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Hartanto Stuns In Surprise Victory at USTCC Season Opener

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Prima Racing kicked off its 2017 season of racing with a new car, but a familiar face. Its newest Honda S2000 was still undergoing small, last-minute additions up until the race weekend. The team entered the car as a late addition to the US Touring Car Championship’s talented TC Class field for the season opener, hosted by Speed SF Track Events at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

“A few weeks ago, the car was on jack stands, suspension being rebuilt, issues were being chased and a battle plan was being drawn up. We were thrilled to even make the race,” driver and Principal, Andrie Hartanto commented.

The team was all smiles after earning a hard-fought win

The Prima Racing team was all smiles after earning a hard-fought win

The team assembled for the weekend after a successful test at Speed SF Track Events’ prior event, held at Sonoma Raceway. With dynamic wet/dry track conditions, the new S2000’s level of performance was somewhat unclear. “The car felt good in most areas, but we were lacking in a few. With standing water in multiple places for most of the weekend, we were able to get a feel for the new Hankook C52 F200 tires, but couldn’t benchmark our performance as clearly as we would have liked,” Hartanto said, elaborating on the test.

When the Prima Racing team arrived at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, there were a number of uncertainties, one of which being the ominous reports of rain during the race. Rain aside, the team was well aware that the car was under-powered and overweight. While a large focus of attention had been paid to meticulously managing the build of the shocks, the team’s new Honda S2000 failed to boast a strong power to weight ratio.

Andrie Hartanto and Speed SF's Joe Chang enjoying some downtime

Andrie Hartanto and Speed SF’s Joe Chang enjoying some downtime

“On the plus side, everything engine and transmission-wise is completely stock, even the ECU, so it’s easy to manage and there’s room to improve, if we need to. The car felt good, but I’m concerned about guys like Patrick (Chio; Speed SF Racing), Michael (Shawhan; BTM Motorwerks) and Gary (Sheehan; GoGoGear) since we knew they have a bit more power than us,” Hartanto admitted.

Hartanto at the starter's stand for the S2000's first qualifying session

Hartanto at the starter’s stand for the S2000’s first qualifying session

Qualifying was tight; Hartanto put in a string of consistent 1:40 laps in the first qualifying session. The gap between Hartanto and the nearest competition was wide enough that the team appeared to be a lock to earn pole position in its first outing.

Prima Racing member James Tam inspects the tires and brakes before Saturday's quali session

Prima Racing member James Tam inspects the tires and brakes before Saturday’s quali session

In Sunday’s qualifying session however, Hartanto opted to save tires. In the dying moments of the session, the Nissan 350Z of Patrick Chio put in a blisteringly fast lap, challenging Hartanto’s pole lap from the previous day, but falling short by two tenths of a second.

“Consistency in the race is going to be critical. Even if I’m on Patrick’s bumper at Turn 11 (the last turn at Laguna Seca), by the end of the straight, he’ll have pulled at least four car lengths away from me. I need to make sure that I don’t make any mistakes,” remarked Hartanto.

Just as soon as the lack of power became a concern, the talk quickly shifted to the weather forecast; rain was on the way. When would it start? When would it end? How intense would the rain be? All of the teams began checking their cell phones’ weather apps and anyone’s guess seemed to be fair game.

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Ominous-looking weather appeared destined to alter everyone’s race strategy

Fortunately, due to some heads-up thinking earlier in the week by Hartanto, rain tires were on-hand. This was a crucial move executed in spite of the fact that at the time, the car was still undergoing work and its participation in the race was not guaranteed.

With rain tires on and the S2000 off of the QuickJack, Lee-Anne Ostby directs Hartanto out to the grid

With rain tires on and the S2000 off of the QuickJack, Lee-Anne Ostby directs Hartanto out to the grid

Shortly after the decision was made to run rain tires, the decisionmaking was reinforced as the skies opened up immediately before the start of the race.  Even with the rainy conditions, the race still featured a standing start. This gave Hartanto and the team some pause.

“I can boast about a lot of things that I can do really well,” Hartanto chuckled, “but everyone knows that standing starts are definitely not on the list!”

When the green flag dropped, Hartanto perfectly executed the uphill, wet start, pulling away from Patrick Chio’s 350Z, but was trailed closely by the BTM Motorwerks BMW of Michael Shawhan. Shortly thereafter, Shawhan was able to overtake Hartanto on Lap 5, heading up the hill after Laguna’s Turn 5.

While Hartanto made numerous attempts to retake the lead, his opportunity finally came after Turn 11 at the end of Lap 12. The lead was short-lived as Shawhan regained the lead after holding the outside line after Turn 2. Hartanto followed closely behind, biding his time to make his move.

On Lap 16, Hartanto seized a pivotal opportunity, passing Shawhan in between Turn 6 and the Corkscrew as they encountered lapped traffic. Following the pass, Hartanto ensured that he never forfeited the lead again, thus ensuring that Prima Racing’s maiden voyage with their new S2000 would result in victory.

“What a hard-fought race! Michael (Shawhan) forced me to give it everything I had. It was one of the best battles I’ve had in a long time,” Hartanto exclaimed.  “I really enjoyed this one. It was one of the best races I’ve ever had! The wet conditions required us to push hard the entire time. With the changing conditions, each corner was different than the previous one, requiring us to lay everything out, while making sure we kept everything in one piece.”


Hartanto and Prima Racing standing on the top step of the TC Class podium in their first race with their new Honda S2000

With the team’s first victory of the season, Prima Racing has the USTCC TC Class championship points lead. Maintaining the lead may prove to be a challenge, as the team’s next USTCC race is at Auto Club Speedway; a high-speed roval course, where new driver Michael Ostby, will be taking over the racing duties as part of Prima Racing’s Driver Development Program.

“We’ve seen that the car is competitive, but there’s definitely some room for improvement. Auto Club Speedway is a fast track that requires a lot of power and a good setup. We will be making some improvements to the car so that hopefully we’re a little bit closer to the limits of the rules and we can maintain a level of competitiveness all season long,” Hartanto explained.

Prima Racing would like to thank its sponsors for the 2017 season; Supertech Performance,QuickJack Portable Jacks, Rota Wheels, and G-LOC Brakes.