DG-Spec Scion Team Wins WERC Season Opener in Dominating Fashion
DG-Spec Scion Team Wins WERC Season Opener in Dominating Fashion Great Teamwork Results in Win Almost Three Laps Ahead of Second Place
LONG BEACH, Calif -This past weekend at Buttonwillow Raceway Park, drivers Dan Gardner and Scott Webb with a crew of Sean Morris, David Fredrickson, Aidan Spraic, and Shawn Meze, again proved how dominant the team can be. The DG-Spec Scion tC E1 endurance racer crossed the finish line almost three laps in front of the second place BMW.
With 82 laps completed, the team also took seventh overall (in a field of 30), and would have podiumed in the higher, ultra-fast E0 class. The team was actually on the same lap as both the sixth and fifth place overall cars, an E0 and an unlimited ES competitor.
"Endurance racing requires that every member of the team be strong," said team owner and driver, Dan Gardner. "The crew performed fantastically. I am proud of how proficient we are in the pits. You could have drivers going three seconds a lap faster than the competition, but if you get hung up for several minutes in the pits, your lead can evaporate. Even with the decisive win, we're not going to get complacent; we know there will be tough competition at the 25-hour in December."
On Saturday morning the team would get to practice and qualify, but the session was combined, meaning there would be one precious 20-minute session before the race. Gardner managed to qualify the car on the pole with a 2:02.4 lap time, a whopping second and a half faster than the second place qualifier.
In testing, Gardner and Webb were just two tenths of a second apart, so the team was encouraged by the consistency. The crew was practicing deep into Saturday, as driver changes and fuel stops were timed on a stopwatch until targets were met.
"You have to practice like you compete," said crew chief, Sean Morris. "We practice until we have it down. If there's time that can be saved, we're going to find it. We'll continually look to make things better, faster, more efficient with every race."
The race ended up starting a bit after 6 p.m., with Gardner taking the first shift. As the cars came onto the front straight, the starter called off the start, and the cars circulated around one more time. Next time around the green flew. Gardner got a great jump, passing several cars as he dropped the hammer hard, and slipped through along the far inside of the track.
He trailed an orange, winged E0 BMW. After giving chase, a couple laps in Gardner would manage to get around the BMW going into Off-Ramp. He found himself situated in a pocket, and would open up a ten second lead just ten laps into the race.
On lap 15, the team warned of an oil spill in turn 1, as a Mustang had blown its engine. Gardner mistakenly thought the crew was referring to Sunset, and he crawled the Scion through the turn. As he charged into the next turn, the car instantly got sideways and Gardner immediately realized the huge mistake, as the car spun as the loaded tires hit the oil. With as much countersteer as he could manage, Gardner desperately tried to regain control as the Scion hurtled toward the disabled Mustang. The car pitched sideways, and by sheer luck the car would miss the Ford by just inches, coming to a stop in the dirt.
Gardner gathered it back up and onto the track, just as the second place E1 BMW zipped by. The track by then had gone to full course yellow, and Gardner chased the BMW around preparing for the restart that was eventually to come. Just a lap or two later, the starter went to green, before the Scion had even gotten onto the front straight.
Gardner hit the gas, and he pinned the Scion to the rear of the BMW. At this point the race would take on the feel of a sprint race battle, as the two cars battled. Eventually Gardner would get around the BMW, as he had a run coming out of Sunrise. With the Scion out in front, an ES Porsche would storm up the inside going into Cotton Corners. Gardner drove into the dirt and then back on track, and the BMW would take the lead back again.
From there it was down to traffic management, as the two cars sliced through slower cars. Sometimes the BMW would get the better roll of the dice, other times the Scion would come out ahead. The cars were nose to tail repeatedly.
The DG-Spec team was on schedule for a pitstop soon, as they wouldn't risk a second fuel starve bobble. Gardner let the BMW go as he slowed to enter the pits. As he came to a stop, he popped the belts, and jumped out of the car as soon as his radio was disconnected.
The crew was already deep into their fueling, as Webb jumped in. Moments later, the fuelers would finish, and just 10 seconds later, the driver change was complete, as Webb drove the Scion down pit lane, careful to heed the 25 mph speed limit. The team had no spills, no infractions, and it turns out the lead BMW would pit not long after the Scion.
Webb put his head down and again showed that both drivers were within a tenth or two, giving the team a solid edge over many teams whose drivers had significantly different pace. A couple laps in, the Scion had regained the lead, but there was a three-way battle between the Scion, BMW sedan, and BMW Z3, all in the E1 class.
Webb clicked off consistent laps, but as the track was enveloped in darkness, he found that two of the main driving lights were not functioning. With two still working plus the low beams, he had to rely on his knowledge of the course to keep things clean and on track.
"I tried to hit the switch a few times, but the main lights just wouldn't come back on," said Webb. "The two big lights that were working were aimed a bit too high, and the low beams were sort of just band aids. At that point there's nothing you can do except just adapt. Fortunately I have more miles here than just about anywhere."
Despite the BMWs in chase, Webb stayed out in front and began to pull away. As the Scion bobbled for fuel, the crew knew they'd have to do one more full fuel load to be on the safe side. The Scion came in, and the crew filled with great speed, though they took a tiny bit more caution to not incur any kind of penalty, as by this point the Scion was out considerably in front of the competition.
As many competitors' lap times started to get longer, Webb did a great job of keeping the Scion on boil. The tires were doing well, and weren't giving up much speed. By the time the BMWs had to do a second stop, the victory was all but guaranteed if the car remained bulletproof and Webb kept his composure.
Indeed, at the three-hour mark, and with 82 laps, Webb brought the Scion across the finish line. The 18 car again held true to its old faithful reputation. Though a bit dirty from an off, there was zero contact, as the Scion finished unscathed.
The team now prepared for the second and third round of the WERC series, a 1+2 hour race at Thunderhill Raceway in Northern California on May 15. Photos and video from the Buttonwillow event can be found on DG-Spec's Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/pages/DG-Spec/202937143062874.