GRAND-AM’s only Alabama-based team is riding a three-race winning streak in the Street Tuner class of the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge heading into its home race, set for April 9 at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham.
The team will trailer three Volkswagen GTIs for the Street Tuner class in addition to an Audi S4 in the Grand Sport division for the two-hour drive to Barber. Ian Baas and rookie Ryan Ellis share the No. 171, and brothers Chris and Kevin Gleason co-drive the No. 181. In addition, the team will field a third ST entry, the No. 161 for Todd Lamb and Skip Brock. Josh Hurley and Gary Gibson co-drive the No. 91 Audi. Baas and Hurley are former winners at the circuit, sharing the ST victory for APR in 2009.
“This is one of the most important – if not the most important! – races of the year for us,” said Jeff Mishtawy, APR’s director of motorsport. “We’ll have our whole staff and their families there, along with many of our friends. We had around 300 guests for last year’s race – and that will probably be even bigger this year.”
APR ended 2010 by winning the season finale at Miller Motorsports Park, with Ian Baas joined by Aaron Povoledo in the No. 171 Volkswagen GTI, scoring the first victory for the MKVI platform. Baas and pole-winning co-driver Ellis won the 2011 season-opening GRAND-AM 200 at Daytona International Speedway, and then pulled out a dramatic victory in the recent Kia 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway when Baas made a breathtaking pass for the victory in the sprint to the checkered flag. Baas never held the lead until the final yards of the race, winning by .022 seconds.
“I was third place on a late-race restart with three laps to go and was able to move into the lead at the last second,” Baas said of the Homestead victory. “It was exciting, but it was hard work.”
While the Audi has not shared the success of its ST stablemates, the team came away smiling despite a 29th-place finish at Homestead. The team lost ground during the event due to changing an upper control arm.
“That’s not the fastest car on a single lap, but it’s fantastic on longer runs,” Mishtawy said. “When other cars start dropping off, the Audi is able to main the same lap times throughout the stint.”
The Continental Tire Challenge competitors are coming from Homestead – with its long straights and banked superspeedway turns – to Barber, with its short straights and high-speed turns. However, APR will use a similar approach for both races.
“Barber is definitely a driver’s track,” Baas said. “I think the biggest key there is going to be similar to Homestead. You’ve got to save the car, save the tires and make sure they’re there for the final sprint to the finish.”