At 1.6 miles the current Pittsburgh International Race Complex circuit might be the second smallest on the NARRA calendar, but it produced the biggest battles of the season during the Arrow Racing Engines Grand Prix of Pittsburgh, August 1-3.
Even with rain falling both days, the middle round of the North Cup saw some of the smallest margins of victory, lap records fall in two classes and outstanding performances including Chris Wirth’s two wins over Joe Ascoli and McGinnis’s challenge on Brian Faessler for the Sunday’s TTU win.
It was tight at the top of the timesheets from the get-go. Whelen USTTC standout Brian Faessler (Paul’s Automotive Ford Mustang GT) immediately set the outright benchmark, resetting the TTU record to 58.542. Victor Caldarelli was also impressive in session one. Running his Lintz Collision Viper GTS in TT2 trim he was just over a second behind, and at 59.933, the only other to crack the minute mark. Better still Caldarelli was faster than TT2 top dog Daniel Raver (Agile Automotive Subaru STi, 1:00.069) albeit by just two tenths.
The competition between Caldarelli and Raver came at no surprize. Now typically running in TT1, Caldarelli was determined to defend his 2013 TT2 class lap record of 59.735. Raver was desperate for wins to keep his championship hopes alive.
While Caldarelli got within a few hundreds of his record on his way to claiming the TT2 victory during session two, lady luck left Raver’s side as she has so many times this season. He managed a 1:00.241 before a mechanical issue put an end to his day. Joe Moholland wasn’t far from the front either, setting a 1:00.858 to take third. Fellow Chevrolet Corvette driver Greg Donnan finished fourth.
This was nothing, however, compared to the tussle between the two Mitsubishis in the field, driven by Joe Ascoli (Kaizen Tuning) and Chris Wirth (Street Tuned Motorsport). With each pursuing wins in the North Cup as well as the National Championship, Pittsburgh was a critical event. It was also a tire war with Wirth on Pirellis, and Ascoli without.
Both drivers immediately went below Ascoli’s 1:01.220 lap record from last year. Ascoli recorded a 1:00.738, with Wirth just two tenths behind at 1:00.979.
The pressure was apparent before the second session and it was Ascoli who cracked. He made an error on his first run while Wirth went to the front by less than three hundreds of a second with a 1:00.709. After hearing about his plight from the commentary, Ascoli reset his tire pressures and rolled out of pitlane once more, but again struggled to put a perfect lap together.
So it came down to the third, and what would be the final session of the day with rain falling shortly after. Ascoli all but matched his session one best with a 1:00.788, but Wirth went one better. Finding another tenth he took the TT3 lap record and the round win away from Ascoli with a 1:00:610. Lotus of Pittsburgh driver, and TT3 South Cup title winner, John Walczak (Corning Data) finished third, with Travis LeMaire (Subaru STi) capturing fourth by the smallest of margins over Nicholas Coutu (Porsche Cayman).
By the end of the day Faessler had also managed to well and truly decimate David Santillo’s previous TTU lap record of 58.942 and is own from the morning, setting a 56.779 to take the class win from Mike McGinnis. Allen Stieg (Viper ACR) won TT1 convincingly over David Meyer (SRT Viper), who was the lucky recipient of the AiM SOLO door prize valued at $400.
Weather meant Sunday was essentially divided in two. Rain in the morning, and a forecast for more in the afternoon, meant most competitors banked times on the wet track, before having to do it all again in the dry.
The biggest surprise was Innovative Tuning’s McGinnis (Subaru Impreza). He recorded the outright fastest time in the rain. Then when the sunshine appeared for the afternoon runs he continued to wow by well and truly taking the challenge to Faessler. In the third session McGinnis put in a blistering lap of 56.931 to momentarily seal victory before Faessler responded a lap later with a 56.910 to take the TTU win by less than two hundreds of a second. It was Faessler’s ninth round win of the season.
Nevertheless McGinnis’s performance, which came after a number of weekend struggles including swapping out a transmission, caught the eye of NARRA officials who awarded him the $200 Bad Boyzz Garage Hard Charger Award.
Amazingly it was also just hundreds of a second that separated the win in TT3, as the titanic battle for supremacy raged between Ascoli and Wirth.
Initially it looked as though Ascoli would even the score. In the wet conditions, he was substantially quicker, however that all changed once the circuit dried out. Trading times in the third session Wirth ended just three tenths shy of Ascoli’s 1:00.892. However Ascoli had bigger issues. A possible turbo failure ended his session in smoke, and kept him out of the final session.
That left all the pressure to perform on Wirth, who also had to deal with less than optimal conditions thanks to soaring track temperatures. Soaking up the situation, he won by the smallest of margins yet again, recording a 1:00.825. Travis LeMaire also used the final session to great effect and was unlucky not to leapfrog Nicholas Coutu for third.
While his car was still less than perfect on Sunday Dan Raver had a slightly easier time in TT2, with Victor Caldarelli moving back into TT1. However Raver, 1:05.132, still had to watch for Greg Donnan, who placed a solid second over Joe Moholland.
As for Caldarelli, he had a great battle with Allen Stieg. Recording a 1:00.898, Caldarelli had Stieg’s match until the final session, but Stieg found over a second to steal the win away from Caldarelli with a 1:00.780. Claiming third in TT1 was none other than NARRA General Manager Aaron Hmel.
The next time the Whelen USTTC competitors return to Pittsburgh, the circuit will have doubled in length thanks to the extensive renovations being undertaken by owners Jim and Kathy Stout.
[inpost_gallery thumb_width=”200″ thumb_height=”200″ post_id=”89547″ thumb_margin_left=”0″ thumb_margin_bottom=”0″ thumb_border_radius=”2″ thumb_shadow=”0 1px 4px rgba(0, 0, 0, 0.2)” js_play_delay=”3000″ id=”” random=”0″ group=”0″ border=”” type=”yoxview” show_in_popup=”0″ album_cover=”” album_cover_width=”200″ album_cover_height=”200″ popup_width=”800″ popup_max_height=”600″ popup_title=”Gallery” sc_id=”sc1407441990510″]