After more than two months delay, Area 81 Racing kicked off the 2020 season with a bang at Pittsburgh International Race Complex in Wampum, PA. In only his second trip to the track, Tim Pierce displayed precision and poise while taking home 1st and 2nd place finishes for the weekend.
The team overcame a sluggish start during the Friday test day, which presented challenges in each session. The day started with coolant issues in the first session, leaving the team to wonder if they had destroyed the engine. Session 2 was shortened by black flag and the track was dampened by rain in the last two sessions.
Lap times quickly improved during Q1 on Saturday, but Tim would still find himself a disappointing 4th on the grid for Race 1. Luck met opportunity on the grid for the first race as the competitor starting 3rd was late to the grid, starting at the back of the pack. Starting a gear too high at the green flag, he would quickly close the gap and take over second in Lap 2, after a surprise pass at Turn 12. Six laps later he would take over first. Tim breathed a sigh of relief until the final lap when he saw the field closing fast, turning on the jets to the checker flag.
Qualifying a respectable 3rd on the grid for Race 2 on Sunday, the podium seemed like a pipe dream. The guys in 1st & 2nd had picked up the pace considerably and in 4th was the reigning series and former national champion. After another lackluster start Tim found himself battling back from 4th place yet again, but quickly moved to third on the second lap by pinning the champ behind traffic in Turn 3. Later that lap, he would pass the pole setter to move into 2nd place. By the start of Lap 5, he would move into the lead and build a gap of more than 7 seconds on the field. Lap 8 brought out a full course caution, due to a competitor’s car on fire. The field formed up behind the pace car for several laps while the accident was cleared. The course went green with two laps remaining, but he was passed on the inside of Turn 1 and would have to settle for second on the day.
Tim Pierce, driver #81 – “It was a disappointing finish to a wonderful weekend. I’m thankful that Doug is not injured and my heart goes out to his team. I worked so hard to get to the front and build a big lead. My team and I would have loved to have swept the weekend. All it takes is one mistake and that can be the difference between first and second. Alex had a tough weekend, but he was there to take advantage at the end. My hat goes off to him and his team.”
The team will skip Mid-Ohio and resume the season at VIR on July 17th. Thanks to the team, series, sponsors, and competitors for a fantastic weekend.