Subaru Road Racing Team (SRRT) drivers Andrew Aquilante and Bret Spaude took the first green flag of the 2011 GRAND-AM Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge series season in 17th grid position within the 32-car Grand Sport field, but climbed to 13th by race finish after two-and-a-half hours of running on historic Daytona International Speedway.
Unlike the NASCAR Nextel Cup drivers who use only the 2.5-mile high-banked oval, the sports cars racing this weekend use a 3.56-mile combination of the oval and the infield road course.
Spaude, of Bushnell, Fla., qualified the 2011 Subaru Impreza WRX STI 17th quickest, and drove the first 29 laps of the 60-lap race, climbing as high as seventh place. He turned over the controls to co-driver Andrew Aquilante, Chester Springs, Pa., who left the pits in 15th place, then proceeded to work around six full-course caution sessions to earn his finishing spot.
The SRRT Subaru Impreza is race-prepared and tuned by Phoenix Performance of Phoenixville, Pa.
Team owner Joe Aquilante was enthused by the finish. “I would have liked to have seen the race end under green flag conditions,” he said, “for the sake of all the drivers who have worked so hard to get to where they were – especially our staff. Our new Impreza WRX STI was flawless all weekend, and our lap times reflected what we learned here three weeks ago in the pre-season testing. For us to come away with a 13th place at Daytona against V8-powered cars such as BMW M3s, Camaros and Mustangs, we’re pleased.
“Brett and AJ did an excellent driving job by not getting caught up in the mistakes made by other drivers,” Aquilante added.
James Han, Motorsports Marketing Manager for Subaru of America, Inc. added, “The 2011 4-door STI sports model has logged a solid result here at Daytona, and our driver’s average lap times were easily four-plus seconds quicker than at this same track last year. The team performed quick pit stops and driver changes plus our race strategy proved to be the correct one. And our Subaru Symmetrical All-Wheel Drive system afforded us better handling and traction in the infield’s numerous turns than most other cars.”
Spaude steadily moved forward during his 29 laps behind the wheel, even though he had to temper his enthusiasm for seven laps of following behind the safety car in the races opening 10 laps. He had climbed to seventh place by the time he pitted.
Four subsequent safety car sessions prevented Andrew Aquilante from cracking the top 10 of the Grand Sports class running order.
“I have to hand it to Andrew, who was in charge of the building of this new car over the offseason, and to one of the real Phoenix Performance shop veterans, Kurt Omensetter, our Crew Chief. Our Subaru ran quicker today than it was in the pre-season testing,” added Joe Aquilante.