SALINAS, Calif.-The challenge of endurance racing is that no matter how fast you are on the first lap, everything can still go wrong on the last lap. RSR Motorsports was reminded of that during Saturday's GRAND-AM Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge race at Laguna Seca, but the team still brought home a top-ten finish.
Chris Knox and Randall Smalley drove the No. 198 Cruise America/Thor Motor Coach MINI Cooper S to a finish of ninth despite battling handling issues all weekend. Smalley started the race, then turned it over to 2011 British MINI Challenge champion Knox for the final stint.
"I told Chris the car was tough to drive and to stay out of trouble, and that's exactly what he did. Chris drove a great race, staying on the lead lap and maintaining good times even with a difficult car," says Smalley. "We're very happy with the top-ten finish. We'll go on to Lime Rock together for the R53 swan song."
Ron Farmer and Jason Hart were also poised for a top-ten finish in the No. 196 US LED Honda Civic Si. Hart was running in sixth with two laps to go when disaster struck. Another car oiled the track, and Hart couldn't avoid it. He managed to continue the race but had to be content with 12th.
"The Honda was a really strong performer at Laguna, and I was excited about the race after how well it did in practice," Hart says. "RSR did a great job with pit strategy, and I got up to the front of the pack. We still had a good day even though we couldn't get a result that matched our potential."
Likewise, the No. 197 RSR Motorsports Honda Civic Si of Corey Fergus and Owen Trinkler was a top-ten competitor. Fergus had a strong qualifying run, setting the third-quickest time in the Street Tuner class, and Trinkler led the race during his stint. Just before the white flag came out, though, a broken axle ended their hopes of another victory.
"It felt good being up front, and it could have been a really good day, but this happens," Trinkler says. "We have to move on. Corey had a great qualifying and stayed right up front during his stint."
Mark Congleton and Chris Puskar finished 23rd in the No. 195 RSR Motorsports MINI Cooper S after a hit from another car forced them to pit for a new tire.
MINI Cooper owners were in abundance throughout the weekend, cheering on RSR Motorsports and showing off their cars in a special MINI car corral. Over 100 MINIs showed up, and the fans got to visit RSR Motorsports to meet the team and get an up-close view of their race-spec MINIs.