Posted: May 30, 2012
OPTIMA racer, Willie Phee continues podium streak at Road Atlanta
OPTIMA-sponsored WRPMotorsports driver, Willie Phee, finished 1st in the SARRC Regional race, 2nd in the STL National race and 3rd in round 3 of the Pro-IT Championship held at Road Atlanta Raceway on May 19th 20th.
Three races in one day was especially challenging for WRPMotorsports driver Willie Phee. Qualifying would take place on Saturday with 2 sessions for the SARRC race and two sessions for the National race.
With two sessions for each race I knew the morning sessions would be faster so I tried to put in some fast laps early and hopefully have a good starting position said Phee." Phee would indeed put in two fast laps and would qualify on the overall pole for the SARRC race and was initially on the pole for the national race.
I figured the times would hold up so I decided not to run the afternoon sessions unfortunately I ended up second in the National race by only 4 tenths of a second." Qualifying for the Pro-IT race would take place early Sunday morning just before the SARRC race. With only one session and the fact that my first race was immediately after the qualifier ended, I knew I had a just a few laps to get a flyer in," said Phee. Phee would end up qualifying 2nd in class, just a tenth a second off the pole.
It was great to have 3 strong qualifying sessions, and get my first pole was especially rewarding, said Phee. Unfortunately due to the quick turnaround from qualifying to the first race, Phee ended up late to the grid and had to start from pit lane. That was a real disappointment, to get my first pole and then not get to start at the front of the pack made me angry," admitted Willie.
Phee would turn that anger into an impressive drive from last place to 1st in class and second overall by the end of the 18-lap race. I started the car form pit lane on tires that hadnt been run all weekend so it took a couple of laps for the tires to come up to temp. Once I felt like the car would stay underneath me I just put my head down and started charging toward the front." Phee would go from 15th at the start and move into the ITA lead by lap three and eventually would finish eighth overall.
The STL National race would be in mid-afternoon and Phee would line up second in class and eighth overall. Phee would start second and maintain second place until lap 11. As I was braking at the end of the back straight into turn 10A, the car locked up and started sliding towards the gravel trap. Luckily I was able to get the car stopped just before going into the gravel and maintain my position," said Phee.
It turned out one of the front running cars lost an engine and laid oil down in the racing line. A full course caution was out for two laps, while the track was cleaned up. Unfortunately at the re-start I didnt have radio communications and was late for the green. The third place car got by me going into turn seven but I managed to get back by before the end of the lap. I slowly eased away and maintained second position to the finish said Phee.
The last race of the day would be Round Three of the Pro-IT Championship. Phee would start second in class and seventh overall. I held on to second for a few laps until a BMW got by on the run into turn six. I stayed a few seconds back but he was slowly inching away, said Phee. By the end of the race Phee was closing in on the sixth place overall car but would run out of time and ended up third in class and seventh overall.
The OPM crew did a great job of making changes to the car as the temperatures went up during the day. They kept improving the cars handling and made the weekend much easier for me, said Phee. The next race is scheduled for July 14-15, 2012 back at Road Atlanta Raceway in Braselton, Georgia.
The WRPMotorsports team is sponsored by OPTIMA Batteries, PACT, Studio 540, Sparco USA and OPM Autosports.