A new car and a new class provided Jacob Ruud with the perfect opportunity to show what he could do.
Ruud joined TC America three years ago, driving an M240i Racing in the Touring Car category, but as a full-time student, he hadn’t been able to put together a full season. But with the TCX category taking the place of TCR, and the BMW M2 CS Racing being the centerpiece of the new class, it was time for Ruud to begin a championship run on even footing.
“When I heard that this new car was coming out, I talked with my family and the team, and we all decided together this would be a great opportunity to make an impact and see what we can do in a new car and new new class,” Ruud explains.
“No one has raced these before; it’s a new platform from BMW, so I thought it would be a great opportunity to see where can we go with this when we’re on the same footing as everyone else. I didn’t expect it to go as well as it has, and I don’t expect it to continue going that well going forward. I need to keep the lap count up and keep my head down and try and finish the season strong.”
Ruud is leading the championship handily as the series heads toward its midpoint at Road America in a few weeks. He did have a bit of an advantage, starting at the season opener at Sonoma Raceway and being one of only two drivers to contest all six races run so far this season. Others who might be championship contenders, such as Steve Streimer and Samantha Tan, didn’t join until Rounds 3 and 4 at Circuit of the Americas. But whatever competition has presented itself, Ruud has swept the season so far in the No. 81 LightSpeed/DeltaHawk M2 CS fielded by Fast Track Racing. His performance has certainly turned heads, as much for the contrast with his time in the M240iR as his domination.
“The races I could go to, depending on the depth of the field, I’d say I was in the top 10 percent of drivers,” he says. “I never got on the podium, which is unfortunate based on how well I performed in the car. But just building up my pro racing resume, building up my wheel-two-wheel experience, I think it all kind of built up to the M2 CS. That was the training I needed to understand this is how the dynamics of the car work, this is how the racing works, the skills you need from a passing standpoint or a tire management standpoint. I wasn’t as successful as I have been this year, but it was all a fantastic learning experience for me.”
Surprisingly, though, Ruud says the driving dynamics of the new M2 are closer to the M4 GT4 than they are to the M240.
“It’s got the M4 GT4 drivetrain, M4 GT4 suspension geometry, the M4 GT4 dynamics…” he says. “The 240 is a street car that they turned into a race car by taking weight out and changing the suspension. The M2 just feels more planted. That could be down to the wider track, wider tires, but I feel a lot more confident in the M2 than I did the 240 and I think it shows in the results. I think BMW did a really good job with the development of the M2.”
That would indicate that GT4 with the M4 would be a logical next step for Ruud, and while he has some miles in one, he doesn’t yet know what his next step might be. He’s graduating in the Spring with his Masters in Cybersecurity, and recently got engaged, so he hasn’t really planned his racing beyond this season. But as the son of a lifelong racer who grew up near Road America, and someone who has been racing since he was 13, it’s likely that there will be some future in motorsports, especially given his success this year. But he seems pretty happy where he’s at at the moment, where he began his pro racing career.
“When I looked around at a couple of series and stumbled upon Touring Car with SRO, I liked the class, I liked what they were doing,” he says. “I’ve had so much fun driving in SRO and racing with the deep talent pool that they seem to find, I really don’t see myself going anywhere else.”