A First Second…
Walnut Creek, CA – The highly anticipated United States Touring Car Championship Rounds 7 and 8 at Thunderhill Raceway Park marked the season finale. With a race each on Saturday and Sunday, all drivers aimed to garner as many of the remaining championship points as possible.
For this weekend, crew chief Chris Hovey at Life Is Good Racing and car chief/spotter Tim McGraw installed the last set of the limited Hancook tire contingent for the TC group on the EleventyOne. The Evo ran smoothly without any incidents.
This was Marion Engelke’s first USTCC appearance at Thunderhill. She raced her 2003 Mitsubishi Evo VIII here before, even earlier this year, but with the National Auto Sports Association’s (NASA) Group C. And this time, she was able to improve her lap times significantly. Starting out with 2 min 16 s during Saturday’s Free Practice, she’d only slightly gained on her previous best. After some much-appreciated instruction from coach and fellow driver of her team’s #52 Hyundai Genesis Coupe, Dave Brown and Team RPM Owner / Driver Reto Baumann, Marion began turning faster laps.
In Qualifying, Marion drove a 2 min 13 s and qualified fourth. Then, during a hard-fought race with Seong Kim in the GoGoGear.com #35 JB Autowerkz BMW M3, Marion’s lap times came in at 2 min 8 s as she placed third. However, due to a two-place penalty awarded to Gary Sheehan, who was in first place, Marion was awarded second place – her first second place ever, not just in USTCC, but her race career overall! And, to top it all off, she also received the Plastex Top Rookie Award.
But wait – there is more! The lap times still got better on Sunday. After a 2 min 11 s time in Free Practice, Marion qualified fourth again with a time of 2 min 9 s. Then the green flag was lowered for the final race of the season. The standing start was not as quick as Marion would have needed to stay ahead of her competitors. She fell back to fifth place in the first lap and was not able to recover. Still, Marion enjoyed the race:
“It was so much fun to race with my amazing competitors! Today, I didn’t come out on top, but I did turn my fastest lap on this track. An additional gain of four seconds over my previous best – that’s a win in my book!”
About Red Panther Motorsport (RPM)
A leading California based professional racing team. RPM competes in the Hankook Tires United States Touring Car Championship (USTCC) race series and has won multiple class Championships. For more information, please see and visit www.RedPantherMotorsport.com and like us on our social media channels.