Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Team Redstone Motorsports Takes 9th Place and Sunoco "Hard Charger" Award at Speed World Challenge Touring Car Race at Laguna Seca Raceway

Graham Downey, racing privateer grassroots racing team Redstone Motorsports 1999 Honda Civic Si, finishes 9th overall at the season finale Speed World Challenge Touring Car Championship at Laguna Seca raceway, Monterey California. Downey, running his inaugural rookie World Challenge race event, put on an amazing performance against a very competitive field of professional drivers and teams.

With a driver and manufacturers championship to be decided on the day, competition was expected to be fierce between Acura and Mazda, and Realtime versus MazdaSpeed, the rookie Downey had to balance aggression with common sense, and ensure he could finish the race yet not inadvertently interfere with a critical championship.

Downey, running a stock Honda K24 TSX motor and transmission in his very trusty Honda Civic knew he would be out powered on the straights by the manufacturer sponsored Acura TSX's from Realtime, as well as the MazdaSpeed 3's and 6's. But Downey was confident of his driving ability, setup, and reliability of the lone Honda in the Touring Car class. "Power isn't everything", said Downey, as he did his final preparations for the race. " Braking and apex speed make a big difference at Laguna, and my Civic will gain back time in the corners".

Downey was running within 0.7secs of the Realtime TSX's in practice, but the Acura's and Mazda's found some extras qualifying time on Saturday during final practice, Kleinubing taking poll position with 1:37:042, Clay's BMW at 1:37:371, and Peter Cunningham 3rd at 1:37:358. Downey qualified 13th at 1:38:853, 1.5 seconds behind Cunningham, but his best time of the weekend. " I was hoping for a top 10 qualifying, but 13th was as good as we could have expected considering the fast time of the Acura's on Saturday. I knew the race would come back to my pace on Sunday, as I expected the race pace to be in the mid 1:38's which is a comfortable pace for my Honda"

Downey started well from the green flag, picking up 3 places within 2 laps, and running consistently in the pack. For the majority of the race Downey was wheel to wheel with Jason Saini, the championship leader going into the final race, Seth Thomas from Bimmerworld, and Eric Foss in his Mazda 3. The Acura's of Kleinubing and Cunningham, along with Clay in his Bimmerworld BMW took a commanding lead, the the rest of the top ten running bumper to bumper. Kuno Wittmers' Realtime TSX lost a rear wheel coming out of the corkscrew in lap 10, bringing out a full course yellow for 4 laps.

The race restarted with Kleinubing, Cunningham and Curran again pulling well ahead of the remaining top 10. Downey continued his bumper to bumper battle with Saini and Thomas. 4 laps to go and the 7th to 10th cars started to mix it up more aggressively. " I saw what was coming, and said to myself I could take advantage here if I hang back just a little, and let the boys duke it out. And that's exactly what happened. I saw my opportunity between turn 4 and turn 6, and pulled up 3 places to 7th. I knew it would be hard to keep 7th, but I decided to go all out and sprint to the finish"

Thomas finally got back around Downey with 2 laps remaining, putting him back in 9th in front of Saini. With both sprinting for the line once the white flag was waved. Downey and Saini went bumper to bumper. Downey, heading off Saini up the last corner before the start/finish straight went wide on Turn 11 allowing room for Saini to cut inside, and pipped Downey for 8th at the line.

Downey finished 9th overall, and received the Sunoco Hard Charger Award for the driver that made up the most places in the race. Read the full race report here http://www.world-challenge.com/news/story.php?ID=1495

After the race Downey commented, " I'm ecstatic with 9th place. To be able to go out there and race my very first pro level race, with a field like this, and finish like I did is amazing. The difference for me was the reliability of my Honda, the great setup from my team, and the braking and cornering ability of the car. My car was getting faster as the race progressed. If we only had about 3 more laps, I'm sure I'd have pulled a few more spots. My tires and brakes were great, never faltered or faed for the whole race, and were still perfect at the end. But, I'm happy with the result".

"We'll be back next year for Speed World Challenge", commented Downey, " We'll either run a Honda or an Acura, depending on rules and contingencies, we haven't decided yet".

Downey is also the current NASA Honda Challenge National Champion, wining this title at Miller Motorpsort Park, Utah in September. This is his 2nd National title with NASA, and the only Honda Challenge driver to win back to back championships.

Team Redstone would like to thank our great team for all the hard work dedication to get our very first Speed World Challenge race in the books, with an amazing result.

A special thank you to our primary sponsors, Blacktrax Performance, RaceKeeper, Carbotech, Roger Kraus Racing, Hasport Performance, and Gillis Motorsport for all their help, sponsorship and support throughout the year.

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