I absolutely love racing at Road America! 4.048 miles of long straights, insane downhill braking zones, amazing corners including the “Carousel”, the “Kink”, and “Canada Corner”, not to mention the history and heritage of Road America having held so many great races and hosted so many incredible race driver’s throughout the years! P.J. Groenke Racing captured our very first Pirelli World Challenge Pole Position and laps led at Road America in 2014 and I was very much looking forward to racing in Elkhart Lake for the second time in my career as part of the Pirelli World Challenge DeVilbiss Road America presented by Pirelli race weekend.
With the issues plaguing the Verax.ca, Tundra, Mulligan Gold MINI Cooper at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park behind us I could not wait to get back on track. Practice and Qualifying times were disappointing as I qualified 12th out of 13 competitors with a lap time of 3:00.842, a full 2.749 seconds off my quickest lap time at Road America in 2014, but I was on my own with no one to draft with and this is key to setting a fast lap time at Road America in a TCB car.
Determined to move up the field I rolled the Verax.ca, Tundra, Mulligan Gold MINI Cooper into my starting box for Round 7 of the 2015 Pirelli World Challenge Touring Car B-Spec Championship. Focusing solely on the Pirelli World Challenge Series starting lights I brought the engine RPM’s up and as the red starting lights shut off I launched the Verax.ca, Tundra, Mulligan Gold MINI Cooper off the line but missed my shift from first to second gear for the very first time dropping me back to 13th and last place. Recovering from the lack lustre start I passed two cars on the outside of Corner 1 and another car through the “Kink” crossing the start finish line to complete the first lap in 10th place. The battle ensued from there moving up to 8th place on a full course yellow restart in the Verax.ca, Tundra, Mulligan Gold MINI Cooper only to be hit on the left rear wheel four corners later dropping me back to 9th place. Battling as hard as I could with dust flying as I cut Turn 14 as short as possible in my attempt to pass for 8th place the Verax.ca, Tundra, Mulligan Gold MINI Cooper crossed the finish line for Round 7 of the 2015 Pirelli World Challenge Touring Car B-Spec Championship in 9th place. Definitely not the results that P.J. Groenke Racing expected or hoped for, we did manage to set a new personal best lap time for Road America lowering our lap time to 2:58.195, 0.451 seconds faster than our best lap time from 2014 securing a 9th place starting position for Round 8 of the 2015 Pirelli World Challenge Touring Car B-Spec Championship.
Prepared to continue my charge through the field in Round 8 I launched the Verax.ca, Tundra, Mulligan Gold MINI Cooper off the line rocketing forward in-between the two cars ahead of me moving up to 7th place! Just as I was set to move forward another two positions on the front straight the yellow flags flew and I was forced to hold position as two Touring Car A class cars got together and contacted the pit wall spreading debris and mangled car parts across the front straight. Two short pace laps later the green flag flew and I struggled for straight line speed allowing the 8th place competitor to pass me on the front straight with ease. I knew I had more cornering speed and was mere inches from his rear bumper through Corner 1 as I set up a run through Corner 2 and a pass into Corner 3. With my right foot to the
floor he checked-up at the exit of Corner 1 and with no time to react I hit him and turned him off track and into the tire barrier on the inside of Corner 1. Although completely unintentional, I was handed a drive through penalty relegating me to an 11th place finish, “Could our luck in the first half of the 2015 Pirelli World Challenge season get any worse?” Unfortunately and unknowingly the answer to the question I poised to myself at that moment was yes…
I found myself in an intense battle for 7th place in the Verax.ca, Tundra, Mulligan Gold MINI Cooper during Round 9
and then it happened on lap 8. Charging into “Canada Corner” at over 115 mph I braked and turned in only to have my fellow competitor in 8th place miss his braking point barreling into me at full speed turning me into a skid off track. As I continued to skid towards the gravel trap he then made contact with the right front of the Verax.ca, Tundra, Mulligan Gold MINI Cooper breaking the suspension and ending our race parked in the gravel trap. I could not have imagined a worse weekend for P.J. Groenke Racing and the Verax.ca, Tundra, Mulligan Gold MINI Cooper at Road America…
The first half of the 2015 Pirelli World Challenge Touring Car B-Spec Championship has come to a close. P.J. Groenke Racing and the Verax.ca, Tundra, Mulligan Gold MINI Cooper have unfortunately had the worst and most disappointing start to a race season since 2009 and are currently 7th in the Pirelli World Challenge Touring Car B-Spec Championship Standings. While extremely disappointed, I am not defeated and P.J. Groenke Racing will be working harder than ever over the next 6 weeks in preparation for the Pirelli World Challenge Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course presented by Optima Batteries race weekend!
About P.J. Groenke
P.J. Groenke has been racing professionally in Canada since 2001 and across North America since 2013. Highlights of Groenke’s racing career include winning the 52nd Annual Indian Summer Trophy, finishing as a semi-finalist on Discovery Channel Canada’s Star Racer in 2006, and sweeping the Canadian Touring Car Championship races at the Vortex Brake Pads 200 race weekend with back-to-back victories in 2011. Most recently, Groenke finished 6th in the 2014 Pirelli World Challenge Touring Car B-Spec Championship with three top five finishes including one podium, 13 top ten finishes, one Optima Batteries “Best Standing Start” award, two Sunoco “Hard Charger” awards, and captured his very first Pirelli World Challenge Pole Position at Road America.
P.J. Groenke is sponsored by Verax.ca, Tundra Technical Solutions, Mulligan Gold, Clairhaven Ltd., Clorox Pool&Spa, Martinrea International Inc., Pelto Agri Investments, and Warp Speed Computers Inc. Other sponsors include ARS Access Restoration Services, Affinity Luxury Car Rentals, Alpha Laboratories Inc., Amsterdam Brewery, Confident Paintless Dent Removal, Diplomat Trucking Ltd., Eventscape Inc., Payne Capital Corp. & Hawthorn Equity Partners, Proprint Services Inc., Ro-Ro Property Management Corp., and 4XM.ca/4Print.ca. For more information, please visit www.pjgroenkeracing.com.