Congratulations to OPTIMA-Sponsored Racer, Willie Phee
Over the course of two days, OPTIMA-sponsored WRPMotorsports driver Willie Phee finished 2ndin Pro-IT, 3rd in STL and 5th in ITA in the season ending American Road Racing Championship held at Road Atlanta Raceway in Braselton, Georgia. The American Road Racing Championship (ARRC) is the season ending event that features regional-only classes for cars classified by the SCCA.
“To finish with two podiums and a top-five in the season ending championship was very rewarding” said Phee. “I had a great battle in both the pro-IT and ITA championship races with my OPM teammate Ted Thorpe”. Friday would be a very busy day with five qualifying sessions and the 45-minute Pro-IT race that starts the beginning of the 2012 season.
There would be two sessions for each of the championship races (STL ITA), one session for the Pro-IT race and then the Pro-IT race itself at the end of the day. In the first STL session Phee would qualify 3rd in class and 7th overall. “We were the first group on the track at 8:00 am and it was still very cold and the track was shaded, but I knew it would be my best opportunity to put in a fast time” said Phee. “It took a few laps for the tires to come up to temperatures and I managed a time that would put me 7th on the grid."
The next session would be for the ITA race and Phee would end up 8th on the grid after the first round of qualifying. Pro-IT qualifying would be next and would be a single session, but with a 52-car field it was tough to get a clear lap. Phee would end up 2nd in class and 26th overall. “Asthe day warmed up I decided to sit out the afternoon qualifying sessions. I figured with the track heating up and the temperatures going up as well the morning times would be faster than the afternoon sessions,” said Phee. It would turn out to be a good decision as Phee’s morning times held up.
In the Friday afternoon Pro-IT race Phee was gridded in 26th position on the outside. “I was surprised at how fast the start was, normally we’re running about 40 mph but this time we must have been going about 65 mph. It was the fastest rolling start I’ve ever been in. At the start we were five wide going into turn one. I could tell it was not going to turn out well when two Spec Miatas got together, took each other off the track along with an ITS car that was just in front of me. As the crashing was unfolding I backed off and nearly came to a stop in turn one.
Unfortunately that allowed about 10 cars to get by including the 3rd place ITA car. Video can be seen here. By the end of lap one I was six seconds behind the second place car and had to try and keep focused on catching back up." By lap 17 of the 27 lap race Phee had closed to within 1 second of the 2nd place car and the battle was on. “I had a good draft down the back straight and got by going into turn 10, he would pass me back on the next lap but was caught in traffic and I got back by. I managed to put a small gap between us and finished about three car lengths ahead at the finish. This is a great start to the 2012 season," said Phee.
The first race Saturday morning would be the STL race and like the first qualifying session on Friday the track and temperatures were very cold. The top four cars would all be right together at the start with Phee starting in the 7th position. At the start Phee would maintain third place and stay there for the entire 20 lap race. “It was very a very uneventful race for me, I was right with the top two cars but with the track being so cold I had to wait a few laps for the rear tires to gain some temperature and the top two cars got away” said Phee. “It was great to get on the podium as I only decided at the last minute to run in the STL class."
The ITA Championship race would be held Saturday afternoon in warmer temperatures. Phee would start on the inside in the 7th position but dropped back one position in turn one. He would hold onto 8th until lap three when he would move into 7th. He would renew his battle with OPM teammate Ted Thorpe for the remainder of the race. Both cars were evenly matched and Ted would attempt a pass on lap 14 in turn 10. “I knew he was on the inside and I would have to give up the corner, but I figured I would drive into the turn as deep as I could and see if he would overcook the turn. Sure enough, he locked up his brakes and slid through the grass. You can see more of the action on this video. That allowed me to pull a three second gap. With four laps to go I could see he was gaining slightly so I just quit looking in the mirrors,” said Phee.
On lap 18 Phee would catch the 6th place car as it was heading down pit lane with mechanical problems and on that same lap the 2nd place car was off in turn one moving Phee up to the 5th position. Phee would hold onto 5th at the checker and was three seconds ahead of his OPM teammate Ted Thorpe. “I told myself I wanted a top five finish in this race and it would work out for me. To finish 5th with such a strong field of competitors was a great finish for me,” said Phee.
"I have to thank the OPM crew for all of their support this weekend, as usual the car was ready to go and I had no problems the entire weekend.”
OPTIMA is proudn to be a sponsor of WRPMotorsports and we wish them continued success in 2012!