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A Race Weekend of Firsts

A Race Weekend of Firsts (4th Place in SP)

The highly anticipated United States Touring Car Championship Round 1 at Thunderhill Raceway Park marked the season opener. With rain in the forecast for the weekend, rain tires and wiper blades were in high demand.

Short on rain tires, crew chief/spotter Ben Penn at Team Cobalt California installed a used set of tires on the #65 Path to Reading Success/Racer Coffee BMW. The BMW sported a new engine and few adjustments needed to be made throughout the weekend; otherwise, the car ran smoothly without any incidents.

This was Marion Engelke’s first USTCC appearance with Team Cobalt California, in a new, rear-wheel car, and in a different class. She previously raced the Red Panther Motorsport #11 2003 Mitsubishi Evo VIII in the Touring Car Class with USTCC. Another first was the announcement by Patricia and Gary Trudeau of Gary’s Airbag Service (GAS) and Automotive Calibration Specialists (ACS) that they would sponsor Engelke’s 2024 race season! Engelke shared, “This is a significant milestone and I’m honored and humbled – I will do my best to improve while having fun on the track! The sponsorship sets the stage for a promising season, and I very much look forward to the collaboration with Gary’s Airbag Service (GAS) and Automotive Calibration Specialists (ACS).”

It was the first time in years that the weather provided continuous rain on Saturday that only let up slightly toward the end of the afternoon. To get at least some time in the new-to-her car on the track in wet conditions before the race, Engelke was able to complete two practice sessions. Missing windshield wipers and limited visibility, the outing provided much needed experience with helpful insights shared by coach Dave Brown.

On Sunday morning, the weather had not improved, but Joe Sesto of NASA kindly lent the wipers from his BMW to Engelke, just in time for the race. Rumblings that the rain would stop before and during the race came true and all drivers with rain tires hustled to put slicks on and the long-searched for wipers were no longer needed.

Marion Engelke finished the race 4th in the Sportsman Class and earned the Swift Springs award for “showing outstanding determination driving in difficult conditions and pulling out a solid drive in a new car with a new team.” Engelke was thrilled with the weekend, even though it wasn’t enough to secure a podium this time.

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