MPTCC '14 Round 1: Buttonwillow Raceway
by Steve Rockwood
With the inaugural race of the MotoIQ Pacific Tuner Car Championship presented by Motul postponed by rain and relegated to a local indoor karting arena, the first real race at a real track was much anticipated. Would Edo Stepanyan continue his MPTCC dominance this season? Would Justin Taylor improve on his second place points finish last season and put the heat on Edo? Would Project G20 fulfill its promises as a MotoIQ project car and push for the lead as well? Or would the addition of yet another Honda mix the podium up?
Those questions were furthered by the changes to some of last year’s cars, a newcomer, and the departure of one of the MPTCC regulars to US Touring Car Championship. Newcomer Patris Issaei brought his clean DA Acura Integra sporting a mild turbo setup counter to the standard Honda Crowd of normally aspirated revs and going down the same path as Project G20’s mega torque powerband. Unfortunately, the newcomer merely replaced a driver rather than increasing the field, with Michelle Abbate moving her Scion TC to USTCC.
The field was further thinned as Justin Taylor’s Rockstar Garage Honda S2000 still hadn’t recovered from its blown headgasket suffered in 2013’s final race at Buttonwillow. After watching Project G20 rock the same set of Toyo RRs for nearly the entire 2013 season, Edo switched his DA Integra over to the RRs to take advantage of their consistent performance, longevity and quick lap times. Project G20 came in with some suspension geometry tweaks in an attempt to undo some of Nissan’s odd ideas for the front of the P10 chassis.
Being Spring time in California (even if it is BFE San Joaquin Valley California), the weather was absolutely perfect for the start of Saturday’s practice session. However, moderate rain Friday evening meant that the usually dry and dusty infield at Buttonwillow had turned into a giant mud slick. The dirt between the asphalt was so treacherous, in fact, that your humble author spent a good hour getting his Dodge Ram and toyhauler unstuck after an ill-fated attempt to park barely off the asphalt. Note to all: if every rig in the pits is parked on the asphalt instead of the grass, it probably means you should stay the hell out of the grass. Lesson learned.