An Exciting Race Weekend with the US Touring Car Championship
September 9, 2013
By Frank Vasquez
Photos by Frank Vasquez
Achilles Motorsports was excited to arrive to Sonoma Raceway on Thursday evening in preparation for Rounds 4 & 5 of the United States Touring Car Championship (USTCC). This exciting double header weekend is always a special treat as the USTCC races in conjunction with the FIA World Touring Car Championship (WTCC) making for spectacular racing and nonstop action all weekend long!
Having won Saturday's race the previous year in the #88 Achilles Motorsports E36 M3, driver VJ Mirzayan came prepared to defend his podium position in the USTCC GT class.
This year fielding their endurance race car instead, Achilles Motorsports was anxious to see how their #44 Achilles Motorsports E46 M3 would fare against the more powerful competition. The first practice session yielded promising results showing the #44 only 2 seconds off the other competitors pace. The #44 Achilles Motorsports E46 M3 is not powered by the typical BMW S54 engine as you would expect. Instead it is powered by an Achilles Motorsports S50B30us endurance racing motor from the older generation E36 M3's. The engine was tested in at the 2012 NASA 25 Hours of Thunderhill which was the new car's first race. Achilles Motorsports secured a 3rd place finish in class and 8th place overall in a field of nearly 70 competitors. After a throughout inspection, some fresh fluids and a few other tweaks the car was dusted off and loaded up for shipping to Sonoma Raceway.
Also returning was Achilles Motorsports driver Jim Stevens, who stepped up from the USTCC Touring Car(TC) class to race in the GT class this year with his #4 Achilles Motorsports/ Inverter Technology Inc. E36 M3.
In Fridays qualifying session the #44 Achilles Motorsports E46 M3 qualified in 4th position. Once the grid was set Achilles Motorsports realized there was a chance for them to be a top contender. If they wanted a chance at a podium finish they knew they had to get the #44 M3 up to the front soon, if possible, and keep themselves out of traffic.
Round #4 - Saturday September 7th
At the drop of the green flag Achilles Motorsports driver VJ Mirzayan pulled off an outstanding launch immediately rocketing around the rest of the field into first position! VJ knew he had to leave the rest of the field to battle amongst each other to make up for the #44 M3 being under powered compared to the competition, which is exactly what he managed to do.
Weaving his way through lapped traffic VJ Mirzayan brought the #44 Achilles Motorsports E46 M3 home safely with a 1st Place finish in the USTCC GT Class.
VJ was joined on the podium by 2nd Place -Daniel Akhromstev (left) and 3rd Place Sean Yepez (right).
Round 5 - Sunday September 8th
Riding on the success of Saturdays win Achilles Motorsports knew they had their work cut out for them if they wanted to stand a chance in Sunday's race. After Saturday's qualifying session the #44 Achilles Motorsports E46 M3 would be starting one row back from Saturday's race in 5th position.
As the green flag dropped for Sundays race it was full speed into turn #2. Driver VJ Mirzayan was well on his way to moving up to 4th place but sadly before the first lap was half way over the pace car was out to intercept the field and bring them to a halt in pit lane. One of the GT class cars had broken something at the start and covered nearly 1/3 of the course in fluid. This lead to an extensive clean up effort by the officials. Ultimately the decision was made to carry out a complete restart dropping the #44 M3 back to his starting position.
When the green flag dropped for the restart the action immediately continued. This time however the #44 Achilles Motorsports E46 M3 got shoved to the outside of turn 2 keeping him in 5th position. You can see the Touring Car(TC) class lining up for their separate start in background of the picture above. The race went fairly smooth for a few laps even though the #44 sustained some damage from an eager competitor as seen below. Then a couple of the TC class cars got into a wall in the esses on bringing out another full course yellow.
When the racing resumed the #44 Achilles Motorsports E46 M3 found themselves in a battle for 4th position. Finally in a daring move driver VJ Mirzayan set up a pass into fourth. Taking the long way around his opponent VJ drove the #44 M3 all the way around the outside of his opponent in turn #7! With a pretty significant gap to the 3rd place driver the assault was on!
With only a few laps left VJ laid it all on the line. Pushing the #44 Achilles Motorsport E46 M3 as hard as he could he quickly found himself on the bumper of the car in front of him. As the two cars passed the start/finish the white flag was flying and VJ was shoving the nose of the #44 M3 along side the 3rd place driver. With less than 3 miles to go VJ knew he only had a couple of corners where the pass could be made. As they made there way around turn #6 the #44 Achilles Motorsports E46 M3 suddenly found itself in a spectacular slide ultimately ending up backwards just off the drag strip. Trying his best hold on to as many positions as he could driver VJ Mirzayan managed to quickly get the car back on track. As soon as he did he suddenly noticed the 6th place driver shoving his nose right up the #44's tail! Battling with a damaged car VJ managed to keep the opposition behind him for the last half of the lap and bring home a Top 5 finish for the Achilles Motorsports team!
Initially the diagnosis was a malfunctioning differential but once the car was returned to the Achilles Motorsports shop in Fresno, Ca. it quickly became apparent the reason for the spectacular drift show on the last lap was because of a damaged front sway bar mount which has since been repaired..
All in all the entire Achilles Motorsports team greatly enjoyed their return to Sonoma Raceway with the United States Touring Car Championship. We were extremely happy to walk away with another great win on Saturday and a Top 5 finish in Sundays race! On behalf of our entire organization we would like to thank the USTCC for being very hospitable and an absolute pleasure to race with. Also we would like to thank all of our fans that came out to support our team and hang out with us at the track, come back anytime!