Viktor Czapla wins at Thunderhill in Super Touring while Brown wins in Touring Car.
Round 1 of the United States Touring Car Championship saw the return of many familiar faces around the paddock as well as new drivers and teams as all the competitors showcased their upgrades to their cars for the 2022 season.
After bursting on the scene in 2021 with a win on his series debut, Bob Acccardo returned to Red Panther Motorsport in his Accurate Arms Chevy Camaro in the GT class. Accardo’s Camaro ran strong all weekend long and was the class of the field. Qualifying first in class, Accardo perfectly judged the start and skyrocketed himself into the overall lead on the first lap. Accardo then was able to control the pace and cruise to his second victory in USTCC-GT, getting maximum points in the process. This is the first time he has led the Driver’s points and he already looks to be the favorite for the GT class in 2022.
After winning the most improved award in 2021, Daniel Rose partnered with USTCC veteran Doug Makishima for ARG Motorsports in their Rose Construction BMW M3. ARG Motorsports is known for their experience with the BMW M3 platform and have been consistently improving their craft. After coming in just a few pounds underweight in first qualifying, Doug Makishima put their ST class car on the overall pole with a blistering 1:54.746. Close behind was the 2021 USTCC-ST champion, Vik Czapla. Czapla’s Cool Boxx Audi R8 got the better of the ARG duo in the race, however. Transmission issues meant that Rose struggled to get off the line, while Czapla streaked off into the distance and would not be caught. Capitalizing on Rose’s misfortune was Czapla’s Cool Boxx teammate, Matt Rivkin. Rivkin moved up to the Super Touring class with an Audi R8 build of his own after seeing the potential of his teammate. In typical racing fashion, Rivkin’s R8 was only finished the night before the race. Rivkin took to the new chassis immediately and gained confidence all weekend. With some luck in the race, Rivkin achieved second place, team Cool Boxx’s first one-two finish in ST. Third place was taken by Rob Harper’s P2i/Forgeline/Sparta BMW 335i. Rob struggled with developing his newly classed 335i as he made the switch from the GT class to ST for 2022.
The Touring Car class sees many new faces for 2022, most notably two-time USTCC Champion Dave Brown partners with Gary Trudeau in their Red Panther Motorsport Gary’s Airbag Service Hyundai Genesis. The pairing has their sights set on the Driver’s Championship and are intent on bringing home the title. Brown showed early pace in the car on Saturday and set the provisional pole time. Defending Champion Gary Sheehan had to watch from the pit lane as he handed the keys to Reza Arsham in their GoGoGear.com Konig Wheels Hyundai Genesis Coupe. Arsham had the tough challenge of getting up to speed quickly throughout the weekend and set his sights on Brown’s provisional time. When Sunday’s qualifying came around, Reza put together a stunning lap to put himself in pole position on his debut in the TC class ahead of the team of Brown and Trudeau. In the race, the pair both got away well and were set up to fight for the win head to head. Unfortunately, after only a few laps an electrical failure ended Arsham’s hopes of winning and Brown sailed past. From there Brown held off the second GoGoGear.com Hyundai Genesis Coupe of Ali Arsham to take the win on his return to the TC class. Ali Arsham finished a strong second after a poor qualifying that saw him work his way through the field. Josh Lion and his Lion Raisins BMW 330ci had a tough race but managed to gather third-place points for his efforts.
In the ever-competitive, Sportsman class it was Rookie Justin Crickenberger who stole the spotlight. His beautiful RHMS Honda Civic Si had one hand on the victory all weekend. After setting a time that no one could touch in SP on Saturday, the confident rookie sat out Sunday’s qualifying knowing that his time was good enough for pole. In the race, he streaked away from the field to take victory on his debut. The victory sends a message to all the SP competitors that he is the benchmark to beat for this season. After qualifying in second place, Sean Milburn’s Milburn Motorsport Acura RSX struggled in the race and after settling into second place early on, got stuck in fourth gear. Milburn managed the circumstance as well as he could, but ultimately it was Chris Evertson who sensed the weakness and took the opportunity to steal second place from the young Milburn. The Speed Traveler BMW 328i was improving all weekend long and Evertson was rewarded with his highest finish in USTCC of second place. Sean Milburn was able to hold onto the final step of the podium and minimize the lost points from the mechanical issue.
The first round of the 2022 USTCC season at Thunderhill Raceway saw three out of four classes won by the Red Panther Motorsports team. Is this a sign to come that Red Panther Motorsports can claim their first Team championship in 2022? They have the momentum over their rivals into the second round of the USTCC season May 20-21 at Sonoma Raceway. Justin Crickenberger won the Plastex Top Rookie for his SP class victory as well.