Road America Not Kind to Multimatic Motorsports

Road America Not Kind to Multimatic Motorsports

ELKHART LAKE, Wisconsin (August 8th, 2015) – After winning two Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge (CTSC) events in a row at CTMP and Lime Rock Park – a 1-2 finish at the latter – Multimatic entered the Road America round with trepidation, knowing full well that the Balance of Performance (BOP) that had been leveled at the new Shelby GT350R-C was not going to be kind at the famed ‘power track.’ The only solace being that the Chevy Camaros that had dominated the 2014 event were in the same boat. And so it was; the normal natural order was upset and Nissans and Porsches relegated the big V8 cars to also-rans. In an effort to balance the highly disparate grid of performance street cars, IMSA, the sanctioning body of the series, chose to hobble the new Shelby with a 58mm diameter air restrictor located just in front of the engine’s production 87mm throttle body. Although this was limiting at the previous three events, the restriction was overcome by the new Mustang’s superior chassis dynamics and handling (Watkins Glen could have proven challenging but it rained), but at Road America lap time is governed by three long straight sections where the GT350R-C proved to be 5mph down to its predecessor, the Boss302R. Braking and handling clawed some of that back but the aerodynamically slippery Nissans and Porsches were never going to be challenged unless they had a problem.

To exacerbate the situation, one of the two practice sessions was rendered useless by a wet track, and qualifying was rained out. The cars would start from their points position with the #158 third and the #15 fifth. Sixteen year-old #158 starting driver Austin Cindric – once again having never had an opportunity to race at the weekend’s venue – commented that it was sort of like the video game but much bigger! Road America is for sure a long track with the fast times in CTSC being in the 2:23 range, a long time to get around.

It was totally evident right from the race start that the Multimatic Mustangs were going to struggle as the Porsche and Nissans drew a three-to-four-car gap on every straight. The first phase of the race was furious, the top eight cars acting as if it was a 40-minute sprint, but both the #158 of Cindric and the #15 of Scott Maxwell stayed in the game by exploiting the superior handling and braking of the GT350R-Cs. Unfortunately this was never going to be a long term solution as the length of the race and nature of the track require a more conservative approach to look after the brakes and tires. The #158 took tires and fuel with the leaders at the first yellow, just shy of the 45-minute limit required for a driver to get points. Cindric stayed in the car, and Maxwell stayed out of the pits and cycled to second place behind the #14 Nissan that had chosen the same strategy. As the race settled after the restart, the #15 handling came good on the older tires and was able to run in the top-three through to its fuel limit. A perfectly executed green flag stop saw Billy Johnson re-enter the fray in P10 – one position ahead of the #14 Nissan which Multimatic had jumped in the pit lane – with fresh tires and a strategy that would allow the Mustang to beat the other competitors at the next round by requiring less fuel and only left side tires, Maxwell having proven that the Mustang was better on older rubber. But the advantage was never exploited because a mere ten laps into his run Johnson reported that the exhaust had broken and a visit to the box confirmed that the header flange studs had failed. The flat-plane crank 5.2-litre motor generates more vibration than a conventional configuration and this adds stress to the exhaust, especially in racing conditions, but as a testament to the design of the car and the diligence of Ford Performance, this was the first failure of any GT350R-C component in competition usage. The team was able to make a repair and get the #15 back on track to salvage a P12 finish by leapfrogging the #9 Stephenson Camaro that had retired with a blown engine. Meanwhile, Cindric was emulating the drive of his teammate, Buford, at Lime Rock by making his wayward GT350R-C – with worn rubber and fading brakes – as wide as possible to keep the aggressively attacking veterans behind. Charles Espenlaub in the Aston Martin and home-track hero Tonis Kasemets in a BMW M3 used every trick in their arsenal to get by the young Multimatic star to no avail, and the #158 crossed the line P7 with an extremely worn out teenager at the wheel.

Highlights of the weekend were as follows:

  • The handling and braking of the GT350R-Cs continue to be a revelation to the Multimatic team but that would have been the only bright technical light during a tough weekend. Unfortunately it was not enough to make up for the BOP-constrained top speed.
  • The #158 drivers were amongst the stars of the show keeping the Shelby in the hunt, Buford staying in the lead pack through the initial 40-minute sprint and Cindric keeping the car in the points for the last half an hour.

Multimatic Motorsports Team Principal, Larry Holt, commented: “The dream-come-true 1-2 finish at Lime Rock is now a distant memory. This was a tough weekend which I predicted going in. The BOP restrictor was never going to give us a chance at Road America. The handling of the GT350R-C can overcome the limitation at places like Mosport and Lime Rock, but on the long straights here we were way down on top speed. Hopefully the series now understands what they have done, and I thought that I would never say this, to both us and the Camaro. Having an exhaust failure was also disappointing but it is the first issue we have had with the new car and when you look at the fact that mature pieces like the Z28 Camaro are failing engines and DNFing then a couple of header studs is pretty mild stuff. The Ford Performance guys are all over it and will undoubtedly give us a solution by the next race. Our guys did a great job to get the car back out so that Billy could grab some points off the Stevenson #9. We’ll put this one behind us and look forward to VIR in a few weeks.”

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Sean Mason
Multimatic Motorsports
+1 905-470-0025