The Daytona racing season began yesterday with the Fresh from Florida 200, the initial race of the 2010 GRAND-AM Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge (formerly the KONI Challenge). RSR Motorsports, along with Automatic Racing, are very optimistic about the coming season. They have prepared three MINIs, two of which were entered into the race yesterday. Team owner Randy Smalley paired up with returning driver Owen Trinkler in the 196 MINI Cooper S. New drivers to RSR Motorsports Sarah Cattaneo and VJ Mirzayan teamed up in the 197 MINI Cooper S which started the race in the top five positions.
On an overcast but warm afternoon, the race began with a few caution flags but had few major incidents. The two MINIs began strong with both moving up in the pack. Sarah took the 197 MINI all the way to second place before giving up some of those spots midway through the race. Randy was driving well but a few laps before he was to hand the driving to Owen, the 196 MINI developed electrical problems and left the race.
After an excellent first track outing in a MINI for Sarah, it was time for VJ to take the wheel. He also raced well, taking the 197 MINI back into third place and posting the fastest lap of the day in ST class. It looked like a possible podium finish for MINI. However, with about ten laps remaining, the 197 MINI suffered the same electrical problems which caused the MINI to lose power and go into “limp mode”. The racing day was over for RSR Motorsports.
I caught up with the ever-friendly Randy Smalley in the garage area following the race. He was obviously disappointed at the problems with the MINIs, but was also very satisfied with the performance of the cars and the preparation done by Automatic Racing. Several other drivers expressed how impressed they were by the MINIs and worried how strong the MINIs will be in future races on a tighter racetrack. Randy and the team are quite hopeful for the rest of the season and the Library of Motoring will be following their progress.