A rookie in a field of veterans, GRR Racing’s Michele Abbate made her TA2 debut in the Trans Am West Coast presented by Pirelli series opener at Thunderhill Raceway last weekend, and left with a story to tell about overcoming obstacles.
With limited track time, the GRR team found itself fighting to meet the sound decibel requirements even after bolting a pair of mufflers onto the No. 30 Camaro. Crew chief Anthony Philleo made further adjustments, and, fortunately, just before qualifying, Trans Am officials issued an addendum allowing 110dB, which the car met.
In her first qualifying attempt, Abbate qualified sixth in the 10-car TA2 field.
“I planned to stay calm and not be too aggressive [in the race],” Abbate said. “Knowing it would be a long race, I didn’t want to make any mistakes or take any chances that would jeopardize our race right at the start.”
And she delivered as planned, moving up to fifth after a clean start, maintaining her position in the early laps, and slowly gaining on the fourth-place TA2 driver.
“I was trying to take care of my tires, but the car was getting really loose in the left-handers, even after reducing my speed quite a bit.” Abbate related.
She fell back to eighth, doing her best to hold on, but just past halfway in the 100-mile race, the Camaro’s right-rear tire exploded around 110mph, sending Abbate into a grassy field at Turn 8. Unable to get the car moving, she needed a tow back to the hot pits.
“Michele came on the radio saying she needed a right rear, so I ran to the trailer and had one in the pit box before she got back,” crew chief Philleo explained.
Though many laps behind, Abbate and her team made it to checkered flag in their first Trans Am race.
“This is all a part of racing. The highs wouldn’t be so high if there weren’t any lows,” Abbate said after the race. “It’s an achievement in itself to be here, competing with these teams in this series, and I couldn’t be more proud of our efforts.
“We have a lot to learn but we are committed 100 percent, and we showed that in this race.”
The next race weekend for the Trans Am West Coast series is April 27-29 at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.