By Bruce Troxell - SportsCar Illustrated
The MINI John Cooper Works Team made superb progress at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park this past weekend with their best qualifying effort of the season, starting the 2 hour and 30 minute race in seventh position. Following quick practice times by drivers Dan Clarke and Zack Meyer, Zack put in a qualifying lap that was only 0.542 seconds off the pole position time. Their march to the podium was again thwarted by the racing gods, however, when Zack was assessed a pit lane drive-through penalty by the race stewards, causing a loss of track position that resulted in a sixteenth place finish.
MINI JCW Runs at the Front of the Pack
Unlike the monsoon at Watkins Glen two weeks ago, our Canadian friends gave us picture perfect weather – sunny with a temperature of 75º F. The MINI JCW Team brought only MINI JCW number 37 sponsored by Antistatic Design, as number 52 was still in the process of regaining its race-ready status following the physical beating it took at the last race. Hopefully, it will be back in action for the next race at Lime Rock Park on July 25th.
Following a clean start, Zack wasted no time heading for the front of the pack. In 30 minutes he passed two cars up to fifth and in another 10 minutes the MINI was comfortably motoring in fourth place
MINI Assessed a Pit Lane Drive-Through Penalty
About 50 minutes into the race, the race stewards determined that MINI number 37 had made avoidable contact with another car and assessed Zack a pit lane drive-through penalty. While this does not sound too severe, a drive through the pit lane at 60 km/hr (37 mph) while competitors are flying by three times faster can drop a car to the rear of the pack in a big hurry. In the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge (CTSCC), where the cars are evenly matched, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to climb back up to the front.
Which is exactly what happened to the number 37 MINI JCW. As a result of the penalty, Zack dropped from fourth to seventeenth position.
MINI JCW Team Keeps Fighting
Despite the disappointment of now being in seventeenth position, the team kept battling back with its best pit stop of the season. When Zack pitted under a full course yellow from seventeenth the team added fuel, changed tires, and got co-driver Dan Clarke out fast enough to move up in the standings.
Dan faced a series of full course yellow flags during his stint, preventing him from making any serious progress towards the front, but he managed to bring the MINI home in seventeenth place.
The team caught a bit of a break after the finish when a car ahead of them was given a two lap penalty for an improper wave-by procedure, officially moving the MINI up to sixteenth position.
Optimism Remains High at MINI JCW Team
Although the result is certainly not what the MINI JCW Team had hoped for, team optimism remains high. After the race, team member and driver Stephen Simpson said, “The positive is that we are disappointed with missing the podium in only our fourth race! We are continuing to learn more about the car and working on a fast setup. Another positive was our pit stop, which was our best yet and we overtook a few cars in the pits.”
Driver Zack Meyer was equally optimistic noting, “The team and I have built a really good chemistry together and we are able to continue developing a better and better race car each race. We qualified seventh and had a good chance for the podium, showing good speed and consistency”
The facts support the team’s optimism. The MINI JCW qualified seventh, 0.5 seconds off the pole time, ahead of nine Porsche Caymans and two Audi S3s, and ran in fourth place for a significant amount of time before the penalty. Any car that can consistently qualify and run at the front of the class is capable of a podium finish—maybe even on the top step.
The next race in the CTSCC series is at famous Lime Rock Park in scenic Lakeville, Connecticut on July 25th. Full details will be provided in our race preview.