Scorching Fast One-Lap Pace Subverted by Reliability Issues at Summit Point Raceway
SUMMIT POINT, West Virginia, USA - Round 1 of the 2022 US Touring Car Championship East Series kicked off with a shock pole position for New Jersey-based StudioVRM Racing Team at the fast and challenging Summit Point Raceway.
StudioVRM's Roger Maeda drew first blood in the battle for the 2022 USTCC East Championship when he blitzed out a 1:25.872 lap in the Saturday Qualifying session through the rolling hills of Summit Point's Main course.
The Honda Prelude pilot's scorching one-lap pace was strong enough to earn 2nd place on the grid while being just two tenths of a second shy of Andrew Conner's best attempt in his Super Touring class BMW 325. When Andrew's fast lap was deleted due to his car coming in under its series-mandated minimum weight, race officials promoted Roger and the StudioVRM Prelude to pole position for Saturday's Heat Race.
Saturday Heat Race
A conservative start from pole position resulted in Roger dropping back to 2nd place through Summit Point's slow and technical turn 1. A promising fightback was abruptly cut short when the engine oil dipstick popped out of the Prelude's Honda H23A1 power unit, coating the engine bay in oil. Some of that hot oil dripped onto the left rear tire, causing a heart-stopping 90mph half-spin that saw the Prelude momentarily heading nose-first towards the concrete pit wall. Roger managed to save the car by applying full throttle, powering the front-wheel-drive Honda out of the wild slide. But after weighing the risk of dripping engine oil onto the track surface, Roger made the call to pull into the pits after just two laps.
Sunday Feature Race
Because the Feature Race grid would be set by the fastest lap across Qualifying and the Heat Race, the StudioVRM Prelude was set to start on pole position again for Sunday's Feature Race. However, given the reliability issues from the day before, Roger chose to start from the back of the grid instead. Roger commenced his charge through the field as soon as the green flag flew in hot pursuit of USTCC SP class leader Coyote Black in the Savage Garage Racing Integra Type R. The pursuit lasted just under halfway through the race, when the engine oil ventilation issue from Saturday reared its ugly head, this time causing the Prelude to bellow huge clouds of white smoke from its exhaust. Rather than risking any damage to the Honda's engine, Roger decided to retire the car early.
Roger Maeda - #22 StudioVRM.Racing Honda Prelude Si
Race: 2nd in USTCC SP / Ret. on lap 8
"I'm not disappointed. In fact, I'm encouraged by our performance this weekend.
The car is blindingly quick. And we were on old, 30-heat-cycle hard compound tyres. Thanks to some friendly advice from fellow USTCC Competitors and the Honda Prelude racing community, we also know exactly what we need to do to fix our issues. Plans are already underway to upgrade the crankcase ventilation system and eliminate those oil-related problems once and for all.
With those upgrades in place and a brand-new set of Hankook F200 racing slicks, we should be able to fight for a win at Round 2 at NJ Motorsports Park."