Watkins Glen: APR Motorsport Lime Rock, Watkins Glen report
APR Motorsport Shines During Two Grueling Races in Two Weeks It is a yearly tradition in the Grand Am Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge for there to be two races, on two consecutive weekends. This stretch of the season tests everything in a ...
APR Motorsport Shines During Two Grueling Races in Two Weeks
It is a yearly tradition in the Grand Am Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge for there to be two races, on two consecutive weekends. This stretch of the season tests everything in a motorsports team, from the task of simply moving and prepping equipment, to the ability of the drivers and the engineers to adapt to new circuits quickly. These two weeks are perhaps the best indicator of teams that can truly contend for a championship, and those that are nothing but a quick flash in the pan. APR Motorsport proved last year that they could handle the grind and were determined to do the same this year as they set out for Lime Rock Park and Watkins Glen back to back.
Coming off their first podium of the year, the APR Motorsport VW DriverGear team moved on to the small but fast Lime Rock Park circuit. This event is a bit different than the previous events in that the Street Tuner class runs separately from their Grand Sport brethren. With that in mind, and coming off positive results last year, the team took to the track.
In the early practice sessions all three VW GTi's were solidly into the top ten which is not a surprise as the fast flowing curves at Lime Rock suit the APR Motorsport DriverGear GTi's perfectly. With the team within striking distance of the leaders after first practice, the crew concentrated on race setup during the second, which showed that the cars exhibited excellent pace and tire wear.
For the qualifying sessions, Aranha, Stadtlander and Stehley were in the driver's seat. Aranha was the first to strike with a lap time that put him into the top 10 immediately. Stehley and Stadtlander also got up to speed but were hampered by lap traffic, which always comes into play on the short 1.53 mile Lime Rock circuit. At the end of the session the 171 car of Jason Aranha was in 7th place, while Aaron Stehley in his pro racing debut slotted the 91 car in 20th and Kevin Stadtlander finished the session without a clear lap in the 30th position. With the field now set, the APR Motorsport crew began preparing the strategy for Saturday's race and made their final adjustments to the cars.
As race time arrived, dark clouds and showers rolled over the hills surrounding Lime Rock Park. While the track was still damp, it was not quite wet enough to run the Continental rain tires so Stadtlander, Aranha, and Stehley would have to contend with extremely treacherous conditions for the start of the race. Dry tires would struggle to build heat on the damp track. As the green flag dropped, Jason Aranha began an explosive charge through the pack, overtaking cars by going off the dry line and passing in the damp sections of the circuit. Aaron Stehley was also rapidly coming to grips with his new 91 APR Motorsport DriverGear MKVI GTi, as he began picking off spot after spot. At the same time Kevin Stadtlander began methodically working his way through the pack as the track dried and the tires came up to temperature.
Thirty five minutes into the 2.5 hour event, a full course caution brought the field under control of the pace car and Kevin brought the 181 car into pit lane for fuel and tires and to hand over to Josh Hurley.
The race resumed on a dry track and all three APR Motorsport GTi's rapidly began moving up the order. Jason Aranha took the lead with Aaron Stehley running right behind him. Later into the stint Stehley would take the lead, the first laps led in the first race of his professional debut, and the first ever for a MKVI GT. Sadly hard luck would bring a halt to Stehley's charge, as contact with another car earlier in the race caused the hood to become unlatched, flip open and smash the windshield. "Sometimes that's racing," commented Stehley, "but there's a lot of good to take from the weekend. I loved every minute of the event up until that point and I can't wait to get back in the car next week at Watkins Glen. After running amongst the leaders here, I know I can take the car to the front again at Watkins." As race time crossed the one hour mark, another full course yellow fell over the Street Tuner field. This yellow would see both the 171 of Jason Aranha and the 181 of Josh Hurley come into the pits for service. The 171 car would be in for tires and fuel and to hand over to Mike Halpin. Hurley was in for fuel only, having taken tires on an earlier stop.
The race resumed with both cars in the top 10. Mike Halpin's charge was slowed down when he was hit off the track by another competitor while battling for position. Despite this setback, Halpin was able to recover to bring home a 10th place finish. "We had a great car today and I'm proud of our results. The positions don't indicate quite how strong we were, but you could certainly see it in how well we handled the changing conditions. You'll see our pace again next week at Watkins Glen come rain or shine." said Halpin after the race.
At the same time Josh Hurley had advanced into 3rd and was giving chase to the leaders. However, the tires were showing signs of wear and Josh was unable to hold on to 3rd but brought home the car in a solid 4th place position. "What a race, the APR Motorsport VW DriverGear Gti was awesome, we just ran out of tires a little bit too soon. Next week we're going for the top step, I can feel it coming," said Josh after his 2nd top 4 finish in a row. Kevin Stadtlander also shared his thoughts on the Lime Rock weekend with us, "In the end, a very satisfying result, "After a 30th place qualifying spot there was never any stress, just focus and determination by me and the whole team. I have to extend a huge congratulations to the APR Motorsport crew and my co-driver Josh for a flat out effort and for keeping the championship within our sights."
With the team's second top 4 finish in a row, and with all three cars battling amongst the leaders during the race, it was time for the team to undergo preparations for the Continental Tire 150 at Watkins Glen the very next week. Without time to return to their Opelika, AL base, the APR Motorsport VW DriverGear team set up camp in Monticello Motorsports Park to prepare the cars on the road.
After a few short days of preparation, the time to go racing dawned and the team moved into the historic Watkins Glen International Raceway. The Watkins Glen facility holds a special place in the hearts of APR Motorsport as it was the site of both the team's first pole position and their first victory. The team rolled off the trailer hoping to repeat their previous successes at WGI.
At the start of the practice session, it became apparent that the APR Motorsport VW DriverGear team showed their previous pace at the facility with all three GTi's moving into the top ten during the test day. As the team continued the test day, a competitors' car dumped oil on the exit of a blind corner causing both the 181 of Josh Hurley and the 91 of Steven Gorriaran to go off into the barriers. The damage to the 181 was very slight and only cosmetic but the 91 car would not be so lucky. After the spin, another car came over the hill and struck the 91 car. The damage was severe enough that the car would be unable to race later in the weekend. Directory of Motorsport Jeff Mishtawy commented on the incident, "Steve was doing an incredible job and just got caught by bad luck. There was nothing he could do, but these things, sadly, are a part of motorsport. We just have to focus on 171 and 181 now and achieve the best results we can."
After ending the practice session in the top three, it was again time for the team to qualify. Taking the track in the 181 GTi was Kevin Stadtlander and Aaron Stehley in the 171 VW. Both rookies quickly got up to pace on the tricky Watkins Glen circuit, with both drivers turning in career best performances. Stadtlander put the 181 car 15th on the grid, while Aaron Stehley put the 171 car in 17th in only his second Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge start.
The green flag fell over the 70+ car field and the APR Motorsport drivers immediately got to work. During the first stint, Aaron Stehley showed his natural ability by setting some of the fastest laps during the session and rapidly moving up the order in only his second event ever in professional motorsports. Kevin also began to get to work but was given the tough task of managing climbing engine temperatures as he battled against the rest of the pack.
After 45 minutes of hard fought racing a full course caution slowed the field. Fueling during this caution could get both of the APR Motorsport DriverGear GTi's home, if the drivers saved fuel and caught a few more yellow flags during the rest of the event. The APR crew quickly analyzed the data and decided to bring both cars in for full service stops, which consist of two front tires, full tanks of fuel and driver changes.
By the time the car entered the pits, Aaron Stehley had brought the 171 up to 12th position and Kevin had brought the 181 car to the pits in 20th to work on reducing the engine temperatures so the car could be competitive in the second stint. The APR crew then worked their magic and were able to get the 181 car with Josh Hurley aboard out in 16th place and the 171 of Mike Halpin out just a few spots back.
The field went back to green and Josh Hurley and Mike Halpin were charged with the contradictory task of driving as quickly as possible and saving fuel at the same time. Using all the tools at their disposal both drivers moved up the pack in rapid order while monitoring their fuel mileage and engine temperatures.
By the time the next yellow flag slowed the field, the APR Motorsport drivers Hurley and Halpin had worked their way into 1st and 2nd place and had saved enough fuel to make it to the end of the race. The race would come down to a flat out sprint to the end! The green flag fell once again and both drivers began to spring from the field. At this point however, Mike Halpin began to suffer some power loss and began to slip back in the order. His luck was to get no better, as a few laps later Mike was to be punted off the circuit by another competitor but would recover to keep racing deeper down the field.
Meanwhile, Hurley was fighting to stay in the lead. Josh was able to hold off the advances of his competitors for a significant portion of the race and would go on to lead the most laps. With just 10 minutes to go in the event, Josh was under heavy assault. Going into a corner, the driver behind Josh suffered a sudden brake failure, which caused him to plow into the 181 APR Motorsport VW GTi. In a huge slide Josh struggled to regain control of the car and narrowly missed the barriers. He would rejoin the field in 4th position.
Just two corners later, Josh would overtake one competitor for the final podium spot just seconds before a full course caution fell upon the field and effectively ended the event. Mike Halpin also had a brilliant recovery drive to bring home the 171 car in the 15th position. The result marks the 3rd top 4 finish in a row for the 181 car. Driver Josh Hurley shares his thoughts on the past few weeks, "Looks like Lime Rock is really where we gain momentum. The team has handled this hectic turn around absolutely perfectly; I just wish we hadn't got caught up in someone else's problem as we had a great shot at the win. I'm just proud of the whole APR Motorsport VW DriverGear crew and am really happy to have been up front while carrying the ribbon for the Patty Boshell Pancreatic Cancer Foundation. We're all going to keep this momentum going into Mid Ohio."
Hurley's co driver Kevin Stadtlander gave us his feelings on the bittersweet 3rd place result, "I just had this feeling that this was it. I was walking around all weekend saying, 'we're gonna win.' So to position the #181 in P1 with Josh in the latter stages of the race just seemed like realizing our plan, perfect strategy call by Jeff and the usual quick pit stop by the APR crew. Unfortunately, that bump at the end cost me my first pro win and some valuable points in the championship and rookie standings. I know that's just racing and our podium result was still a very strong showing. However, I have that feeling again about Mid Ohio. We are in for the win!"
Rookie driver Aaron Stehley also spent a few moments with us after the race, "It was an incredible experience running with the APR team. Everything here is just done to such a high level and I couldn't ask for a better team to start my pro career with. While we didn't get the results we wanted these past two weeks, we were able to put down some really fast laps and work through a lot of traffic. I've really learned a lot and know the results will come the next time out," said Stehley after great performances in his first two outings.
"We just need a bit of good luck," said Mike Halpin driver of the 171 APR Motorsport GTi. "The performance has been there, we just keep getting caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. I hate it for the crew, especially after running one, two during the event. For both cars to get punted out of good positions is just plain tough. That said, the performance of the team and the cars has been excellent and we're knocking on victory's door. In Mid Ohio I'm confident we can bust down that door and take a victory," Halpin surmised.
After over two weeks on the road, the APR Motorsport VW DriverGear crew will return to the APR Performance Campus for just a few days as they prep the cars for the next round at Mid Ohio under two weeks away on June 19. APR Motorsport is vying for their first victory of the season at the twisty and technical Mid Ohio Sports Car course in 2 weeks.
-source: apr motorsport