Strong Scion One-Two Finish at Watkins Glen Catapults Team to Toronto Grand Prix
DG-Spec Team Tenaciously Overcomes Adversity as Stout and Gardner Podium Their tCs
TORRANCE, Calif. — Sometimes perseverance and a bit of just-in-time luck win the day at the racetrack. This past World Challenge round was no exception, as the team struggled with significant issues on both the number 18 and 36 DG-Spec Scion tCs. In the end, Stout would take the top step with Gardner right behind. It doesn't get any better than that for a two-car road race team.
For the second event in a row, the Touring Car group managed to put on the best show for fans, with the top three qualifiers just three tenths of a second apart. Indeed it was by that same paper-thin margin that the top three cars ran their fast lap in the race as well.
"It's frustrating to struggle with so many issues," said team owner, Dan Gardner. "If any of those issues had occurred again in the race, we'd have been sitting ducks. That didn't happen, but we came close to not finishing in one of the cars right at the last lap. And yet, we made it through that as well. We worked hard as heck, but you'd be a fool to not acknowledge the role that luck played as well."
Perhaps the team was motivated by a higher cause, as when their plane landed, they found out their good friend and fabricator, Richey Watanabe, had lost his battle with pancreatic cancer. With emotion swelling, Gardner promised friend Mike Kojima that the team would win for Richey. The Scions still proudly displayed decals for the man in whose honor they were created. Sadly, on this weekend the decals would be relegated to Richey's considerable memory.
During promoter test day, Robert Stout and Dan Gardner both felt like the cars had no oomph on the top end. That indeed proved to be the case, as the cars had to meet a new, lower RPM and boost limit for the first time this year. That threw some of the software off kilter, and affected the top end more than the team expected.
In the first test session, Gardner was cruising along nicely at about the halfway mark when smoke started to fill the cabin as the 36 car entered the esses. Gardner thought it may have been the oil line again, and he reached for the fire button just in case. He checked the oil pressure and it looked good, but the car would not really accelerate. A moment later, he switched the ignition off and then killed the master.
The crew would find a decimated, melted drive belt, and when they went to turn the blower over, it seemed seized. Indeed a catastrophic failure had occurred whereby the compressor wheel came in contact with the housing. When that happened, half the impeller blades got torn off and rammed violently into the intercooler.
Fortunately most of the large pieces were recovered from the intercooler, as they had not made their way into the motor. Still the motor had swallowed quite a good amount of aluminum dust. A quick check with TrueSpeed's borescope seemed to show positive signs.
Less than an hour remained before the cars would need to go on track again, and it wasn't looking like Gardner would make the much-needed session. With two minutes left to go in the session, Gardner heard Crew Chief, Brad Allen, bark into the radio, "Go out there for a lap and see if you can blow it up. We want to change the motor out tonight if it's toast!"
Gardner's lap proved uneventful, as the team breathed a sigh of relief. The cars were still dead at the top end, but that would be remedied by a change to the map during the evening. It was time consuming to go through all the possibilities, but the team felt they had the solution after talking to the good folks at AEM.
Indeed on the first practice on Friday, the top end seemed to be better. But the issues wouldn't be gone. Stout reported that something was happening to the power when he shifted into fifth coming out of the esses. The team tried various things, but nothing seemed to fix it. Gardner's 36 car, however, was plugging along, maintaining a good pace versus the other Touring Cars.
The second practice session and Qualifying proved troublesome for Stout, as he was still intermittently struggling with fifth gear power issues. Meanwhile, Gardner had put the 36 car just a few tenths off pole, securing a front row start for the Scion. Stout managed to qualify fourth, but he'd be in trouble if the team didn't come up with something fast.
After discussions with Toyota, TRD, AEM, Church Automotive Testing, and other big brains in the industry, the team decided to put the old map in the ECU. This map would have the higher rev limit. The plan was to reprogram the dash shift lights so that Stout wouldn't over-rev and be disqualified. That evening Gardner lobbied for a hardship lap on Saturday morning, but was told they wouldn't have an answer until that morning.
Fortune smiled upon the team, as their hardship lap was granted. Stout went out and reported that the car's power in fifth seemed just fine...but it didn't necessarily mean anything, as the problem had been coming and going all of Friday. Stout also reported that now the dash didn't seem to be working right.
Gardner reprogrammed the dash several times, and then re-input the tach pulse setting for the Scion's four cylinder engine. That seemed to cure the issue, but again, no explanation for the strange behavior.
As the race approached, the team crossed their fingers that both cars would be reliable. Time was up and it was time to go, go, go. When the lights extinguished on the starting box, Gardner bogged the car; he now had found the point where not enough revs would hurt the Scion. He held his position and even inched up on the first place Mazda RX-8. Stout had gotten around the third place Civic, so it was Mazda, Scion, Scion right on lap one.
On the way to the heel of the famous Watkins Glen boot, Stout gave Gardner a shove from behind to try to work together to get away from the pack. Gardner motioned for more, as he too had the same thought.
On the second lap, Gardner tried to get inside the RX-8 but the Mazda slowed significantly through the turn. As the two went through turn one together, Stout got by both of them cleanly. On lap four the Mazda would crash into the tire barrier coming out of the boot. It was now a one-two Scion lead, but the Honda of ETCC champion Lvov was up Gardner's back bumper.
Lap after lap the Honda tried to get around the Scion, but Gardner went defensive, slowing both of them down, but protecting his position. Stout was hitting his marks and was just in front of the pair. By lap 14, Gardner started to have some strange power cutout that seemed like fuel starvation. On the next lap the Honda would get by, as the 36 car was a sitting duck to a car running so close in lap times. Gardner repassed, but would starve over and over again. In the heel of the boot the two would touch more than one time, but it was just light contact.
On the final lap of the race Stout just needed not to make any mistakes, but at the same time Gardner was energetically trying to get back the position. It wasn't going to be easy with the car bogging and starving in several critical areas of the track. He knew he was faster than the Civic through the esses, and as the white flag flew, he started to push the Civic, nose to tail up the elevation climb. He had a good run and swung to the inside as the two cars approached the bus-stop.
With the two cars about even they went through the chicane together on opposite sides, using all the track and then some. The following turn is a fast sweeping fourth right-hander, and Gardner again had the inside. He walked the Civic out a bit, and then, in an instant, big contact. And again, more contact. The two drivers were duking it out on this last lap of the race, neither wanting to give an inch. Contact again as the two went into the grass by the guard rail at nearly 90 miles per hour.
When the cars came back on track and resettled, they both were seriously wounded. Gardner had the wheel almost a half turn down just to keep the car going straight as they went into the boot. It was a war, and the question now was whose car was more damaged.
In the end, it would be about even, but Gardner would edge the Civic out as both cars limped past the finish line. Ahead of them, Stout would take the 18 car to its third victory of the season, as the proud crew of Brad Allen, Sean Morris, David Fredrickson, and John McNulty cheered at the big finish for both cars.
"I had no idea if I'd have a repeat of the strange software gremlins during the race," said Stout. "This team just keeps going and going. We are the first ones at the track, and the last ones to leave. There isn't a stone they won't turn over to try to find a fix. I didn't know until I saw Dan's car how hard of a battle they had had, but I was super excited that we could get the one-two finish. It's exciting to win two in a row, especially when you struggle every session up until the race!"
The victory extends Stout's lead in the Driver's Championship. His 713 total points puts him a whopping 165 points ahead of second place. Gardner further accrued points for the 36 car in the team championship, putting the car squarely in second place. The team's performance nets Scion a total of 49 points, extending the brand's lead for the Manufacturers' title, ahead of second place VW and third place Mazda.
Standings and results can be viewed at http://www.world-challenge.com/index.php. The race will be broadcast on the Versus Network on Saturday, July 17 at 11:00 p.m. Eastern. Twenty-four hours later the program can be viewed online at www.world-challengetv.com. You can now tune into a short interview with DG-Spec driver Robert Stout at http://www.world-challengetv.com/2010/#/races/201.
The team now hustles for the Toronto Grand Prix which takes place this coming weekend. Saturday's race through the downtown streets of Toronto will begin at 4:20 p.m. Eastern. Live timing and scoring can be viewed at www.world-challenge.com.
The DG-Spec team uses and is supported by:
- Scion-supplied OE parts
- TRD-supplied supercharger and intercooler, front big brake kit
- Jackson-Dawson Communications
- Pilot Automotive HID driving lamps
- Nitto NT-01 tires for testing
- Enkei PF01 17x8 wheels
- OS Giken Super Lock Limited Slip Differential (LSD)
- Dezod-supplied AEM standalone engine management, plug-and-play harness, fuel rail, injectors, end links, and stainless clutch line
- Church Automotive Testing dyno tuning
- Moton Suspension remote reservoir coilover shocks
- Vogtland springs
- DG-Spec Progress Technology rear swaybar and camber kits
- Motul brake fluid, engine oil, transmission fluid, and super coolant
- Racepak IQ3 logger dash and VNET sensors
- AEM sensors, EMS, and dry flow air filter
- Kaminari carbon-fiber roof and composite headlights
- Reflections body work
- America's Tire Co. tire mounting and balancing
- Racetech Viper head-restraint race seat and 6-point harnesses
- Centerforce clutch and low-inertia steel flywheel
- AIT carbon-fiber hood and hatch
- DG-Spec Wild Pony Motorsports-supplied camber/caster plates
- Goodridge fittings and lines
- Carbotech XP10 and XP8 brake pads
- G-Force racing suit, gloves, helmet, window nets, and other safety and crew gear
- DC Sports header
- Energy Suspension bushings and motor mounts
- HoseTechniques silicone hoses
- Tri-Mountain Racewear team gear
- NST supercharger pulley, Braille batteries, and shifter bushings
- SquareSkull designs
- Sampson Racing Communications (SRC) radio systems
The World Challenge is North America's top production car-based racing championship. Divided into three separate classes (World Challenge Touring Car, World Challenge GTS, and World Challenge GT), races follow a sprint format and are 50 minutes start to finish. Each race features thrilling standing starts, adrenaline filled door-to-door action, and top-notch drivers. Drivers pilot cars from the world's most popular manufacturers, featuring race-prepped versions of the cars we drive on the streets! The World Challenge is sanctioned by SCCA Pro Racing and races at North America's premier road and temporary street courses.
DG Spec is a line of parts designed and endorsed by National Champion Scion road racer Dan Gardner. Gardner draws up the specifications for the parts himself. The parts are then tested and proven on the track. The goal of DG Spec is to provide enthusiasts with parts that have been developed on the track and that have significant performance advantages at an honest price. Parts are offered either in hardcore track trim, identical to what Gardner and his team race with, or in Gardner-specified standards more appropriate for enthusiast use on the street. www.DanGardnerSpec.com