Race weekends can usually be classified as either ‘good’, when your cars run fine for qualifying and racing, and finish well, or ‘bad’ when everything seems to be a constant struggle and the finish doesn’t justify the team’s effort. The MINI JCW Team’s weekend at the Circuit of the Americas was somewhere in between—they had a seesaw weekend, one that had its ups and downs. On the positive side, both MINIs finished the race without incident for first time this season and MINI #37 ran in first place for several laps, again a first for the Team.
MINI #52 Drivers Test Their Learning Curves
The track at the Circuit of the Americas is designed to present a challenge to the fastest cars and drivers in the world and is one of only 26 FIA Grade-1 certified motorsports facilities in the world. Twenty turns and 133 feet of elevation change in the 3.4 mile length keep drivers of any level on their toes. Team driver Stephen Simpson noted that the COTA track “Is a challenging one because it is so big and wide, there is a lot of time to be gained or lost.”
The Team’s first challenge fell on the shoulders of Ramin Abdolvahabi and Tyler Stone, co-drivers of the Mayer Electric Supply and Eaton-sponsored MINI #52, who had never driven the track before. Three and a half hours of practice and 15 minutes of qualifying gave them less than four hours total to find the best way around a very difficult world-class track. They gave it their best shot and qualified in 26th position out of 28 starters.
Gremlins Attack MINI #37
Although Zack Meyer and Aaron Nash have driving experience at COTA, their #37 MINI managed only four laps between two practices and qualifying, thanks to an attack of electrical gremlins. Despite the best efforts of the MINI JCW crew, they were unable to get a qualifying time and were forced to start from the back of the pack in starting position 28.
The Seesaw Takes an Upswing for Race Day
The good luck for MINI JCW Race Team began on race day, when the electrical problems in Irvine MINI-sponsored #37 were cured. At the start, Ramin in MINI #52 continued his quest of finding a faster way around the track and by lap 20 he had moved up to 22nd position. Aaron took off to get past as many cars as he could with a MINI that was now running fine and by lap 20 MINI #37 was up to 16th place—he had passed twelve cars under green flag conditions.
Just as the time for pit stops rolled around, the track went under a full course yellow flag and most teams took the opportunity to pit for new tires, fuel and a driver change. The Team strategists opted to bring in Ramin and #52 for full service and a driver change, and new driver Tyler Stone rejoined the race on lap 24, still under yellow.
MINI #37 Moves Up to First Place
Thanks to the MINI’s great fuel mileage and low tire wear, the Team decided to leave Aaron out on the track instead of bringing him in to pit at this time. Passing is prohibited under a full course yellow flag conditions, but Aaron moved up in the standings as cars ahead of him made their pit stops. On lap 25, Aaron and MINI #37 moved into first place, a first for the MINI JCW Team.
MINI #37 finally pitted on lap 27, and Zack Meyer jumped into the driver’s seat and rejoined the battle in 20th place on lap 28. By race’s end, Zack had moved #37 up to 18th place and Tyler brought MINI #52 home in 23rd spot. Kudos to all of the drivers for putting forth a great effort in starting from the back of the grid and never giving up.
MINI Development Continues
MINI received an upgraded brake system for COTA and ensuing races. According to Stephen Simpson, the system “Works well, but still needs a bit more fine tuning.” The new brakes seem to have alleviated a problem that has plagued the MINIs all season long. Now that the brakes work consistently, the Team can focus on maximizing the MINIs handling and moving up in the standings.
COTA Meet & Greet
A great turnout of 70 MINI supporters attended the Meet & Greet sponsored by MINI USA and presented by MotorWerks Magazine. The Meet & Greet was held at the Team’s paddock at COTA and gave the guests an opportunity to see the cars and talk with the Team members up close. The MINI JCW Team would like to thank all of the MINIacs who took time out to stop by—your support is greatly appreciated. A special thanks goes to MINI of Austin for providing the team with vehicles (MINIs, of course) for the weekend.
Carol Brown, a two-time Scottish karting and Legends Champion, currently racing in the BMW Compact Cup made a special appearance at the Meet & Greet thanks to Ian Rae of MotorWerks Magazine and the Ryan Dalziel Official Fan Club.
Another highlight was the signing of two helmets by the MINI JCW team and Carol Brown. The helmets, provided by Bob Zecca of Driving Impressions, will be raffled off with the proceeds going to the Wilson Children’s Fund after their father Justin so tragically lost his life in a recent racing accident.
The Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge season finale will take place at Road Atlanta, just outside beautiful, downtown Braselton, GA from Sept. 30 to Oct. 3. We’ll have full details in our next race preview—and maybe a bit of a surprise. Stay tuned.