No more a Rookie!
Walnut Creek, CA – The United States Touring Car Championship Round 4 and Marion’s third race in this group took place at Sonoma Raceway. The weekend yielded many challenges, but the last one cut Marion’s race short and left her stranded on a strip of track just after Turn 6 about half-way through the race.
Every effort was made by Chris Hovey at Life Is Good Racing and Red Panther Motorsport to ensure the 2003 Mitsubishi Evo VIII which Marion loving continues to call “EleventyOne” was ready to race. The warm-up and qualifying sessions on Saturday went well with lap times in the 1min 57sec range. Since the left rear and front right tires were rubbing on the fenders, Car chief Tim McGraw worked on grinding down some of the offending parts. Also, small changes like decreasing tire pressure and stiffening the car were implemented for Sunday.
Sunday’s warm-up and qualifying didn’t yield the desired outcomes, so the changes were partially reversed (tire pressure was increased again). Still, the car and track felt good, says Marion: “Being out here in Sonoma feels a bit like home – taking the EleventyOne out on track is so much fun, and I love how the car handles in the corners. But I have to say, there is still more learning ahead of me to get closer to the TC group leaders!”
Then it was time for the race! The start was not as good as Marion had hoped, but she quickly caught up to the TC leaders at the site of a crash in Turn 2. She managed to stay away from the disabled #53 VW Jetta of Reto Baumann and navigated through some debris. In the following turns, other cars that were able to get through the crash site even faster caught up and overtook her. Finally, Marion found her “zone” in Turn 4 and started to “drive the car,” as her driver coach Dave Brown would call it, with lap times in the low 1min 56sec, edging almost into the high 1min 55sec’s. In the following laps, Marion overtook several SP cars and caught up to Fred Snow’s TC car, the #33 Hyundai Genesis. In Turn 6 she got close enough to see herself overtaking the #33 car going into Turn 7 – and then the EleventyOne quit on her and wouldn’t start again.
“I got so close – I even thought two or three corners ahead, what it would look like after overtaking the #33 car. I would have been in third place! It was such a thrill, but that feeling was replaced in quick succession by surprise, anger and disappointment. As I was sitting on the sidelines, watching the cars drive by, I thought to myself how lucky I was that this was only the first time this happened to me. I was also thinking of Reto Baumann, hoping that he and the #53 Jetta would be alright.”
Looking on the bright side: While Marion didn’t get to finish her eighth race, she still gets to take off the orange sticker and “R” s. Now she is no longer a rookie! As for the EleventyOne, a belt tensioner broke and destroyed the electric starter – this, luckily, stopped the motor and prevented more serious damage. Reto and the Jetta are also okay and with some repairs, both the EleventyOne as well as the Jetta will be ready to race again next month, at Round 5 and 6 at Laguna Seca, where USTCC will support the NTT Indy Car Series finale of their 2022 season!
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.