Austin, TX (March 26, 2018) – ST Racing took advantage of Pirelli World Challenge’s off-season to make some exciting changes to the Team by acquiring new race cars, adding 2 teammates to their line-up and moving up to the GTS SprintX category.
And what better place to try out their new BMW M4 GT4 than the fabulous 20-turn 3.4-mile racetrack at the Circuit of the Americas (COTA) for the Pirelli World Challenge season opener. And what an awesome weekend it was! A first in World Challenge history with two women on podium.
In Race 1, as soon as the green flag flew, two back-to-back full-course cautions came out due to incidents resulting in very few laps of green time for both Samantha Tan and Aurora Straus. However, both Straus and Tan managed to avoid the carnage, and gained positions on the re-starts in time for the half-way pit window.
Tan talked about the beginning of the race and her very first pit stop. “At the beginning of the race, when those incidents happened, I did my best to avoid everything coming at me. I kept the car clean. My entire race was pretty much under yellow, but I am so happy and proud of Nick for getting the Hard Charger Award.”
“My pit stop went really well” she added. “I got everything shut off, I even put the steering wheel back, I got it all set up for Nick, and I got out of the car as fast as possible. It went really smoothly.”
Tan’s co-driver Nick Wittmer was on fire from the very first moment he joined the 37-car field. He started picking off the cars, one by one, worked his way back up the field in his #38 BMW M4 GT4 to finish 6th overall while recording the fastest lap of the race and putting him on pole for Sunday’s Round 2. His excellent performance also earned him the Hard Charger Award.
“The ST Racing Team who did a great job preparing the car for Samantha to start the race. With all the crashes at the beginning of the race, Samantha avoided the problems beautifully, and started passing other cars while staying out the debris. She came into the pits, we nailed our pit stop, we went back out. The McNight (Nick’s nickname) mode kicked in, I put the knife between my teeth and started picking off one car after another. I ended up getting the Hard Charger Award, the fastest lap and pole position for Race 2. That was awesome. Thank you Samantha Tan Racing.”
Meanwhile Straus had moved up to fifth place in a flawless drive before pitting and handing the #36 BMW M4 GT4 over to her co-driver, Al Carter. Carter drove a hard race, finished 11th overall, bringing home a 2nd place finish in the Am category.
Aurora was all smiles after the race. “I couldn’t be happier to have started off my debut season in Pirelli World Challenge with a P3 qualifying and a P2 finish (Am category). Thanks to the expertise of Samantha Tan Racing and the precise handling of the BMW, my job today was easy. I have so many people to thank – Al Carter, for one, drove his heart out today, and I wouldn’t have ever had the opportunity to drive this car in the first place without Nick Longhi; I owe everything to him. This has been a magical weekend so far, with this and Good Morning America all in the works. I can’t wait to see what happens tomorrow”.
Straus’ co-driver, Al Carter commented, “That was a busy drive. Aurora had a great qualifying session giving us a great starting position. She had a really good start then drove under yellow before bringing it into the pits. From the time I exited the pits, I was in a constant battle during my whole stint. I had a lot of fun out there. I was proud to bring home a podium for my first race here in Pirelli World Challenge and for ST Racing. It was a privilege to drive that car on track.”
Sunday morning, under moist conditions, Race 2 was yet another exciting moment for the whole Team. Nick Wittmer started on pole but lost a position on Lap 1. The rest of his stint was a constant battle to regain the lead. He ended up pitting while still in 2nd position. When his co-driver Samantha Tan went out, she took the lead and held it for a few laps, when a full-course yellow came out due to an incident. On the re-start, she drove impressively to protect her position. After some solid driving and battling it out to keep her lead, she got passed by 2 cars. Another full-course yellow came out, and the race ended under caution with Tan in 3rd place.
And to cap things off, the duo Straus-Carter finished 1st in the Am class for a total of 3 podiums for ST Racing this weekend. Al Carter earned the Hard Charger Award in Race 2. And, how about the fact that two women led a race for the first time in World Challenge history.