execute this final race here to bring it home.”
In the end, Matt Fassnacht finished his season 19 points ahead of teammate Elivan Goulart in the final TCA points standings, with S.A.C. Racing finishing 43 points clear of second place in the team standings. S.A.C. Racing’s success also helped Mazda win yet another manufacturer’s title, finishing 36 points ahead of Honda in the final standings.