ST Racing Scores a Podium in its First 24-Hour Race at COTAadmin
This past weekend was a whole new experience for ST Racing as the Team participated in a 24-hour endurance race for the first time while competing in the Hankook 24H COTA USA event. And despite mechanical issues, the Team captured 3rd place in the GT4 class.
The 24-Hour event, organized by Creventic was run on both Saturday and Sunday with a 10- hour overnight intervention between the two stints. Teams from all over Europe and North America travelled to Austin (Texas) to participate in the 24H Series finale.
ST Racing was excited to welcome accomplished and well-known driver Anthony Lazzaro whose 24-hour racing experience was crucial to the Team’s first ever endurance race.
Another great addition to the Team was Colorado racer, John Boyd who celebrated his birthday on Friday. The remaining ST Racing drivers Samantha Tan, Jason Wolfe and Harry Gottsacker completed the well-rounded 5-driver lineup.
Ohio-based driver Jason Wolfe’s previous 24-hour participation in the 2016 Portimao race and coach Nic Jonnson also benefited the team. But, for the rest of the ST Racing drivers, this was a “first”.
The weekend started off on a rough note when cold weather and rain played havoc with the day’s test sessions on Thursday yielding a very slick track. However, the weather for the rest of the weekend was beautiful and remained in the 50’s and 60’s making it easier to get through the long days. Friday’s sessions included practice, qualifying with ST Racing placing 4th in GT4 class, and a night practice.
Saturday – Part 1 (11 hours – 246 laps run)
At 11:30 am, the field of 30 cars crossed the start line on a rolling start and Harry Gottsacker was the first ST Racing driver to hit the track in the #388 BMW M4 GT4 when the green flag flew. Throughout the day, all five ST Racing drivers took turns at driving approximately 70- minute stints.
During the many driver changes, the crew performed excellent pit stops every time and worked diligently to make sure all the bases were covered.
Samantha Tan had been battling a cold and cough all week, and although she wasn’t feeling well, she drove every session and managed to lay down some good lap times.
“This being our first endurance race, it is a very big learning curve” said the Canadian driver. “Having to deal with the longer driver changes, and having to fuel up and change tires is totally new to me, and very interesting. And, when I was out on track, I kept improving with every stint. The night driving was so cool for me, completely different from anything I expected, especially with all the headlights in my mirrors. All our drivers have been doing really well. We clawed our way up to P1, and kept that position for a long time.”
Veteran Anthony Lazzaro drove solidly every time he went out on track and offered some precious 24-hour racing advice to the team and drivers when he was out of the car.
“To be with ST Racing is like being with my family” said Lazzaro. “I’ve worked with these guys up in Quebec (Canada) for 12 years. It’s been a wonderful experience. I’ve known Samantha since she was a teenager. And along with Harry (Gottsacker), Jason (Wolfe), and John (Boyd), it’s just a pleasure to be around all of them this weekend. Of course, John Boyd is a guy that I brought up into racing through the Challenge Series, and to see him do his first endurance race this weekend, and see ST Racing do their first 24-hour race is quite a pleasure. I think the 24H Series here at COTA was a perfect place for them to start because they have a break in between, so that takes a little bit of the pressure and endurance factor off the crew members. Us drivers, we get to rest in between stints, we have motorhomes we can go back to and take a shower, but the crew guys, they work constantly right here in the pitlane and I have to say, they’re doing a fantastic job. Currently we are leading in class. The car was excellent during my stint. We arrived at a really good setup last night, and after talking to Harry (Gottsacker), it seems to work best at night.”
Colorado driver John Boyd is a man of a few words but every time he stepped out of the car, one could see the fire in his eyes. Having laid down some really good lap times, he was smiling from ear to ear, and stated that he was ”having way too much fun”.
On his last drive of the day, with just a few hours to go, Harry Gottsacker recorded the team’s fastest lap time yet, clocked at 2:20.7
“This is our first 24-hour race as a team at ST Racing, and so far, so good” said the young Texan. “We’re P1 right now, with a little less than 2 hours to go. The car is really solid. I’m really proud of all the guys on this team. I think we have a great car for tomorrow and hopefully we can finish out clean tonight in the same spot and start fresh in the morning.”
Then, Jason Wolfe jumped into the car right after Gottsacker and finished off the day with a slightly faster lap time of 2:20.2, keeping the BMW M4 GT4 first in class.
After a long but successful day, the first part of the event ended at 10:30 pm with the whole team excited with their 1st place in class and looking forward to the next day.
Sunday – Part 2 (13 hours – 275 laps run)
Sunday morning came early for everyone. The race resumed at 8:00 am under cloudy skies and 58 degrees. During their stints, the ST Racing drivers were reporting that the car was cutting out at different areas of the track. When the car came in for driver change, the crew picked up data to figure out what the problem was, and tried to resolve it, while Harry Gottsacker was being strapped into the car. The young Texan went out on track and struggled the whole time, trying to hold on to 1st place in class, but the car seemed to be losing power again. Team Manager/Crew Chief Ben Distaulo decided to bring the car into the garage to try and resolve the mechanical issue.
The crew worked feverishly to replace a fuel pump, and by the time Samantha Tan stepped in and joined the field for her last stint, there were only 5 hours left in the race. At that point, the #388 BMW machine had fallen 20 laps behind and was no longer 1st in class.
However, the new fuel pump seemed to do the trick and the BMW beast was back to running perfectly again.
Tan’s final stint of the race was shortened a bit as she was not feeling well, and had to leave to catch a flight back to California that afternoon, to be at class the next morning for an exam.
“I ran my fastest lap during my first stint this morning” said Tan who was pleased with her driving. “I kept improving over the weekend and I learned so much. Unfortunately, we had a mechanical issue today and that put us in P3. But overall as a first endurance race, I think it was a pretty good weekend.”
“Before I go, I need to add something” said Tan. “Our crew guys, Simon (Routhier) and Mario (Gariepy) did such a great job at the fueling station. And so did the rest of the guys in the pits doing the tire changes. And Alex (Dupré) with the driver changes and putting my seat in, I know my seat insert was huge, and Ben (Distaulo) with the strategy, everyone on the Team did an incredible job. I am so proud of my team and all of our drivers here today, I can’t thank them enough. They were all so amazing. I couldn’t ask for a better team.”
Samantha Tan wasted no time between her on-track sessions, as she hurried back to the transporter to do her studies, while also graciously taking care of all media interview requests.
Anthony Lazzaro put in his final stints of the day and his driving made it clear that he should be regarded as one of the most highly-respected drivers in motorsports. He was as good on track as he was off track.
“I had a great time here this weekend” stated Lazzaro. “As I said before, this team is brand new to endurance racing, the whole thing is a learning experience. Unfortunately, while we were in the lead, we had mechanical problems. That’s just the way it goes sometimes. Some things are just unavoidable. As far as car prep and all that, the guys did a fantastic job. The team’s been really good on the pits stops, but the driver change did not beat the tire changes all night, and I was determined the beat the tires. And, on that last pit stop, we did it, we beat the Black Falcon team on that stop. That was really cool!”
“One of the most special things about this 24-hour race was driving with John Boyd” commented Lazzaro. “The very first time John drove a race car was with me. When you start with someone from the ground up, and have him in the school, then go the racing series and eventually into the Creventic series, and now getting to co-drive with him is a very special moment for me. I’ve never been able to do that with one of my students before, and a 24-hour race no less. John is a natural driver, he’s a lot of fun to be around, he really stands on the gaz. He’s a good friend, and he’s part of the ST Racing family now.”
Meanwhile, Harry Gottsacker didn’t waste any time on his last session of the day. The talented 19-year old was on fire, and once again showed some great driving skills when he broke the 2:20-lap time and recorded the team’s fastest lap yet of 2:19.8
“I had so much fun. ST Racing team is a great team and I want to thank all of them for their hard work, for a great weekend and a successful year.”
An hour later, Jason Wolfe, the team’s last driver on track got into the car and despite the long day, he put on a stellar performance. Just 10 minutes before the end of the race, Wolfe was able to score ST Racing’s fastest lap of the weekend at 2:19,1 while the team secured 3rd place in class.
The recently married driver was beaming on his way to the podium with his teammates.
“I had fun out there” said Wolfe. “Overall, the weekend was pretty good. I had limited experience in a 24-hour race, so this was still a big learning curve for me. But running with Anthony (Lazzaro) and having my coach Nic (Jonnson) here and everyone else to help, it’s been great. We did well the first part of the race, but with our mechanical issue today, we lost P1 but we still took 3rd place.”
After running a total of 521 laps, the ST Racing team was ecstatic to end their very first endurance race weekend with a 3rd place podium finish.
Many thanks to BMW North America for being part of the ST Racing family this past season, and also for providing once again the assistance of two technicians who were nominated by the BMW Race Crew Program.
The next race for ST Racing is scheduled for January 9-10-11 where they will compete in the 15th edition of the Hankook 24H Dubai 2020 at the Dubai Autodrome Circuit.