The MINI John Cooper Works Team will head to scenic southern Virginia this coming weekend for the eighth round of the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge (CTSCC) at Virginia International Raceway (VIR) hoping for a little better fortune that they had at Road America. The team will be at full strength once again with MINIs number 37 and 52 answering the bell at race time. If Mother Nature cooperates, the team will finally get a chance to evaluate their improved engine management system and their continued suspension development work.
The Antistatic Design MINI number 37 will again be driven by Zack Meyer and Stephen Simpson. Both drivers are looking forward to a clean start, and no bumps and bruises during the race to get clear feedback of where the MINI stands in regard to the competition. Wavetrac Differential MINI number 52 will see the return of Ramin Abdolvahabi, who did such a good job at Road America, paired with MINI newcomer Tyler Stone.
The key to success in the CTSCC is a good starting position and that means the MINIs would have to qualify well. At the last race, heavy rain washed out qualifying altogether forcing the MINIs to start near the rear of the grid. Let’s all do our ‘anti-rain’ dance on Friday so the MINIs at least get a chance to qualify. Right now, the weekend forecast for VIR is 85ºF and sunny—let’s hope it stays that way.
Virginia International Raceway
Virginia International Raceway (VIR) is a 3.27 mile race track with 17 turns and a 130-foot elevation change nestled in the rolling hills of southern Virginia near the North Carolina border. The track features a 3 000 foot long front straight and a 4,000 foot long back straight connected by the famous ‘Climbing Esses’, the ‘Oak Tree’ turn, and a scaled-down mirror image of Laguna Seca’s ‘Corkscrew,’ the ‘Roller Coaster’ that will challenge the skills of the most seasoned drivers.
A list of famous drivers who have pitted their skills against the asphalt of VIR would take volumes. The opening race weekend of the track in August of 1957 saw drivers such as Carroll Shelby, Bob Holbert, Augie Pabst, Don Yenko, Dr. Dick Thompson and Walt Hansgen try to tame the course. Shelby, who won the first feature race driving a Maserati 450S, said afterward that, “One lap here is like 100 at Watkins Glen.”
The track changed ownership in 1959 and the new owners survived until 1974, when economic factors, including the gas crises of 1973, forced them to call it quits. From 1974 until 1998 the track served as farmland, but fortunately was not bulldozed into oblivion as many other closed race tracks have been. The track and buildings remained, but fell into serious disrepair.
1998 saw new owners take over the property with grandiose plans to turn VIR into a ‘Motorsport Resort.’ Fortunately for all race fans, the new owners had the ability to carry out their plans and, after reopening in March of 2000, it is now truly a ‘Motorsport Resort’ combining the racetrack, with amenities for lodging, dining, spa, skeet shooting, shooting ranges and karting. The late racer and actor Paul Newman once said of VIR, “If there’s a heaven on earth, it’s VIR.”
MINI Car Corral
Building on the success of MINI owner’s corrals at previous races, MINI USA and MotorWerks Magazine will bring another special event for MINI owners attending the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge race at VIR giving them a special area to gather and cheer on the MINI JCW Racing Team. The corral will provide preferred parking for corral participants, soft drinks and water on Friday and a lunch on Saturday. In addition, time permitting, there will be a meet and greet, and an autograph session with team members at the team paddock area before the Fan Walk on the pre-grid.
Please note: ALL ATTENDEES MUST RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org. For corral costs and up-to-date corral details, please see the MotorWerks Magazine Facebook page.
Race and Broadcast Times
The Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge race will get the green flag at 1:25 p.m. on Saturday, August 22nd. For ticket information and a detailed race weekend schedule, please see the CTSCC website. If you can’t be there in person, you can still catch all of the MINI action—the two and a half hour race will be streamed live on IMSA.com and IMSA Mobile App, and will be rebroadcast on Fox Sports 1 on September 6th. Please check your local cable company schedule for the exact time and channel.