July 23, 2023 (Summit Point, W.V.) – It was a weekend of mixed fortunes for StudioVRM’s Roger Maeda, as the team converted another back row start to collect valuable series points along with a class win. But it was also a race of what could have been, as the team’s aero-equipped Prelude repeatedly found itself stuck in traffic behind 300+hp big bore cars, unable to show the potential of the Spec B upgrade package that the team prepared for Round 3 of the US Touring Car Championship East Series.
Sunday Feature Race
For the second Feature Race in a row, Roger faced a fightback from the rear of the grid after a fluke overheating issue and a surprise fuel leak prevented the team from setting a fast lap on Saturday. Fortunately, there would be a split start for the large American Sedan Challenge class that was sharing the track with us, meaning that the StudioVRM Prelude would start 21st on the grid instead of 34th.
Unfortunately, this also meant that he would be starting directly behind a Panos Esperante GTS and a Dodge SRT4 – Two 21st century torque monsters, each with a triple digit lbs-ft advantage over our Honda H22 powered Prelude. Roger would have to slipstream behind one of these two cars into turn 1 in the hopes that one of them would open the door for us to get by. But which one?
The green flag dropped, and Roger chose to duck in behind the SRT4. Big mistake. The Dodge bogged down at the apex of Turn 1, allowing the Panos to get around both cars with an easy outside pass. What followed was a frustrating lap of following the red Dodge before the SRT driver graciously decided to point Roger by on the entry to the Carousel.
This was followed swiftly by the appearance of a safety car to recover a Ford Mustang that was stranded on the short straight between Turn 5 and the Carousel. This meant that we would get a second chance to catch up to the forward pack. This also meant that the leaders in the American Sedan class would be on our heels at the restart.
The safety car pulled off, the green flag flew, and four 8-cylinder muscle cars immediately thundered past through the first two corners. Roger latched on to the back of the train of American iron and used it to clear a path to the mid-pack. In a few corners, Roger had managed to close the gap and could see the ST-classed On Q Racing BMW 325i running just a few cars ahead. Roger did his best to get past Jerome Welte’s Porsche Boxster, Mark Liller’s NC MX-5, and Scott Luttrell’s turbo Mini Cooper S as quickly as possible. But the Factory Five Cobra of Bob Hasychak proved to be a much tougher opponent.
Hasychak’s classic Cobra racecar lacked the high-speed cornering grip of our Prelude but had more than enough torque to make up for it. Even with our 218hp Honda engine running at full song, the red and black roadster duly demonstrated that it could let Roger have every corner and still power his way past down the following straight. With the rest of the American Sedan field closing in from behind, Roger made the decision to let the silver Pontiac Firebird of George Gustafson through, in the hopes that he could clear the road for both of us to get past the Cobra. Unfortunately for us, the summer heat and the Pontiac’s heavyweight chassis had done a number on its tyres, and the Pontiac struggled to get power down through corner exits. As Hasychak’s Cobra disappeared past the horizon, Roger let John Blanchard’s green Camaro through so he could let the A Sedan cars fight for a final spot on their podium.
The race would end under yet another full course caution, as Bob Hasychak’s Factory Five Cobra spun off and became firmly entrenched in the mud outside of the Carousel. After all of the overtakes and retirements ahead, Roger brought the StudioVRM Honda Prelude home in 14th place overall and the top spot in the USTCC's Sportsman class.
Roger Maeda - #22 StudioVRM.Racing Honda Prelude Si VTEC
Race: 1st in Sportsman, 4th in USTCC, 14th Overall
Fastest Lap: 1:26.089s
“Mixed feelings about this one. On one hand, we ran a trouble-free Feature Race and had some great wheel-to-wheel battles with the muscle cars in the Big Bore group.
On the other hand, we had to start from the back of the grid for the second weekend in a row and couldn't get through the field quickly enough to join the USTCC SuperTouring class cars up front.
Thanks to the hard work of our crew (with a special thank-you to guest mechanic Glenn Halfpap) and help from our friends at On Q Racing, we still came home as the top finisher in Sportsman class. There will be lots to do for both car and driver before the next round.”