Positive results still for the Stoner Car Care Aston Martin at a difficult Michelin Pilot Challenge event at Road America

Sunday, August 08, 2021


For team engineers, it’s never a good feeling to spend the bulk of a race with one eye on the data and the other eye on the radar, but that was the case for the Stoner Car Care Racing fielded by Automatic Racing team in Saturday’s Road America 120, the seventh race of the 2021 Michelin Pilot Challenge season.

On a rapidly changing 4.048-mile Road America layout, drivers Ramin Abdolvahabi and Michael de Quesada brought the No. 99 Invisible Glass Aston Martin home undamaged, settling for a 20th-place finish at the end of a wild two-hour race.

For the 21-year-old de Quesada, the race marked both his series and team debut, and his first race in the Aston Martin. With a steep learning curve and only two practice sessions to complete his personal database, the young Floridian – the 2016 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA Gold champion – took to the task with aplomb.

Cool temperatures and cloudy skies greeted the team on Friday, with two practice sessions on the day. Abdolvahabi opened the first session, to ensure that the Aston Martin’s setup was ready to go, with de Quesada using the latter stages of the session to get oriented to the car’s handling characteristics. In the second practice later that day, de Quesada came out of the gate flying, setting times within a second of the leaders before the pair finished the session P13.

Abdolvahabi took the wheel for qualifying, knowing that severe weather was on the horizon. Encountering traffic on his two flying laps, Abdolvahabi put the Aston Martin into Row 11 for Saturday’s race.

With damp conditions on track and the skies darkening to the west, the team knew that weather would be a factor. Abdolvahabi took the green flag on Michelin rain tires with temperatures in the low 70s and light rain falling. Abdolvahabi was just settling in, up to 20th, when an early full-course caution slowed the field and halted his forward progress.

On the restart, Abdolvahabi continued his charge, taking advantage of other driver’s mistakes and making careful passes in the drying-but-still-damp conditions to move up to 18th. With just over 40 minutes elapsed, he ducked into pit lane for fuel and a change to de Quesada. But a radio issue delayed de Quesada’s exit from pit lane, dropping him to 21st as the rain began to increase.
As track conditions continued to deteriorate, de Quesada focused on hitting his marks and keeping the Aston Martin out of trouble. Pitting for left side tires helped the performance, but despite his best efforts he was not able to push forward, bringing the car home in 20th position, but thankfully undamaged.

“I was comfortable with the car right away, but it was just tough conditions today,” said de Quesada. “There were so many variables that were out of our control, like how quickly the rain tires wore early in the race, as the track was drying. We had some radio issues, some tire issues, and all of those combined to make for a difficult day. The team did a great job and put together a great car, I really enjoyed running with the team and in the series.”

“This was one of those weekends where you just have to take what the track and the conditions give you,” said Abdolvahabi. “I took it easy at the start and passed a few cars. It was difficult, with a lot of cars going off, but it was the problem in the pits that really hurt us. But that’s racing sometimes.”

Source material – Stoner Car Care
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