Round 5 of the Trans Am West Coast Championship was held at Portland International Raceway this past weekend July 23-25 with the SVRA SpeedTour. 2019 was the last time the series visited this iconic track and the team was looking forward to making some progress.
The Grr Racing team headed into the weekend with high hopes for their #30 Lucas Oil Chevy Camaro. “We put a ton of work and testing into our chassis and got it totally dialed in, so I am really looking forward to hitting the track,” Crew Chief Anthony Philleo stated.
“The car has never handled this well, and I feel super confident it will show this weekend,” driver Michele Abbate stated. As they headed out for the first test session on Friday a few laps in she was getting more acclimated to the track. As Michele entered turn 10, her throttle pedal got lodged on a bolt and was stuck wide open. She went barreling into the corner, full brakes on lock, with the engine roaring over 6500 rpms at a speed over 150mph off of the race track. With quick thinking she was able to shut down the car by the master shut off and bring it safely to a stop without contact with anything or anyone.
“This was definitely one of the most terrifying incidents I have ever experienced in a race car. I feel very lucky that it went as smoothly as it did; thankful that I made the right decisions in a split second.” Abbate shared.
The team was able to get the pedal fixed and headed out for the next test session. From then on the team fought fuel cut issues. The fuel pressure would drop significantly on throttle through mid corner, on exit, and even down the straights. With only 1 practice session remaining before qualifying Anthony went to work to chase down the issue.
Unfortunately, a solution was not found before qualifying. Abbate was unable to land a lap with clean power and earned the P14 spot out of the 16 car TA2 field. Saturday night the team worked until 2am in hopes of finding and repairing the issue. Using all of the possible options to replace several components of the fuel system the team got the car back together and crossed their fingers.
When the green flag dropped for the 100-mile feature race Abbate went into the race with the mentality of focusing on completing all the laps, even if that meant dialing it back a bit to survive. Thankfully this mentality truly paid off. When racing these high horsepower, big V8’s there is a lot of opportunities that can create attrition.
“I have the experience to know that these are long races, and sometimes it’s smart to focus on the end goal, which in this case was to simply finish. I put my head down and just drove the car I had. It was an unhappy one, but I did everything I could to keep it in its best state.” Michele shared.
Abbate crossed the line in the P6 position, eight positions ahead of where she started. With a post race inspection the winner of the race was disqualified, placing Michele into the Top 5 for the official results of the Portland Trans Am event.
“I’m glad all of our hard work and late nights paid off. It’s easy to quit but the Grr Racing team doesn’t know how to do that. We will dig into this issue and come back even stronger for the next race in October in Utah,” said Anthony.
Stay dialed with the Grr Racing team with the Grr Racing app (available on Android) and see Michele in episode 3 of Getaway Driver on the Discovery Channel August 2nd at 9pm!