ELKHART LAKE, Wis. (August 22, 2022) – RealTime Racing’s (RTR) home track wasn’t the kindest to the local team. An incident in Saturday’s race prevented them from capitalizing on a strong qualifying performance, but the group bounced back for a fifth-place finish on Sunday.
Just 30 minutes from RTR’s home base in Saukville, Wisconsin, is Road America: a legendary four-mile road course popular across the motorsports world. To celebrate the arrival of the Fanatec GT World Challenge powered by AWS, a welcome party was held Thursday evening in nearby Elkhart Lake with all the cars on display.
RTR used the opportunity to let fans sign the hood of the No. 43 Acura NSX GT3 Evo22. The car carried these signatures through the entire race weekend.
Saturday – Qualifying
After a full day of dry running in Friday’s practice sessions, mother nature decided to start Saturday with rain. This mean wet tires went on the car for qualifying in the morning.
Erin Vogel was able to put the car fifth on the grid for Race 1, while Michael Cooper’s qualifying attempt put him seventh on the grid for Sunday’s race.
Though the skies remained ominous the rest of the day, there was no more rain to be had.
Saturday – Race 1
Saturday’s race started with a bang, and not in a good way. A car spun in Turn Three causing the field ahead of Vogel to take evasive maneuvers. Vogel thought she had found an escape route, but another car blocked it at the last minute.
“Coming into Turn Three something happened ahead of me and then the field starting splitting like the red sea,” Vogel said. “I saw the 6, but I was already on the edge of the track, so there was no place to go but in the grass, because there were cars in the way everywhere. I was just about to congratulate myself that I’d gotten out of the way when something hit me on the side.”
Vogel was able to continue as a full-course caution was issued. When she reached pit lane, the crew went to work. They were able to mitigate the carbon fiber damage but discovered the left rear of the car had been knocked out of alignment, something that could not be fixed on pit lane. The drivers would have to do their best with a wounded car. Working in RTR’s favor was the lengthy caution period, so Vogel did not lose a lap despite two pit stops for repairs.
Now at the back of the pack, Vogel was able to pick up a couple positions when green-flag racing resumed. By the time the pit window opened, she was back into fifth.
“We weren’t sure if we would be able to continue, but I was able to bring it in and the RealTime crew was able to patch it back together pretty well,” Vogel said. “We definitely had some issues, just between missing bodywork and damage. It wasn’t the ideal race car at that point, but we did what we could with it. I was able to pick up a couple of positions and the team did another great pit stop. It was just about holding on after that and finishing the race.”
It was a flawless pit stop from the RealTime crew and when Cooper took the car back out on track he was fourth.
With a damaged car, Cooper was unable to keep up with the pace of the top five. By the race’s end he was sixth, but happy to have brought the car to the finish.
“The car definitely wasn’t 100 percent after the incident, which was unfortunate,” Cooper said. “We had a killer pit stop and jumped a couple people, but I was really just hanging on for my whole stint. We had real concerns that we wouldn’t be able to finish, so it was good just to finish really.”
The race may have ended, but it was time for the crew to get to work repairing the car for Sunday’s race. Come Sunday morning the car looked brand new save for the finishing touches of vinyl.
Sunday – Race 2
Sunday’s race was far less eventful.
Cooper started from sixth on the grid. When the green flag waved the row next to him got a better jump and he initially dropped a spot to seventh behind a Ferrari. Cooper stayed glued to the Ferrari’s bumper and was eventually able to reclaim the spot.
“The start was a little hectic as it can be in GT3 racing,” Cooper said. “The Ferrari was really quick today, but we ultimately got by and then I was able to pull away from the Aston. We had a great pit stop and I handed the car over to Erin. She did an incredible job running strong lap times the whole stint. We just had to take P5 in class today.”
The RealTime crew put together another flawless stop as Cooper traded places with Vogel.
Upon returning to the track, Vogel was on her own without a car in front of her or in her mirrors. She used the clear track to put in a number of quick lap times.
At the checkered flag RealTime picked up one spot from where they started, finishing fifth.
“The car felt really good and I was happy with it from the start,” Vogel said. “The RealTime guys and gals did a great job on the pit stop and we gained a couple of positions in the pits like we typically do, which is always really cool. I’m thankful they are so good at what they do, because it makes my job a lot easier. I started to catch sight of some cars right at the end there and I got one pass in and ended up P5 in class. This time I don’t feel like we finished in the top five because other people had a bad day, so it felt good to really earn it. I’m super happy for the team.”
Both races are available to watch anytime on the GT World by SRO You Tube Channel.
The next two rounds of GT World Challenge America take place at Sebring International Raceway in Florida, September 23 – 25.