On the wrong side of everything for Stoner Car Care at Laguna Seca

Sunday, May 01, 2022


There would be no “California Dreamin’” for the Stoner Car Care Racing fielded by Automatic Racing team on Saturday, as an opening-lap punt from behind and a late mechanical issue made for tough going in the WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca 120 for the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge.

Four full course cautions in the two-hour race made for a disjointed event – and a plethora of different strategies up and down pit lane. The Stoner Car Care team had come back from that early incident to get into the top 20. But that progress was lost after a high-speed vibration developed late in the race and slowed the charge to the finish.

Drivers Rob Ecklin, Jr. and Ramin Abdolvahabi returned to WeatherTech Raceway for the first time since 2019. The team worked on balance throughout two practice sessions on Friday, settling into a solid setup that would handle both the tricky corners and what they knew would be an increasingly slippery racetrack – between wind and cars putting tires off course, the sand that accumulates on track makes for slick going.

Abdolvahabi qualified the No. 09 in 25th position, fourth in the Bronze Cup standings, a separate designation for FIA Bronze-ranked drivers. Taking the green flag on a cool and sunny late afternoon, Abdolvahabi set his eyes forward – only to get tagged in the left rear in turn five on lap one by a TCR car. The Floridian gathered himself quickly but returned to the track mired in the TCR field. 

With just over an hour and a half remaining, a full course caution bunched the field. As cars ahead pitted, Abdolvahabi climbed as high as 10th before heading to pit lane for four tires, fuel and a change to Ecklin.

“We were all talking about turn one before the race but turn five ended up being the problem for us,” said Abdolvahabi. “I guess you put it down as a racing incident with someone who wasn’t being very careful – I guess he thought that he could just drive through us. It spun me around and that put me in the back. Not a great way to start a race.”

Unfortunately, another yellow flag flew right after the stop, putting the team a lap down. When the class split brought Ecklin back to the lead lap – albeit at the back of the pack – the team came into pit lane for right side tires and enough fuel to make it to the end, hoping to gain ground. Ecklin had once again cracked the top 20, but then the Aston Martin developed a high-speed vibration. Initially thinking it was build up on the tires, Ecklin toughed it out to the end, taking the checkered flag in 21st position.

“I fought as hard as I could,” said Ecklin. “Initially, I thought the car felt pretty good, fairly competitive, and then I started to feel the rear end kind of fall off. I thought it was tires, but evidently it was wheel studs loosening up – and then they just snapped off. In the last ten laps, it was just a matter of getting around the track. I had no contact out there, the car was fine despite Ramin getting hit. I thought I could race the guys ahead, but I just felt the rear go. I was able to bring it home, but it was a tough way to end the day.”

Source material – Stoner Car Care


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