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Rocky Start Leads to a Podium on Technicality for StudioVRM.Racing

Photos by Sam Draiss Media

Summit Point, WV – The 2024 USTCC East Series opener proved to be a tough test for StudioVRM’s Roger Maeda, as electrical problems with the team’s 2024 spec Prelude touring car brought their Feature Race to an early end. Despite this, Maeda would find himself on the top step of the podium after the class leader was penalized for a shock post-race technical infringement.

--- Qualifying ---

The team managed the Saturday qualifying session well, finding enough space on track to set two fast laps in a busy 29-car Big Bore group. Unfortunately, an issue with the #22 car’s transponder meant that neither of those qualifying laps were recorded by Timing & Scoring.

To add to the team’s problems, the PGM-FI fuse, a safety mechanism designed to protect the Prelude’s core engine control electronics, blew at the start of the Qualifying Race, sidelining Maeda before the session had even begun. The lack of a fast lap from these two sessions meant that the StudioVRM Honda Prelude would have to start Sunday’s Feature Race from the back of the grid.

--- Sunday Feature Race ---

With some quick fixes made to the wiring and a new PGM-FI fuse installed, the team sent the StudioVRM Prelude out to mount a fight back from the back row. An aggressive charge through the tail end of the field allowed Maeda to catch up to Braci Racing Team’s Martin Szwarc, who was now enjoying a strong run of pace after solving the brake issues that had hampered his Civic’s performance on Saturday.

Knowing that Szwarc would only get faster as the race went on, Maeda opted to seize an opportunity to launch an inside attack through Summit Point’s fast uphill turn 9, leading to a 3-wide race for the apex for the high-speed turn 10 onto the main straight. The Prelude’s Bad Guys-enhanced H22 engine allowed Maeda to pull ahead of the BRT Civic by the Turn 10 bridge, and the 2024 spec aero package gave him the grip he needed to muscle past the #60 Ford Mustang in an inside attack through the fast sweeper. This high-risk maneuver paid off handsomely, as the team’s green Prelude made it to turn 1 first while setting off in pursuit of Andrew Conner’s fire-red On Q Racing BMW 325i.

Sadly, the StudioVRM.Racing team’s efforts would be cut cruelly short when the electrical problem from before returned with a vengeance, this time in the form of a Throttle Position Sensor failure. Maeda pulled off into the escape road at Turn 1 a few laps later to wait out the remainder of the race in the safety of Summit Point’s trackside Skidpad.

However, Round 1 of the US Touring Car Championship East Series had one last twist to store before its curtain call. Braci Racing Team’s Martin Szwarc had missed the mandatory call to post-race impound and was penalized with a loss of position in the final results. This elevated Maeda and the StudioVRM.Racing team to first in class in the Sportsman class, gifting them a win on technicality.

...

Roger Maeda - #22 StudioVRM.Racing Honda Prelude Si VTEC
Feature Race: 1st* in Sportsman, 3rd overall in USTCC
Fastest Lap: 1:24.791

“There is a big asterisk next to today’s result, as Martin Szwarc’s BRT Honda Civic actually finished ahead of us on the road. Our race pace was encouraging, and I think we showed that our 2024 spec aero and suspension package have a tremendous amount of potential. We need to eliminate the small reliability issues and preparatory mistakes so we can earn our next win on merit.

Huge thanks to the team, especially guest mechanic Glenn Halfpap, who once again arrived at the perfect time to help tackle issues with our car as well as to brighten up the mood with a fresh batch of Mrs. Halfpap’s fantastic oatmeal raisin cookies. Thank you, Glenn. You were our team’s MVP this Sunday.”

"Z" Jefferson – Race Engineer – StudioVRM.Racing
“The first weekend of the season looked promising but gremlins were underfoot. They started with mild trouble in the form of a snapped hood pin before getting on track. A blown fuse before green in qualifying meant we absolutely needed to run the warmup before Sunday's race. After another blown fuse in warm up we were just hoping things would hold together for race distance.

Even though full race distance wasn't in the cards this weekend we were able to get in over half race distance on the 2nd fuse replacement before succumbing to more trouble. Quickly catching up from the rear showed promise so we need to get the issues sorted before the next race."

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