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USTCC Round 4 at Thunderhill – Despite Challenges, Prima Racing Emerges Victorious

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Prima Racing entered the fourth round of the US Touring Car Championship trailing the top points position by a mere five points. Held at Thunderhill Raceway, the team felt that their Honda S2000 could perform well against other competitors in the Touring Car class in spite of their lack of horsepower.

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Prima Racing’s Honda S2000 remained near the top of the time sheets all weekend, yet the team still endured setbacks, proving that a victory was nowhere near certain

Driver Michael Ostby was behind the wheel for Saturday’s events. The goal was to get Ostby valuable laps on the Hankook F200 C52 slicks. The morning warmup devolved into a chaotic session rife with yellow flags. While Ostby ran the fastest in TC for the session, the times failed to register with timing and scoring. Far worse, the team was hit with a major setback due to a yellow flag infraction. Facing a rookie license suspension and further ramifications for the team’s overall weekend, Ostby’s in-car video served to reduce the severity of the penalty, however it was determined that the team would suffer a starting grid place penalty for the race. Between appealing the suspension and working with timing & scoring, the team had their hands full in between morning sessions.

Ostby made it through both chaotic Saturday sessions, but not without incident; Ostby's yellow flag infraction earned the team a grid spot post-qualifying

Ostby made it through both chaotic Saturday sessions, but not without incident; Ostby’s yellow flag infraction earned the team a grid spot post-qualifying

During qualifying, Ostby redeemed himself by earning Prima Racing the provisional pole position in qualifying.

“Quali was just as chaotic as the warm-up. I don’t believe we had a single lap without a standing or waving yellow from Turns 11-15. I’m happy we’ve got the pole, but chances are that everyone will go faster tomorrow, and we still have the grid penalty to serve tomorrow,” Ostby lamented.

Ostby successfully placed Prima Racing's S2000 at the top of the qualifying timesheets, but with muted lap times due to series of yellow flags, it was a foregone conclusion that qualifying times on Sunday would be faster

Ostby successfully placed Prima Racing’s S2000 at the top of the qualifying timesheets, but with muted lap times due to series of yellow flags, it was a foregone conclusion that qualifying times on Sunday would be faster

By Sunday, the competition had picked up the pace. Ostby clocked the TC Class’ third fastest time of the session before turning the car over to teammate, Andrie Hartanto for the second qualifying session.

Crew Chief James and Lee-Anne Ostby discuss preparations for the day on Sunday

Crew Chief James and Lee-Anne Ostby discuss preparations for the day on Sunday

Hartanto wasted no time in turning fast laps, despite being in the car for the first time all weekend. For much of qualifying, Hartanto sat atop the timesheets, but was ultimately out-qualified by Speed SF’s Patrick Chio in his Nissan 350Z in the final minutes of qualifying.

During Sunday's qualifying session, Andrie Hartanto took over and got down to business

During Sunday’s qualifying session, Andrie Hartanto took over and got down to business

Hartanto pushed hard in quali, but couldn't manage to out-do Speed SF's Patrick Chio and qualified 2nd at 0.76 seconds behind

Hartanto pushed hard in quali, but couldn’t manage to out-do Speed SF’s Patrick Chio and qualified 2nd at 0.76 seconds behind

Team members Lee-Anne Ostby and James Tam observe qualifying from atop Thunderhill's tower

Team members Lee-Anne Ostby and James Tam observe qualifying from atop Thunderhill’s tower

Following qualifying, Hartanto and the team prepared for the race. Hartanto and the team were in good spirits, despite qualifying off the pole.

Hartanto is strapped in and prepared for the race. While he didn't log in the fastest qualifying time, he could confidently lean heavily on his experience and expert racecraft

Hartanto is strapped in and prepared for the race. While he didn’t log in the fastest qualifying time, he could confidently lean heavily on his experience and expert racecraft

The USTCC grid shapes up nicely before the race

The USTCC grid shapes up nicely before the race

As a result of the grid spot penalty from Saturday, this meant that team would start from 3rd on the grid. Hartanto’s standing start was perfect, thus allowing him to get the jump on the cars in front. Unfortunately, an elusive third gear saw Hartanto lose four positions in the overall running order. Following an eventful start and into Turn 1, the action ahead was heating up with drivers jostling for position. Hartanto pushed hard to advance the S2000 through the field, but was forced to proceed with caution in order to avoid multiple contact situations.

Following an intense and eventful opening lap, Hartanto worked his way around traffic and began to work up a large, commanding lead

Following an intense and eventful opening lap, Hartanto worked his way around traffic and began to work up a large, commanding lead

“Things got heated very quickly. I love being in the mix, but at the same time I tried to dial it back to preserve the car. Even though we had a shorter race duration, I knew that consistency would be the key to winning the race,” Hartanto reflected.

By keeping a cool head, Hartanto avoided a collision immediately in front of him between the BMW of BTM Motorwerke’s Roger Eagleton and the 350Z of pole-sitter, Speed SF’s Patrick Chio. This paved the way for the Hyundai Genesis of GoGoGear’s Gary Sheehan to pull out a greater lead in the TC class. With the commotion clear in front, Hartanto pushed hard and by Turn 8, he began to reel the Genesis in. At the end of the opening lap, Hartanto executed a bold pass on the outside of Turn 1 for the lead, regaining all of the positions lost and then some.

Hartanto's substantial lead led many to believe that he would easily walk away with the win

Hartanto’s substantial lead led many to believe that he would easily walk away with the win

From there, Hartanto and his S2000 pulled out over a 14-second gap during the race. Similar to the previous race at Sonoma, the victory appeared to be all but certain, however the S2000 once again begin to have power issues, similar to the challenges that the team encountered during the endurance race.

“In the past, simply hitting the kill switch and then restarting the car would alleviate the problem, but it kept occurring more frequently until the car began to crawl no matter what,” Hartanto explained. “Of course, it had to happen on the last lap.”

On the final lap, the car's engine shut down. Hartanto limped across the line but not before being overtaken by the BTM Motorwerks BMW driven by Roger Eagleton

On the final lap, the car’s engine shut down. Hartanto limped across the line but not before being overtaken by the BTM Motorwerks BMW driven by Roger Eagleton

With only six corners remaining, Hartanto was overtaken. Fortunately, the S2000 was able to coast across the finish line before the rest of the pack was able to catch up.

However, after a very brief, yet decisive video review from the race directors, the 1st place finisher was relegated to last place because of infractions, thereby putting Prima Racing in 1st place for the win.

The team relishes in their hard-earned victory, making it the second win for the team this season in USTCC

The team relishes in their hard-earned victory, making it the second win for the team this season in USTCC

As successful as Hartanto was at successfully avoiding a major incident during the race, he couldn't dodge the champagne at the podium

As successful as Hartanto was at successfully avoiding a major incident during the race, he couldn’t dodge the champagne at the podium

“This victory is critical for us. We were trailing in the points and this win is a massive lift for the team. I’m happy we didn’t let up after we obtained the lead and we were fortunate enough to get the car across the finish line. ” Hartanto remarked.

Hartanto is ambushed by Speed SF's Patrick Chio with champagne during the podium ceremony

Hartanto is ambushed by Speed SF’s Patrick Chio with champagne during the podium ceremony

The victory vaults Prima Racing atop the points once again and widens the margin to the nearest competitors. Following the race, Hartanto isolated the issue and after a day of testing with Ostby logging over 100 laps during the test, the team appears to be cautiously optimistic that the troubles are behind them.

The relief to its technical issues could not be better timed as the team faces two race weekends in a row; September 2-3 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and September 9-10 at Sonoma Raceway.

Prima Racing would like to thank its sponsors for the 2017 season; Supertech Performance,QuickJack Portable JacksRota WheelsG-LOC BrakesCT EngineeringHondataExedy USAWicked TuningBlackTrax Performance and Graphtech.