Written by Johnathan Bodily
Danville, VA (April 25, 2010) - With fields that regularly feature more than 60 production-based racers packed with hungry drivers behind the wheel, and events staged on some of the continent's most compelling tracks, the GRAND-AM Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge is often touted as the most competitive road racing in North America.
And with the 2010 season opening up with four different winners from four different races, it is hard to argue with that point of view.
Turner Motorsport pilots Michael Marsal and Joey Hand added yet another victory to the team tally of wins on Saturday with a run to the Virginia International Raceway Victory Barn in the Bosch 200 - the fourth round of the 2010 Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge championship.
The Street Tuner (ST) class victory went to the Compass360 Racing Civic Si of Ryan Eversley and Zach Lutz.
The 2.5-hour race covered 66 laps of the 3.27-mile natural terrain road circuit in rural Virginia, with an early yellow flag splitting the field for fuel strategy as some teams elected to pit early while others looked to make it closer to the halfway point before pulling in for fuel, a driver change, and new Continental Tires. The strategies were further jumbled as a persistent threat of rain on the radar, and occasional sprinkles in pit lane kept team managers fully on their toes looking to make the best decision.
The drama wasn't just on the pit wall either, as eight different drivers led the race in GS, while a full 10 different pilots saw their names atop the timing pylon before the Eversly/Lutz combination emerged with the win in the ST class.
"This is great to get a first win with the E92 BMW M3! These tires, they come out really strong and you can really put some laps down and then they trail off and are stable for the rest of the run," said Hand from victory lane. "It was key for us to put on two tires when we did, because I was able to throw down some big laps right in the middle of the race with the new tires that really ended up being our margin of victory at the finish, that's what won us the race. These tires just keep on trucking, they run a big number, they plateau, and then they just keep going, it's great."
The iconic-looking Chevrolet Camaro of Stevenson Motorsports, which carries the legacy colors of the Sunoco Racing Fuels Trans-Am machines of yore, scored second at the finish with drivers Matt Bell and Jeff Bucknum rallying from a last-row starting position to take the first-ever podium for the Camaro in Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge competition.
"It was a magical setup," said Bell. "The car came together. While everyone else was struggling with looseness, we were just perfectly neutral. I just did my job to make sure the car came in clean and make as short a fuel stop as possible. Jeff (Bucknum) did an amazing job. He got the car and just ran away with it. We led the race for a little while, but couldn't hold on to it - just ran out of gas like everybody else did."
Daytona International Speedway-round winners Gianluis Bacardi and Matt Plumb returned to the podium with a strong third place finish.
With just two caution periods covering nine laps, the fuel mileage became almost as important as horsepower with several cars forced to pit lane for one late splash of fuel. But avoiding that stop proved to be key for the ST winners.
"We short shifted for most of our stint, to just try and save, save, save, as much fuel as we could," said Eversley. "It was a fantastic race. Zach (Lutz) did a great job keeping it in the top three. He led a few laps and was up there fighting with the cars that are as fast as our car. It was a great day. We saved a little fuel in the second stint, hoping for a yellow or the rain - and neither came. So we had to baby it the whole way. This kid (Lutz) is going to get rookie of the year if I can help it."
The Grand Sport Driver Championship battle only intensified after the VIR round, with Charles Espenlaub and Charles Putman leading the order with 111 points, with Andrew Hendricks, Joey Hand, Michael Marsal, and Terry Borcheller all sharing a count of 110 points to make for a four-way tie.
In Street Tuner, David Thilenius and Lawson Aschenbach leave Virginia with 123 points, six ahead of Bill Heumann and Seth Thomas in the Bimmerworld machine.
The VIR 200 will be broadcast on SPEED Channel at 1 p.m. ET on May 1st.
Round 5 will take place at historic Lime Rock Park in the bucolic hills of Northwestern Connecticut on May 28-29.
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