DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.—The word “challenging” was heard often in the RSR Motorsports camp as the MINI Cooper S team prepared for the season opener at Daytona International Speedway. Never ones to back down, the team rose to the challenge by earning sixth and seventh in the ST class of Friday’s GRAND-AM Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge race.
Carrying all-new graphics and sponsorship from Cruise America, Thor Motor Coach and US LED, the RSR Motorsports MINI Cooper S entries proved that small can still be mighty, even on the high banks of Daytona.
“Our cars were two seconds off the fastest ST car’s pace,” notes team owner Randall Smalley. “That’s a reflection of the high banks, and Daytona is the toughest track for us all season. Thanks to a great race strategy and flawless pit stops, we were competitive the whole race. I’m thrilled.”
Owen Trinkler and Sarah Cattaneo earned the sixth-place finish in the No. 198 RSR Motorsports MINI Cooper S. They were a formidable duo during last year’s season finale at Miller Motorsports Park, but even they were surprised with their finish.
“I didn’t expect to do so well; we had just been hoping for a top ten,” says Cattaneo. “We’re looking forward to Homestead in March. I had the pole there last year, so coupled with our sixth at Daytona, it’s a real confidence booster.”
“It felt good to finish,” enthused Trinkler, whose past four appearances at Daytona have ended in retirement. “We got valuable points and got what we needed to get this season started right.”
Trinkler also competed in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, co-driving the No. 63 Team Spencer Mazda RX-8 with Jim Downing, David Murry, Dennis Spencer and Rich Grupp. Despite some early setbacks, the team crossed the finish line 18th in the GT class.
Ron Farmer and Jason Hart made an impressive RSR Motorsports debut, finishing Friday’s 2.5-hour race with the seventh spot in ST. Farmer qualified the No. 196 RSR Motorsports US LED MINI Cooper S and drove the first stint.
“We certainly didn’t have the goal of a top-ten finish, being at Daytona in a MINI, and facing a lot of firsts. It was my first qualifying and our first race in the car,” says Farmer. “To qualify sixth and finish seventh felt great.”
“This gives us a big boost. We’re still rookies, and we know we still have a lot to learn, but this has raised our expectations,” says Hart. “Ron had an outstanding qualifying, using the draft to his advantage, and the crew had flawless pit stops during the race.”
After a solid start for Chris Sarian in the No. 195 RSR Motorsports MINI Cooper S, he and co-driver VJ Mirzayan had to retire with an alternator problem at the halfway point of the race.