Rounds 3 & 4 of the SCCA US National Tour made Willow Springs challenging for Michele Abbate. After a successful opening weekend a few weeks ago, Michele and her GRR Racing team were ready to take on Willow Springs Raceway in Rosamond, CA. This would mark the first time the team would be racing their Scion FRS at the venue, with no practices on the schedule to prepare for qualifying and racing.
Saturday’s Qualifying and Race
Saturday morning would begin well for Michele, as she was able to qualify with a 1:32.9 lap time, earning her the P3 position out of 9 cars. Confident after a strong qualifying effort, the team felt prepared for the race, with crew chief Anthony Philleo stating, “We just need to stay consistent and hit our marks and we will be running up front”.
As the green flag dropped for the race, Abbate pushed forward in an excellent start, passing two cars in other classes on the lead lap. As she approached to battle for 2nd place, the handling of GRR Racing FRS started to fall off exponentially.
The car became progressively worse, but I continued to push with hopes of making to the checkered flag”, Abbate confessed.
She eased up and dropped back to 4th place to stay conservative. But with just two laps to go, the front left tire expired as she entered turn 8, and forced Abbate to retire early.
Afterwards, the GRR Racing team assessed the damage, replacing the flat tire and looking over the car to find the source of the flat and ill-handling during the race. The culprit? A broken rear endlink – causing the car to lose its desired setup and making it very difficult for Michele to control around the track. The team worked through the night to repair the damage, and reset the car for Sunday’s activities.
Sunday’s Qualifying and Race
On Sunday, Michele returned to the track with her freshly setup GRR Racing FRS for qualifying. Her lap times earned her the P3 spot again for the Sunday afternoon race. Much like her Saturday start, when field took off to the wave of the green, Abbate rocketed forward passing 3 other classed cars on the inside before entering turn one. Another promising start, and the team was optimistic that this would be the turnaround for the weekend. Unfortunately, about a third of the way into the race, the handling start to fall off once again on the GRR Racing FRS. Understeering terribly through the right handers, Abbate struggled to maintain consistent, fast lap times. Taking precautions she nursed the car to a 4th place finish once the checkered was thrown.
Willow Springs challenging for Michele Abbate
Though the weekend was challenging for Michele Abbate and the GRR Racing team, they are taking the lessons learned and are applying them to prepare the car for Rounds 5 and 6 at Thunderhill Raceway in Willows, CA on April 8th-10th. The team has 6 weeks to analyze and make changes before, and will be ready for the next round in the SCCA Nationals Tour.
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