Photo by Bill Stoler Photographyer
April 23, 2023 (Summit Point, W.V.) – An overall USTCC win in the Round 1 Feature Race was the last thing Roger Maeda expected after electrical problems put him out of qualifying and a post-Heat Race crash cracked the Prelude's front splitter. Yet, through the perseverance of his crew, an aggressive heat race performance on Saturday, and a determined drive on Sunday, the StudioVRM.Racing team crossed the finish line first in both the Sportsman Class as well as the entire USTCC grid.
Disaster struck moments before Qualifying as the StudioVRM Honda Prelude shut down on the grid mere minutes before the start of the session. A low voltage condition indicated that there was a problem with the new battery that the team installed the week before the race. The friendly Summit Point recovery crew towed the stricken Honda back to its paddock spot, and the team went to diagnose the issues in lieu of running qualifying laps.
Saturday Heat Race
Roger started the Saturday heat race in 33rd place on the grid with a new battery mounted in the Prelude’s engine bay. The StudioVRM Prelude’s new-for-2023 VTEC engine gave Roger the horsepower he needed to rapidly move up the field in pursuit of his fellow USTCC competitors. His upwards charge was paused when an ITS-classed Z car unfortunately caught fire, then was completely curtailed when the Honda’s H22 engine started losing power six laps into the race.
The low voltage issue from the morning had returned with a vengeance, this time preventing the coil packs in his coil-on-plug converted engine from firing consistently. These worries were soon superseded by the sudden arrival of a thunderstorm, which flooded the track and brought the checkered flag out five laps early. Then to add further injury to injury, Roger drove through a huge puddle on his cool-down lap and threw the Prelude into the tire wall, damaging the splitter.
Despite all of our mishaps and misfortunes, the StudioVRM Racing Team had overtaken 23 cars on the road and recorded a fast lap that was good enough to put them 5th on the grid for the Sunday Feature Race.
Sunday Feature Race
The team replaced the alternator, repaired the front splitter, and secured a broken battery terminal to make it to the grid before the start of the 20-lap Feature Race.
From his position on grid, Roger could see the rear taillights of Coyote Black’s Super Touring classed Porsche Cayman S spurring him on to give chase. That cat and mouse game would sadly fail to materialize. The tiniest of mistakes during the out lap caused the black Cayman to spin nose-first into the tire barrier, ending Coyote’s hopes of a strong finish to the weekend.
Seeing his compatriot’s race end on lap zero solidified Roger’s decision to switch to a finish-at-all-costs strategy for the Sunday race. He followed the top three cars until the #00 Nissan Z-car let the Honda through, then carefully tiptoed his way through the field of lapped cars so not to disturb their respective races. As he did, Andrew Conner’s #66 BMW 325i edged ever closer as he scythed through traffic to close in from the middle of the 33-car field. The red BMW came tantalizingly close to mounting an attack, which might have succeeded were it not for the timely arrival of a tight pack of ITB and B-Spec cars. Roger managed to pass the group on a short straight and managed to reopen the gap while Andrew was baulked by the lapped cars.
To add one last twist to the tumultuous weekend, the Prelude’s left front outer CV joint failed at the exit of Turn 10. After coming this far, there was no way that the team was going to let this stop them. Roger slammed the throttle to the floor and willed the car across the line to take the top spot in Sportsman class as well as the entire USTCC field.
Roger Maeda - #22 StudioVRM.Racing Honda Prelude Si
Qualifying: No Time
Race: 1st in Sportsman, 1st in USTCC, 3rd Overall
“Determination. Sometimes, that’s what makes the difference.
This race was a test of how determined we were to see that checkered flag. And thanks to our crew, our friends, fellow USTCC competitors, and technical partner Bad Guys Worldwide, we were able to triumph over this ordeal and emerge with smiles on our faces.
In addition to a new trophy and a generous haul of prizes from ScanGauge, Cobra Suspension, and Plastex, we are coming home with a much better understanding of the new engine and setup. You can expect a lot more speed from us in the rounds to come.”
Thank you to Ross Shull of the CMP Racing team, Andy Yoon, Martin Szwarc, and Chris Eng of the ProjectCRX Racing Team, and Cole Mulvey from Bad Guys Worldwide for helping us get our new engine installed and running in time for the 2023 season. And thank you to all of you who came out to watch - live, via livestream, or via Racehero. Especially Mike McLaughlin and his friend Mark, who brought their beautiful daughters out on the long trip out to Summit Point Motorsports Park to watch us race. I hope we put on a good show!