The eEuroparts.com ROWE Racing Team is coming off a rollercoaster weekend in Watkins Glen, with a few bangs and bruises and the inspiration to fight harder than ever. With only a week between Watkins Glen and Mosport, the team has been putting the pedal to the metal to get the #10 car ready for this upcoming weekend to shoot for maximum championship points.
The IMSA Continental Tire 240 at Watkins Glen was the debut race of the #12, which gave us a crucial opportunity to gather points with two cars. Of course, preparing an entirely new race car, fresh off the boat, had a huge series of challenges involved. Everything from installing IMSA fueling equipment to preparing an entire second pit box, (complete with nitrogen systems and fuel rigs) had to be addressed by a limited crew and resources.
In practice (which began in the rain) and qualifying, the team was pleasantly surprised by the pace they were able to maintain straight out of the box with both cars. The experience of #10 drivers Lee Carpentier and Kieron O’Rourke helped to get the #12 drivers Kenton Koch and Tom O’Gorman up to speed.
Both new drivers were able to supply ample pace to hold with the vets, and we qualified the #12 and #10 mid-pack in 4th and 5th, respectively. Fortunately the racing gods were looking out for us with this qualifying result, as this track position would come to be beneficial for us into the race.
With an entirely new B-Team to service the #10 car in the event of a stacked double-yellow pit stop, the number of inexperienced bodies on the pit wall for Saturday’s race was greatly increased. A few New-to-IMSA crew members had practiced their duties over the last few weeks and were primed and ready in case they were called to action.
For this one, however, the opportunity would not come up, and crew members with the most experience were called to provide all necessary service to both cars.
Saturday morning, the heat forecast thankfully was a bit exaggerated, and the team was able to enjoy warm but bearable sunny weather, taking the green flag in unison around 1:45pm for the IMSA Continental Tire 240. A huge wreck in the opening lap of the race scrambled the cars, sending our #12 to the very back of the pack in avoidance maneuvers while Lee Carpentier was able to evade the wreckage and punch through to the lead of the race.
Able to control pace, Lee continued to bang out fast laps at the front of the pack, while Kenton Koch in the #12 eEuroparts.com ROWE Racing Audi RS 3 LMS picked off cars left and right, displaying an amazing amount of talent and skill as he moved up through the field.
By lap 19, Kenton Koch had charged up through the TC and TCR class cars to join Lee Carpentier out front, putting both eEuroparts.com ROWE Racing Audi’s at the top of the sheets. This 1-2 running would last until lap 26, when the #10 came in for a pair of front tires, fuel, and to swap in Kieron O’Rourke as the next driver, allowing Koch to inherent the lead of the race. All the while, the huge force that is Compass racing was applying hard pressure, staying within a second of the eEuroparts.com ROWE Racing team’s rear wing.
With the polesitting #75 car crashed out on lap 1, the #77 Audi driven by powerhouse drivers of Britt Casey and Tom Long carried Compass racing. Their teammates of Kumo Wittner and Rodrigo Sales in the #74 always managed to stay in tow, rarely straying more than a few seconds rearward. Slightly further back was the #54 JDC-Miller Motorsports Audi at the hands of Michael Johnson and Stephen Simpson rounding out the pack.
Arriving mid race at lap 58, with fuel low and tires shot, it was time to bring Kenton in. The team was waiting for a yellow flag that would never come. Eventually and The eEuroparts.com ROWE Racing pit squad would do a complete pit stop from the lead in green flag conditions and send out experienced FWD wheel-man Tom O’Gorman to finish the race.
While the drivers contributed to a high level of action on the 3.4 mile Watkins Glen International road course, the experienced crew in the pits were able to move quickly and efficiently, even in the summer afternoon heat. Pit lane deltas were extremely low, and the team was able to service both cars and get them back out on track with excellent track position. With all 4 tires changed, an extended fuel fill and driver change, our #12 pitstop totaled 1m27s. This would be crucial to get Tom out on track in 3rd position, staying out ahead of the #54 JDC entry. Over the next few laps, all the leading cars would take their mid race pit stops as well. Tom was able to maintain excellent lap times, allowing him to retake 1st position by lap 68 after all the pit stops had completed.
During this period, the #10 car had come back in for a complete pit stop as well, swapping Lee Carpentier back into the car, rejoining in 6th. Unfortunately, a suspension failure on lap 76 would leave him with a torn off front left wheel and significant damage, relegating the #10 Audi to the sidelines for the remainder of the event. The #12 eEuroparts.com ROWE Racing Audi kept the team’s hopes alive for a strong finish.
On lap 90, the team would need to bring Tom in for fuel-only in order to get to the end of the race. With an extremely fast stop, the crew got Tom back out on track in 2nd position, right between the leading #77 Compass car and the JDC Miller Motorsports #54 Audi, who had leapfrogged the Compass #74 earlier in the race.
This made for an epic battle of 4 cars, nose to tail, attempting to maintain maximum pace with the finish line only a handful of laps away. Turn after turn, every car would weave in and out, taking as much curb as they dared to attempt a run on the competitor in front. With the team biting their nails off through their Nomex gloves, Tom was able to keep the hard charging opponents in his mirrors. However, our podium was not meant to be.
102 laps into the race and only 4 to go, the #54 was desperate on our tail. Showing a nose in every turn, it eventually initiated a daring pass, contacting Tom and pushing him just barely up into the tire barrier. Luckily, Tom O’Gorman’s steady hand and cool head was able to rebound from the incident with his right foot flat to the floor, saving himself and the #12 Audi from a high speed crash. The battle allowed the #74 to squeak by both cars, dropping us to 4th place as the checkered flag came out. That’s racing, it happens.
The team sat silent in the pits as this all played out in front of them on the large TV broadcasting the feed. A warning was issued from race control to the #54, but no action was taken. With one wrecked car and one car just barely off the podium, the team had to be content with the massive amount of effort that had to go into getting two cars out on track in the short time they had. As a very cool consolation, the eEuroparts.com ROWE Racing team was awarded with the VP Racing Fuels Front Runner Of The Race prize, with a total of 67 laps led between the two cars.
Despite the major incident, due to earlier crashes, the #10 would be classified with 6th position points, enough to maintain 3rd in the championship. With excellent pace and a fair amount of logistics worked out, eEuroparts.com ROWE Racing will be looking forward to redemption at Mosport in Canada, where the #10 will be getting repaired and fielded for maximum points.
Looking forward to Mosport
We’re now full speed ahead to get the #10 car ready to race in Canada, for the Canadian Tire 120 at Mosport. With the frame verified to be straight, the team must now rebuild the core essentials and get ready for competition in just a few short days. That will mean some fancy footwork will be required by the mechanics in hotel and grocery store parking lots, but so far so good. Because of the logistics involved, the eEuroparts.com ROWE Racing team will only be fielding the #10 in Canada in order to stay in the championship running.
Watch LIVE on IMSA.tv Saturday July 7th. Coverage will start at 2:55pm EDT, and the re-broadcast will happen on FS1 Sunday July 15th at 11:30am EDT. See you then!