The eEuroparts.com ROWE Racing Continental Tires Sports Car Challenge team has returned this week from California, where they were able to triumphantly place the #12 Audi RS 3 LMS onto the podium after a hard fought race at Laguna Seca. The legendary course hosted once of the largest racing weekends on the west coast during the year, featuring the IMSA Weathertech Sports Car Championship, the Continental Tire Sports Car Championship, and Lamborghini Super Tropheo series.
Based in Windsor, Connecticut, the eEuroparts.com ROWE Racing transporter traveled within view of both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, making this race the farthest flyaway of the year. With the team logging tens of thousands of travel miles to make this race possible, bringing back a few trophies was a happy ending to a tough work week.
Getting Ready For Laguna Seca
Arriving at the track on Thursday morning signaled a welcome relief to the heat. The elaborate landscape featured at Laguna Seca was cool and filled with fog, a stark contrast to the sweltering heat provided by the last few competition weekends.
Once the rig was set up and it was time to go out onto the ‘green’ dusty track, the radio messages were clear. eEuroparts.com ROWE racing had some work to do in terms of car setup. As the weekend progressed, the lead engineers would take an aggressive approach to manipulating the car’s suspension and brakes to account for the low grip provided by the course. Both Thursday and Friday practices were spent making multiple changes on the #10 and #12 cars.
Friday night, the team would be up late under the eEuroparts.com racing trailer canopy, working on the cars to get them ready for early morning final practice. The car setups would have to be on point here to avoid rushing changes before qualifying, which would take place immediately afterwards. The #12 car also received new rear brake calipers and a brake master cylinder.
One of the larger changes needed to take place on the cars for the counter-clockwise Laguna Seca race course was to move the fueling port to the left side of the car. Along with this service, an updated fuel filler hose was provided by Audi Sport North America that would improve performance and longevity. After installation, the team’s fuel crew quickly noticed a slight but noticeable increase in fuel capacity. They would proceed to use a Saraphin calibrated measurement device to find the new fuel capacity and add the appropriate amount of spacer blocks into the fuel cells to achieve regulation.
Sometime during this processes, the team engineers made the decision to replace the windshield on the #12, which had developed a small crack during the day’s activities. The service would continue into the night, and the team would be one of the last to leave the paddock.
Saturday morning, the extra work done in setup the night before paid off. In the opening laps of the final (and shortest) practice session Team owner Matt Moran radio’ed out to the cars “How does it feel?” Shortly afterwards, the #10 car radioed back over the cool dry Monterrey air “Night and day difference”. The #12 responded with one word, “Perfect”.
Both cars came into the pits to prepare for the short 15min qualifying session that would be over in only a few laps, and got some new ‘sticker’ tires.
The qualifying drivers would be multiple pole winner Tom O’Gorman in the #12 and excellent traffic negotiator Kieron O’Rourke in the #10. The driver to qualify will be the one to start, and the eEuroparts.com team has settled on this excellent setup to utilize all the tools available for the start of the race.
Tom ultimately secured his 4th pole position award in a row with a 1:34.033, and radio’d in his disappointment at not being able to break into the 1:33’s. The team chuckled and breathed a sigh of relief. Kieron would start the race in 6th position ahead of the #61 Roadshagger racing Audi RS 3 LMS entry.
The race was only a few hours later, and soon the cars would be topped up on fuel and put on their race starting tires. The pitbox was setup, the nitrogen hoses were pressurized, and the fuel rigs were inspected and topped off with VP 100 octane. The most fun part of this phase is the number of fans that stop by to say hi, and to get autographs from our drivers.
We love that IMSA allows the fans out into pitlane for the fan walk, it gives people the opportunity to really get an insight into the tiny details that make up a race car. Kids in particular always get a kick out of meeting the drivers and checking out the cars up close.
In short time, the grid had cleared and the cars streamed out in line for their formation lap while the crew made their double-checks.
When the green flag came out, crewmembers huddled around the screens to watch the start. The #75 got a bad launch, allowing Kieron to get around and snag the position, but got re-passed a lap later. As the TCR leaders attacked the back of the GS class pack, the #77 was able to get past Tom in the eEuroparts.com ROWE Racing #12, dropping him to second place in class.
Tom would hang on his rear bumper in order to conserve his tires to use towards the end of his stint. With memories of Watkins Glen and Lime Rock hanging in the air, the strategy for the #12 would be to stay out long in order to have a set of good condition tires ready to attack at the end of the race.
The Turning Point
Around 40min into the 2hr race, the #69 Motorsports In Action McLaren lost a wheel on course, stranding the GS class car in the gravel trap. That brought out a full course caution as the cleanup crew tended to the disabled race car. The pits stayed closed for TCR for four laps as the GS field cycled through pit stops. It appeared the caution would be lifted soon and the decision was made to keep the #12 out and bring in the #10 for fuel, tires, and a driver change.
However, the yellow flags continued to wave, allowing the TCR field to bunch up back behind the #12. This strategy would benefit greatly from a second yellow flag, which would never come. With aging tires and a much faster pack of cars directly behind, eEuroparts.com ROWE Racing engineers brought in the #12 for a driver change, fuel, and tires under green flag conditions. The entire field would go past, putting Kenton Koch out in dead last.
With all other cars having completed their pit stops, he would get on with the program with the utmost determination, picking his way up through the TCR class one by one. Lap 42 he squeezed by the #61 Audi, and on lap 62 he went by Lee Carpentier in the eEuroparts.com ROWE Racing #10. Soon, Kenton arrived at the bumper of the Compass Racing #74 Audi, passing on lap 66 for 4th place. With tires a few laps newer and an undamaged car, the #12 was in full attack mode. Taking advantage of some bunched up traffic on track, Kenton would ram the eEuroparts.com Racing Audi up the inside on the final corner of the final lap, and earn a position on the podium.
Kenton roared over the radio with excitement as he crossed the line. The team gave a cheer for a race they thought was over only 10 laps earlier. It was an incredible drive, making up over 20 seconds with flat out speed. With his tires in good condition at the end of the stint, he was able to put on an impressive performance. Lee would bring the #10 home undamaged in the position it started, overall an excellent finish for eEuroparts.com ROWE Racing.
Kenton and Tom didn’t think they would be able to spray the champagne on Saturday, and proved they had immense speed and ability to manage a less than ideal situation all the way to the podium. Road Atlanta will be the final championship points round of the season, and one of the biggest events as well generally welcoming around 320,000 spectators. Porsche GT3 cup USA will be replacing Lamborghini Super Tropheo as the main support race, and the Weathertech Sports Car Championship will be running a 10 hour endurance race known as Petit Le Mans.
Due to the elongated schedule, the Continental Sports Car Challenge will be running the FOX Factory 120 on Friday October 12th at 1:15pm EDT. Watch LIVE on IMSA.tv, and catch the replay of Laguna Seca on Sunday September 16th at 7am EDT.
ROWE Motor Oil – Made In Germany
eEuroparts.com ROWE Racing couldn’t have done it this weekend without ROWE Motor Oil, official partners of eEuroparts.com Racing. German Made ROWE oil courses through the engines and dual clutch transmissions of both the #10 and #12 Audi RS 3 LMS race cars. Our race cars are powered by the same products that are available on the shelf, so head over to eEuroparts.com and pick up your next synthetic oil change.