Nersisyan claims his first win in TC while Rydquist picks up where he left off at Las Vegas. The pair of ARG drivers Makishima and Lau manage their second wins of the season.
Sunny Sonoma county was the scene for Round 3 of the United States Touring Car Championship. Drivers and teams had a little under a month to prepare for the first race of the season in Northern California. The action was intense in most classes and there were several retirements.
Swedish driver, Carl Rydquist jumped back into his Myraceshop.com/Ridetech FFR GTM after co-driver Mike Holland drove at Round 2. After a stunning qualifying, Rydquist managed to get the team’s third win of the season, and his second, in the GT class. Behind him, there was a close battle for second between the AP Racing/BC Forged Chevrolet Corvette of Rob Harper and the new, beautiful BAF Auto Body Chevrolet Corvette of Sam Stowell. The pair raced hard until coming together at the tight turn seven hairpin. Stowell was forced to retire the Corvette and Harper continued to his third consecutive second-place finish of the season. Newcomer Justin Grey’s 034 Motorsport Audi S4 had difficulties all weekend but managed to get onto the podium with a third-place finish in the GT class.
Over in the Super Touring class, Doug Makishima carried his momentum from Auto Club Speedway into the weekend. His MCS BMW M3 looked fast all weekend and was the car to beat. Makishima had a strong race and got his second win of the season to put him in the points lead as well. The battle for second place raged on from green to checkered between Larry Bani and Anthony Zwain. The pair of BMW M3’s were inseparable for the entirety of the race. Eventually, it was Bani’s GoGoGear.com/Konig Wheels M3 that held on to claim another strong finish ensuring he stayed in the championship hunt. Zwain’s inaugural drive in USTCC earned his Rose Construction/Ravenol M3 a spot on the podium. Championship contender, Reto Baumann of Switzerland, and his West Coast Ravenol Red Panther Motorsport VW Jetta were set to debut a rebuilt engine after troubles only a month prior, but it wasn’t to be as the team still struggled with engine related problems and failed to take the green flag.
In only his 9th race, Art Nersisyan took his first win. The Armenian driver’s GoGoGear.com /Konig Wheels Hyundai Genesis qualified on the front row in TC right next to his far more experienced teammate Gary Sheehan in his sister Hyundai Genesis. On the first lap heading into the turn seven hairpin Sheehan, very uncharacteristically, braked too deep and left the door open for Nersisyan to pass. Nersisyan jumped at the opportunity and stole the lead. Despite Sheehan’s best efforts, he could not get back past Nersisyan. Transmission problems late into the race meant that Nersisyan’s lead would remain as Sheehan had to back off to preserve his second place. Just behind was rookie Brad Austin’s TNI Racing Mazdaspeed 3 who achieved a fantastic third place despite a weekend plagued with problems.
Hong Kong driver Edgar Lau’s Rose Construction/Ravenol BMW 330ci continued where it left off at the end of last season to win again at Sonoma. Lau determined the pace from the front after taking the lead from pole sitter Pete Bovenberg’s Rota Wheels, SuperTech Honda Civic. Bovenberg was fighting gremlins in the car all weekend long and despite glimpses of pace, couldn’t get the car to the finish. In his first race, young ace driver Sean Milburn proved his talent after a brilliant drive. A great lap on Saturday saw him start on the inside of row 2, but after a poor start that saw him drop 3 positions, he passed his way through the field on the opening lap to regain third position. Milburn fell short of catching up to Lau, but a great drive in his first race rewarded him with second place. Andrew Gardner’s AGardner Racing Ford Mustang looked strong all weekend, and he followed up his second place at Auto Club Speedway with a third place at Sonoma. Gardner now finds himself second in the points behind Lau.
Sean Milburn’s second place was more than enough to earn himself the Plastex top rookie honors, while for the second event in a row, team ARG Motorsports earned the top team award.
With a short two week gap, the teams head to one of the toughest courses on the calendar, Weathertech Raceway Laguna Seca. Follow the action on Facebook and Instagram and be sure to watch the race exclusively broadcast on Final Drive TV on NBC Sports.