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Reza Arsham strikes back for a podium after a difficult weekend.

The Wheels Honda Civic Hatchback has had an up and down year thus far. After a strong opening performance at Las Vegas finishing on the podium, the car then caught on fire at the second round in Fontana. Luckily, the fire was put out quickly and the car was salvageable. The team worked endlessly on the car fixing damages from the fire, as well as making small upgrades along the way. The team saw the opportunity to add lightness in specific areas to try and get closer to the power to weight ratio. In what promises to be the last outing for the hatchback with the current engine, Reza Arsham knew that the team’s goals were to get the car to the finish in one piece. With upgrades on the horizon, any additional setbacks could have been catastrophic to the tight time frame between races for an entire drivetrain swap.

Moving on to the weekend itself, the track at Sonoma is one of the most technical on the calendar. On the last visit to Sonoma, the hatchback struggled with understeer and was not set up properly. With this in mind, extensive changes were made to get the car to rotate, and rotate it did. The car was extremely loose and lacked rear grip. More setup changes were made for qualifying and the car felt completely different. Although a huge improvement, the car still lacked rear grip due to a lack of rear camber. Nevertheless, the car was competitive and was only a few tenths off of other competitors.

After jockeying for position on the opening lap, Reza found himself in fourth place with pressure from newcomer Matthew Rivkin's BMW E46 330ci behind. Reza was able to expertly defend the position while keeping third-placed Freddy Macugay in sight ahead. Reza was kind to his tires and despite being on much older tires compared to Macugay and Rivkin, his experience allowed him to keep them in the proper operating temperature towards the end of the race and have the pace when it counted. After going side by side through the fastest turns on the track with Rivkin, Reza caught up to third-placed Macugay and thanks to the incredible StopTech brakes, was able to out-brake and overtake Macugay for third place. With only a couple laps remaining, Reza now was catching up to the faster Touring Car of Mark McManus. Reza again was late on the brakes and was able to put a car between himself and the other Sportsman cars. This afforded him the opportunity to pull a slight lead and cross the finish line in third place with a relatively comfortable lead of 3 seconds over the fourth-placed Rivkin. “There were a lot of decisive moments during the race.” Reza explained, “The odds were against us, but we are confident in the package that we have put together and despite being down on power, we have to gain time in other sections of the lap such as under braking.”

The podium puts Reza back into third place in the driver’s points behind the team of Sean and Daniel Milburn’s Acura RSX and Brad Austin’s MX-5. Look for Reza to challenge for the victory at the next round of the USTCC season at historic Laguna Seca Raceway on July 31st and August 1st.

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