ALTON, Va. (June 20, 2022) – RealTime Racing endured another challenging weekend of Fanatec GT World Challenge America powered by AWS. After surviving a hard-fought Saturday race at VIRginia International Raceway with a fifth-place finish, Sunday brought nothing but heartbreak.
Saturday – Qualifying
Practice laps on Thursday and Friday took place in brutal temperatures that exceeded 95F, but GT World Challenge America teams were given a small reprieve Saturday morning for qualifying.
Out first in the No. 43 Acura NSX GT3 Evo22 was Erin Vogel who qualified 13th for race one but was promoted to 12th when a competitor caused a red flag and lost his lap time.
Up next was Michael Cooper, who also qualified 12th for race two.
Saturday – Race
Vogel’s progress at the start was slow going courtesy of two full-course caution periods, the second of which forced her to take evasive action to avoid.
“At one point there was a big incident at the top of the Esses involving multiple cars, and so much dust was obscuring the track that it was difficult to discern where there might be a safe path,” Vogel said. “I ended up going off track to avoid a stopped car, and then lost a few positions to those behind me as they were able to pick a line through the debris when the dust began to clear. The restart proved to be chaotic as well and I was able to gain a few positions back.”
Vogel was up to eighth when an impatient competitor gave her a push into Turn One, causing her to spin into the grass. Vogel got right back on track but was knocked back to 10th. The driver who triggered the accident was given a drive-through penalty, promoting Vogel to ninth.
As that unfolded two other cars ahead of her hit trouble and when it was time to pit, Vogel was up to eighth.
“So much mayhem in today’s race, it was another stint mostly spent avoiding the chaos,” Vogel said. “There were multiple yellow flags, but also multiple incidents of cars coming together or going off in front of me, and unfortunately, I even got collected while working both offense and defense between two other cars. The team once again did an excellent job with the pit stop, and we gained a few more positions as Michael reentered the race.”
Another flawless stop from the RealTime crew got Cooper back out in seventh, but he had a couple of fast cars behind him, who were trying to make up for earlier mistakes.
“It was an exciting stint for me,” Cooper said. “It was a shame Erin got spun by the BMW which put us even further back. We came out of the pits with that same car and had a good dice for the first half of the stint, but we struggled with tire wear and ultimately slipped back.”
The pair eventually got around Cooper, but shortly thereafter became embroiled in their own battle that ended with one in the grass and another in pit lane with a drive-through penalty. That combined with another competitor not getting enough fuel in their pitstop put Cooper all the way to sixth.
In the closing minutes, Cooper was able to hunt down the No. 12 Aston Martin Vantage and make a pass for fifth.
“I knew it was going to be tight getting to the Aston before the checkered flag,” Cooper said. “We caught him just before the last lap and I was able to get by in Oak Tree to take P5.”
Sunday – Race
The team was ready to build off of Saturday’s positive momentum as Cooper took the green flag for Race Two on Sunday.
He was battling with the No. 88 Lamborghini Huracan right from the green flag, but it wasn’t long before a full-course yellow slowed the action.
When racing resumed, so did the fight, but unbeknownst to Cooper, he was losing brake fluid via a bad caliper fitting on his right rear wheel.
Suddenly, in Turn 14, Cooper lost all braking power, slammed into the Lamborghini and careened off track and into the tire barrier. RealTime’s race was done after only eight laps.
“The rear brakes failed going into Turns 13/14 at the end of the back straight,” Cooper explained. “I was lucky to have some braking but not nearly enough to keep the car on the track. I’m a little sore but ok, so thank you to Acura for building a strong and safe race car.”
The RealTime team has five weeks to repair the No. 43 before the next two rounds of GT World Challenge America, July 22 – 24 at Watkins Glen International in upstate New York.