Johan Schwartz took victory and claimed the outright championship lead in the first of two TC America TC series races at Virginia International Raceway presented by Henry Repeating Arms.
Schwartz, driving the West Virginia University-liveried No. 80 Rooster Hall Racing BMW M235iR, masterfully rode out a pair of safety car and red flag stoppages to convert his pole position into a win.
It marked the Danish driver’s second victory of the year after he took the spoils in the season-opener at Circuit of The Americas last month.
Schwartz was classified half a second in front of Toby Grahovec in the No. 26 Classic BMW M240iR after a safety car bunched up the field through the checkered flag, but the pair had been nose-to-tail even before the race intervention.
Schwartz held off Grahovec’s advances in the opening exchanges before the red flags came out to enable the VIR track staff to clear an incident between two cars.
Once the circuit was clear, Schwartz continued to keep Grahovec at bay and was crucially ahead when a spun-out car triggered a safety car period with just over 15 minutes to go.
That proved to be the final action of an opening race that offered flashes of brilliant racing despite its truncated run-time.
“We had a good car. For the long run we are still trying to build up some tire pressure and we never really got there, but the crew did an awesome job. They gave me a good car in qualifying and now we’ve got to take the win. Thank you so much to the students from West Virginia, they are doing an awesome job.”
Schwartz and Grahovec, who will no doubt be keen for a longer on-track duel in race 2, were joined on the podium by Steve Streimer who picked up his first top-three finish of the season in the No. 81 Rooster Hall BMW 235iR.
Chandler Hull made an impressive start to advance from the third row of the grid to a season-best fourth position in the No. 94 Bimmerworld Racing M240i machine while Tom Capizzi also improved on his own personal best 2019 finish by coming home fifth after a solid drive in the No. 52 Auto Technic Racing BMW M235iR.
The result means race winner Schwartz now leads Grahovec – who is on a streak of three straight second-place finishes – by 11 points at the head of the drivers’ championship.
Schwartz’s main title rival heading into the VIR weekend, Jeff Ricca, was unable to take part in Saturday’s race after he was taken to hospital for precautionary checks following an accident in qualifying.
Ricca was seen walking away from his Hyundai Genesis Coupe but has been placed under evaluation as a safeguard.