It was another great race weekend for our MINI team at Road America. It was the first time all three cars qualified in the top 15 spots. Ramin Abdolvahabi in #52 had a career high qualifying effort P15.
At the drop of the green flag, Ramin (52) was challenged with electronics steering issues forcing him to pit. An early full course caution allowed the LAP Motorsports crew and MINI dealer technicians to quickly diagnose and correct #52 issues without losing the lead lap. It didn't take long for Ramin to fight his way back, picking the competition one at a time for career high charge to P12 before handing over the car to his teammate Nate Norenberg. With numerous cautions and different pit strategies from the competition, Nate found himself exiting the pits in P19. Lap after lap, Nate Battle his way back to P12, giving #52 it's best finish of the year.
Mark Pombo, back in #37 after missing a couple of races qualified a strong P9. It didn't take long for Mark to put his #37 MINI in contention for a podium by completing his race stint with a solid charge up into the top five positions. After a blistering fast pitstop by the LAP Motorsports and the MINI dealer technicians crew, Ethan Low took over the driving duties of the #37 machine. Ethan had been struggling to come to grip with the MINIs ABS threshold at Road America, being the most demanding race track on brakes, the #37 MINI ended its day in the tire wall at turn one.
Derek Jones had another great last lap run at the pole in #73 ending a close P5. At the drop of the green flag, Derek patiently muscled his MINI up to the front. 40 minutes into his run, Derek reported a vibration, forcing the team to pit before the scheduled stop. The crew once again performed a swift stop as Mat Pombo jumped in to the #73 Bullet. Mat quickly showed off his MINI's muscles by setting the teams first ever fastest race lap on his way to take the lead of the race.
Due to the early pit stop, team lead engineer, Rob Ridgely advised Pombo to back off to conserve fuel. With the numerous cautions and the team orders to conserve fuel, Mat understood the situation and allowed the eventual race winner to drive by without a challenge. The #73 MINI continued on an amazing second place run as it took the white flag. On turn five of the final lap, Mat's MINI suffered low fuel pressure and engine misfires due to running on fumes, causing it to complete the final lap in limp mode, coming across the finish line in P7.
“I really thought we were going to have some champagne today!” Said team owner, Luis Perocarpi. “We have been knocking on the door for a podium these last four races. Rob (lead engineer), Brad (engineer), Zdravko (MINI engineer) and my stepson Charlie (engineer intern) have been doing an amazing job, making our stock MINI John Cooper Works a threat to the competition. Every single crew member and the MINI dealer technicians has been working non stop and now Derek Jones and Mat Pombo are seventh in the driver's championship.” Perocarpi added, “with three races remaining, the championship is out of reach but a win is not! The odds for any of us non Porsche teams to win the manufacturers championship are very slim since they are almost half of the competition. On the other hand, we are only few points behind BMW. So we have lots to race for going into the last three races of the season.”