The first race of the 2012 GRAND-AM Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge season is in the books. Yesterday, RSR Motorsports competed in the the BMW Performance 200 at Daytona with three MINIs and a Honda Civic Si.
The morning produced a misting rain as the final practice session took place. But by race time at 1:30pm, the rain had stopped and the sun began to push through the clouds to dry out the track. The drivers were given a few laps to check conditions before being placed on the grid. All of the RSR Motorsports entries started well back in the field but almost immediately worked their way up the standings. The first half of the race was mostly uneventful as the track dried, although there were many cars sliding through the start of the international horseshoe section of the Speedway.
Despite having power steering issues, the RSR Motorsports MINI No. 196 driven by Ron Farmer and then Jason Hart moved up as high as 11th. The No. 198 MINI got involved in a jam and got spun and knocked out of the race with serious front-end damage (see photos). Running a steady race were the No. 195 MINI driven by team owner Randy Smalley and Conway and the No. 197 Honda driven by Smalley and Owen Trinkler. The team’s best finish was by the No. 196 in 16th place. The ST class was won by the i-MOTO Mazdaspeed3 No. 31.
Final RSR results:
16. 196 Farmer / Hart MINI Cooper S 18. 197 Puskar / Smalley / Trinkler Honda Civic Si 20. 195 Conway / Smalley MINI Cooper S 35. 198 Fergus / Gimple MINI Cooper S
See all of the official final results on the GRAND-AM website.
We spoke to Randy Smalley and Ron Farmer after the race. RSR Motorsports always comes to Daytona with limited expectations due to the track characteristics which favor the higher-powered cars. Smalley said he just hopes the MINIs perform well and finish well. So despite having no cars in the top ten, he was pleased with the day. He didn’t seems too concerned with the condition of the No. 198 MINI. We asked if the addition of the Honda was an indication of things to come, but he bought the car as a last-minute fill-in to fulfill driver commitments. They don’t expect to keep it long. So expect to see the lineup change as the season continues.
Looking towards the future of MINI in GRAND-AM, we asked Smalley about their future plans with MINI. He wasn’t sure what next year with hold due to both MINI USA’s commitment (or lack thereof) and GRAND-AM’s rules on older vehicle models and engines. However, it appears private teams racing MINI Coopers could be competing in GRAND-AM’s new B-Spec series running a limited number of races this season.
[Photo credit: Lori Griffin]