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This weekend our VW TCRs took to the streets for their first time—the streets of St. Petersburg that is. Race three and four of the second round in the TC America Championship were held at the historic St. Petersburg street course in St. Petersburg, Florida. A significant departure from the cold and wet weekend prior at COTA, St. Pete was warm and welcoming, drawing massive crowds.
This weekend's TC America series ran alongside IndyCar, which became a melting pot of automotive enthusiasm crossing all levels of professional motorsports This proved to be a learning experience on both ends–fans learning about our cars, the series, and the differences between the field of GT cars that ran there as well. We quickly found out just how many people show up for an IndyCar event, and just how many people can squeeze inside our paddock booth.
Photo by Kyle Bento
Photo by Halston Pitman
Photos by Kyle Bento
Arrival, Setup, and Testing
This race weekend kicked off with less tension than the weekend before. Coming in we knew that the cars with their new sequentials were fast and competitive, and we knew what issues needed to be addressed before they could go and turn laps here. Street circuits are notoriously unforgiving; the slightest mistake, lapse in judgment, or mechanical failure almost always results in certain disaster. Where most circuits have large runoffs and tire-walls, street courses like St. Pete have mere inches separating the racing line from walls made of solid concrete.
Wednesday kicked off with a Pro-Am charity karting event inside turn one, with some of the big names in racing teamed up with members of the media pitted against one another. Nate and Michael took on the likes of Sébastien Bourdais and the mayor of St. Petersburg, all while representing FCP Euro. The rest of the day was spent getting familiar with the location and the event as a whole (everyone got matching sunburn, too).
Thursday the team was up bright and early, scrambling to wrap up the repairs to the VW GTI TCRs before the scheduled media rides later in the afternoon. Because of part availability, weren't able to replace the transmission and engine mounts on Nate Vincent's #72, but we did get a chance to modify the differential ramp in Michael Hurczyn's #71. While the media rides were happening, we had more members of our team arriving, along with a few of our partners Corteco, ZF, and LIQUI MOLY.
Friday picked up right where Thursday left off with Nate and Michael jumping back in the cars for their first proper test laps on a street circuit. Both adapted incredibly quick to the unfamiliar layout, putting in competitive times fairly early on. While they were navigating the tight, technical course, the rest of our team was busy with the setup of our paddock booth, business development, and hospitality. Even just that Friday test day, foot traffic in the paddock totaled nearly ten-thousand, with estimates for Saturday and Sunday close to ten times that. The day ended with another type of race; several of our team members ran in a 5K with our own Michael Roselli taking home first place among those who competed on behalf of FCP Euro!
Photo by Halston Pitman
Qualifying, Race 1, and Race 2
Saturday and Sunday were something to behold. The venue was absolutely packed, and all of our vendor partners were there. The foot traffic was beyond what we could have imagined, and our swag was quickly depleted. Luckily, we had the crew back at FCP Euro to overnight us a box or three to have enough to hold us over through the rest of the weekend.
Qualifying at the streets of St. Petersburg is everything. Because of the tight, technical street circuit, there is physically less room to pass than that of a larger, purpose-built road course like CoTA. That means the easiest way to get in front at St. Petersburg is to start there from the beginning.
Another challenge at the Streets of St. Petersburg is, because the track is so short, you run into traffic (slower TCA cars) much faster than you otherwise would. Normally the guys have plenty of laps to warm up and scrub tires before setting down their flying laps but this race was much different. Both Michael and Nate caught traffic early on in qualifying, eventually leading to Michael taking P1 and Nate taking P2. This qualifying order would lead to the intense racing soon to come in race number one.
Race one began with Michael on pole and Nate breathing down his neck for a good portion of the race. They were so close in fact, if you were to glance quickly at the live stream, you couldn't even see his #72 behind Michael's #71. Close racing between our two drivers meant that Walker was able to stay right on our tails. Eventually, with this extremely tight racing, something exciting was bound to happen, and it did. Nate made contact with the back of Michael in the braking zone and sent him into one of the few runoffs, falling behind Walker in the Alfa. After Nate was issued a drive-through penalty, he tried to claw his way back towards the top but eventually, time ran out. Michael earned his first podium finish of his professional racing career, with Walker in second and Nate in third.
Race two was a completely different story. Even though Nate technically finished behind Michael on Saturday, he actually threw down a faster lap. And, since the grid during the second race is determined solely by the fastest laps of race one, Nate started ahead of Michael on pole position. The fight for first would see first, second, and third positions exchange multiple times.
Finally, with only twelve minutes remaining, Walker turned in just a fraction too early, ricocheting off the inside wall, to the outside, and back again to the inside wall—ending his race in a dramatic fashion and securing our one-two finish. Thankfully, Walker was safe, and we've gotten word he's on to a speedy recovery. We hope to see him again at VIR at the end of April.
With only two laps of green-flag racing after the full course caution, it was Nate's race to finish. But then, disaster struck.
Somehow, Nate managed to put his car into neutral during the yellow flag and then, he was unable to engage first gear once the pace car began running up to speed. After cycling the car on and off again, Nate was able to engage first, accelerate and speed up towards the pace car. He almost lost the race right then and there, at turn ten during the second to last lap.
Luckily for Nate, he was able to hold the lead over Michael to clinch the win and earn his first win as a professional driver, with Michael close behind him in second.
Photo by Kyle Bento
If you want to see what it takes to build our motorsports team and race TCRs, our series The Paddock gives you a behind-the-scenes look into every step of the process. As always, if you are looking for more, make sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel and check back here to keep your desktop looking fresh. If you have any suggestions or requests for future wallpapers, leave them in the comments below.
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