Rounds 9-10 of the TC America Championship just wrapped up this weekend in the always-weird Portland, Oregon at Portland International Raceway. A fast, technical, yet short track, PIR offers little room for error and very few opportunities to pass. It tested every driver's skill and patience throughout the entire weekend.
Michael Hurczyn, driver of the #71 VW GTI TCR and Nate Vincent, driver of the #72 VW GTI TCR, came into the weekend leading the field in the points standings. Looking to extend their lead and create an even greater cushion going into the final three events of the season, they were both laser-focused, knowing that every position lost early on (either in qual or the race) would be nearly impossible to make back up at this circuit.
Thursday: Arrival and Rebuilds
Thursdays are typically one of the crazier days of the weekend for the team; everyone is arriving to the track after countless hours of driving/flying and then jump right into their roles. This Thursday, however, was particularly hectic as it kicked off with a sequential transmission rebuild in the Michael Hurczyn's #71 TCR.
While reviewing onboard footage from the previous rounds at Sonoma, Hurczyn noticed a whine while in 5th gear that wasn't there previously. Upon inspection of the car on Thursday morning, the team quickly realized that something was very not right in the gearbox. Within four hours of that inspection, the HRD crew had the sequential gearbox extracted from the #71 and open on the bench. It didn't take long to spot the problem which ended up being a completely sheared tooth on the 5th gear.
Any team will tell you, it pays to have spares of everything imaginable going into a race weekend. Luckily, we had a spare 5th gear on the HRD truck which the team was able to toss into the gearbox and reassemble.
Friday: Testing and Qualifying
Friday was yet another crazier than usual day. The day kicked off with two practice sessions followed by the qualifying session for Saturday and Sunday. It was the most amount of track time in a single day that the team has ever had in their two years of professional racing. The track conditions were optimal for this, the weather wasn't too hot (a nice change having come from Sonoma, California in the previous rounds), and there wasn't a drop of rain in the forecast.
While the HRD crew and the drivers prepped for qual, Kaitlyn and Nathan prepped the booth for the foot traffic of our usual Saturday and Sunday. Rounds 9-10 of the TC America Championship were hosted in conjunction with the Rose Cup series so the paddock was anticipated to be even more packed than usual. There to help with the booth and the weekend as a whole was Mark from Corteco and Dave and Chris from LIQUI MOLY.
Nothing but good things can be said about qualifying. The times across the class were the closest they've ever been in our two years of racing. Hurczyn in #71 with a freshly repaired 5th gear qualified in P4 while Vincent finished in P2 with the exact same time as Walker who qual'ed P3. P2 and P4 meant that Vincent and Hurczyn would be starting from the first and second row of grid.
Saturday: Race One
Saturday, day three, of the weekend at Portland International Raceway kicked off with a flood of people coming through the booth. Some were already customers, some had heard of FCP Euro before, and others were just now learning who we are. A number of people stopped by to check out our booth and cars and to let us know that they specifically came to this race just because we were going to be there. Our favorite part was the number of kids, the next generation of DIY'er or drivers, that were excited to see our race car in person.
Before race one, Michael and Nate had an autograph session where they signed a countless amount of our new posters for all of our fans. Again, we couldn't get enough of the looks on the kid's faces getting to meet "real race car drivers" for the first time. If they're anything like many of us here, these are the moments that stick with them and get them into racing!
While autographs were being signed, Gareth and the HRD crew were tearing into the sequential transmission on the #71 yet again, this time doing a complete rebuild instead of just 5th gear. Not only were they rebuilding the transmission, but they were also doing some repairs to Nate's #72 as well. The steering rack and various suspension components needed replacing as Nate is actively trying to join the "stance life" lately, adding a ton of camber to his car one way or another.
Race one of the weekend went amazingly well. PIR is a tough track to pass on, any moves must either be incredibly risky and at high-speed, or brought on by a mistake from the drivers ahead. Almost immediately, Michael picked up a position from James Walker in the Alfa and moved in behind his teammate, Nate, where they'd spend the remainder of the race. Although positions didn't exchange, it doesn't mean that it was a boring race. Nate and Michael both had their work cut out for them, trying to stay on Mason Filippi's bumper while fending off James Walker. At one point while right on Nate's tail, Hurczyn initiated a spectacular drift, going through the corner at full opposite lock, all while not giving up a position or hitting his teammate in front.
Unfortunately, Michael and Nate were unable to make a move on Filippi and take away that 1st position, finishing in 2nd and 3rd overall. However, with the format of TC America, that meant that they would be starting P1 and P2 on Sunday.
Sunday: Race Two
Sunday, the final day of the race weekend didn't go as any racer would want. After a minor scare in the morning with Michael's car misfiring (which was quickly diagnosed as a bad ground), race two got underway. Michael and Nate started P1 and P2, and before the race could go green, it was under yellow as a BRZ had mechanical issues and stopped on track. Once that was cleared, racing was underway with a solid ten-minutes of bumper to bumper racing. The racing was incredibly clean, everyone basically waiting for someone else to make a mistake all while pushing the cars to their limits. After around ten minutes, the race went into a full course yellow, followed by a red flag, everyone pitted in and waited to hear the outcome.
After everything was cleaned up, the clock was reset for just ten minutes, and the racing got underway once again. Once again, the racing finished how it began, with Michael taking first place and Nate taking second.
One weekend, three trophies; the team can't ask for much more than that.
In a little over a month, we will be at Watkins Glen for rounds 11-12 of the TC America Championship. To see our full schedule, you can visit events.fcpeuro.com. Not only will we be at races, but you can also meet the team at other shows around the Northeast.
If you want to see what goes into building and running our motorsports program, check out the first episode of season two of our series The Paddock on YouTube, even before it goes live on Amazon. Be sure to subscribe to get updates before everyone else!
Writer/Editor at FCP Euro and owner of a daily R53 MINI Cooper, a track-built R53 MINI, and a 1997 Dakar Yellow E36 M3 Sedan. ••• Instagram: @evan.madore