DG-Spec and Scion Win Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach
Robert Stout Drives Number 18 Car to World Challenge Touring Car Victory
MotoIQ Staff Report, photos by Jeff Naeyaert
In front of one of the largest crowds at any race in the world, the DG-Spec Scion road racing team showed they have what it takes for World Challenge gold. Robert Stout drove the number 18 Scion tC to a decisive victory through the historic streets of Long Beach. The win brings Scion their first in the Touring Car category.
The event began with positive signs during the first practice on Friday. Team owner and driver Dan Gardner was the fastest Touring Car in MotoIQ’s Project Scion tC, with Stout taking second position in its sister car. Neither driver had ever driven the course before, with both of the DG Spec drivers coming up to speed quickly on the unforgiving Long Beach street course. Things were looking good, despite Gardner and the 36 car getting drilled by a GT Porsche early in the session. Most of the damage from the incident proved to be cosmetic, and the team had it fixed in a jiffy.
The second and final practice session of the event would take place on Saturday morning, so teams had little time to make any preparations. The 18 and 36 cars took to the track, but on the first complete lap on the front straight of Shoreline, something clearly was wrong with car 36. Gardner looked in his mirrors and saw them filled with a thick cloud of smoke. He radioed in that he thought the car was on fire, but heard over the radio that it might be oil. As he pulled his finger away from the fire button, Gardner tried to assess the situation. Further down the straight, Gardner saw the oil pressure warning going off. As he limped the car down the straight, he shut the engine off, and coasted past Turn 1 into the runoff.
The team would find a severed oil cooler line, and it was time to find out if the motor could be salvaged. The motor shut-down had kept it from grenading, but other damage still may have occurred. The team did their due diligence, and all signs were positive. Unfortunately, when they finally started the motor back up, the gut-wrenching sound of rod knock dashed all hope for the engine.
The second practice did, however, yield some good news as Stout was now the fastest Touring Car, nipping the RealTime Honda Civic Si by two-tenths of a second.
Huge logistical challenges stood in the team’s way, as their rig was a mile away, and because the track was constantly hot, they couldn’t easily get their spare motor over to their pit in the convention center. But with the dedicated crew of Brad Allen, Sean Morris, John McNulty, David Fredrickson, and special addition Merritt Johnson, they figured out a way. A furniture dolly and a lot of pushing took care of the motor, and the great guys at CRP Racing loaned their engine hoist.
The crew’s blood, sweat, and tears took them into 4 in the morning, but they got it done, and the 36 car would be ready for Qualifying, which would take place just four hours later.
Bleary eyed and filled with caffeine, a few hours later the crew began staging the cars for Qualifying. The entire session had been shortened, as it was to be split, with the GT cars going the first 12 minutes, and the TC and GTS cars heading out for the second 12. As they went out on track, Gardner constantly watched his gauges, radioing back to the crew the status. Things were looking good, but the entire session was spent with an eagle eye on the dash, looking for anything that could cost the team another motor.