Las Vegas, NV – The ST Racing team couldn’t have asked for a better ending to their season as they scored three podiums and secured 1st and 2nd place in the GT4 America SprintX West Championship during the final SRO America race event at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Aside from high winds at times throwing around some desert dust at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the 80-degree weather presented perfect conditions for the season’s final Rounds 9 and 10. Driving on a “Roval” (part oval and part infield circuit) was a first for everyone in the Series, so the weekend sessions started as early as Thursday. By the end of the first day, it was clear that this was not going to be an easy drive and passing might be difficult at the best of times.
Once again, ST Racing enjoyed the presence and assistance of two top technicians from the BMW Race Crew Program throughout the weekend. They were also joined by other delegates from BMW North America who quickly became part of the ST Racing family. And of course, racing in one of the most popular entertainment capitals of the world created excitement everywhere. Celebrations started early with ST Racing’s annual legendary paddock party on Friday night where a good time was had by all.
As soon as the green flag flew at 5 pm on Saturday, Samantha Tan wasted no time. She passed three cars right off the start coming into the first corner. Her #38 BMW M4 GT4 had good exit speed coming out of the last corner before the straight. However, while dueling for position later in her stint, Tan was hit from behind in Turn 4 causing her to spin out, but she rejoined the field and continued.
“The start of the race was really great for me” said Tan. “I think I passed a few cars right off the start. Then later, when I was racing with the #43 Audi of Sarah Cattaneo, I was all set to pass her, but unfortunately in Turn 4, I got hit by a Porsche running behind me. It spun me out, I lost some positions, re-started the car and got back into it, trying to stay persistent. I kept going. I handed the car over to Jason (co-driver). We did the best we could today, and finished ahead of the competitor we needed to finish ahead of to get 2nd place in the Championship. We’re going to finish the race tomorrow, and hopefully clinch 2nd place.”
As soon as Tan handed over the car to Jason Wolfe at half-time, he nosed ahead with a face- full of desert sun, and did an incredible job at working his way back up the pack while managing his Pirelli PZero tires. Wolfe had a strong drive and finished 4th in class, one stop short of a podium position.
“It was a good race” said Wolfe. “I got in the car after Sam got out. Unfortunately, she got spun by another car which put us back quite a bit, so I wasn’t able to get back up the pack to a podium spot. But we learned some valuable stuff about the car, and I think tomorrow, we’ll have a good shot at the podium.”
Meanwhile, Jon Miller charged ahead right from the start, and although he had to deal with a slight brake issue and radio failure, the Californian drove a solid race.
Miller had showed up late for the weekend, coming in from Europe, dealing with a huge time difference, and having missed the first on-track sessions, he was apprehensive at the beginning of the race. And, having no radio communication, he pretty well had to guess when to come in for pitstop when he saw other cars going to pits.
“I was more nervous today at the start today” commented Miller.” It’s an unknown track. I showed up late with not a lot of practice laps this weekend. I was on the back foot and didn’t feel like I had a rhythm at this place. Spent more time reviewing video, looking at data. I figured out some things to try before the race and was just hoping for a clean start. Luckily, that played out the way we wanted it, fell into a good rhythm. This is a pretty hard track to pass on. I was able to set up two guys to make passes on, at one of the corners on the infield. It was an unorthodox place to pass but made it work. We finished 4th place overall, 2nd place in class. We had a good pitstop, and Harry took it to the end.”
When his co-driver Harry Gottsacker stepped into the #28 machine, he moved up the field and battled for position right until the end, despite some gremlins. Managing tire degradation was key and dealing with brake issues meant he couldn’t push as hard as he usually did, but when the all-green race ended, he crossed the finish line 2nd in class.
After stepping on the podium, the young Texan, ex-baseball player stated: “There were definitely a couple of curve balls thrown into the mix during today’s race. Tire wear was a pretty big factor and we had a little breaking issue. But our BMW M4 GT4 has been strong all weekend, and I’m really looking forward to starting on the front row tomorrow and showing everybody what we’ve got.”
The ST Racing crew worked really hard that night to find the cause of the problems and got them fixed for the next race.
Sunday morning, all four drivers were ready to put out their best drive for the last race of the season despite high winds. The goal was for ST Racing to finish “top two” in the Championship.
Harry Gottsacker and Jason Wolfe started the race and both displayed solid driving skills while keeping 1st and 4th in class respectively throughout their stint, before coming in for driver-change.
Then, co-drivers Jon Miller and Samantha Tan stepped in and showed what they were capable of. Just a few laps later, Miller wowed the gallery when he made a great pass on the #77 Porsche of Alan Brynjolfsson in a side-to-side battle.
Tan drove beautifully and made a great pass on Lap 23rd which moved her up to 3rd in class. With 13 minutes to go, a long full-course caution was brought out when Sarah Cattaneo’s #43 Audi hit the wall and lost a wheel. By the time the car was removed, there were three minutes left in the race, and the 20 drivers were looking at a 1-2 lap shootout until the checker. The race ended with duo Miller/Gottsacker on the top step of the podium with Tan and Wolfe by their side, in 3rd place.
That night, at the year-end Gala Awards in the Bellagio’s fabulous ballroom, the ST Racing Team Principal, Kenneth Tan stepped on stage with all four drivers, where Jon Miller and Harry Gottsacker were crowned 2019 GT4 America West Champions and Samantha Tan and Jason Wolfe were awarded the 2nd place Championship Trophy. A great ending to a great season!
Here’s what they had to say about Sunday’s race and the season overall:
Jon Miller (#28 BMW M4 GT4): “It was an amazing season, an amazing way to finish it off. Second place overall in today’s race, and a class win. Harry had an incredible start today, settled into a good rhythm. He handed the car over to me, while still running second. The crew did a fantastic pitstop. I had one opportunity to maybe win the race at one point. it was like a drag race out of pitlane, I had the lead for just a moment but I wasn’t able to keep that McLaren behind me. The McLarens had a ton of speed today, and so we had to settle for 2nd place overall but 1st in class. It was a really fantastic way to end the season with a clean race car, a race win, and a Championship trophy to bring home.”
Harry Gottsacker (#28 BMW M4 GT4): “It was really awesome to end the season on a high note with a class victory in the ST Racing BMW M4 GT4. The car was consistent and had great speed during my stint and Jon Miller was solid finishing the race out.”
“This is my first professional championship” he added, “and I was happy to do it in GT4 in SRO America with ST Racing. I can’t thank them enough for bringing me into their family and supporting me every step of the way. I also need to thank my season sponsors for helping us to be on the grid: Javelina Harley Davidson, VP Racing Fuels, HRX USA, Bell Helmets, and Savage Designs.
Samantha Tan (#38 BMW M4 GT4): “The race went really well today. Jason did a really good job keeping the car up front for the first half of the race. I hopped in, did my best to catch the cars in front. We’d had a bit of a delay during the pitstop, but I was moving up. Then, Sarah Cattaneo hit the wall, so we went full-course yellow until near the end of the race. When we got the re-start, there were only about 3 minutes left in the race. I did my best to keep my position, and ended up finishing the race 3rdin class. Gave us a podium and our 2nd place in the Championship.”
“I need to thank my incredible team for an amazing season. And, we’ll get them next year as well.”
Jason Wolfe (#38 BMW M4 GT4): “The season was great. The whole idea for me coming into this season was to get Sam to make a lot of progress throughout the year, and she has. So, I look forward to building on that next year and get to the point where we can win some races.”
ST Racing Team Principal Kenneth Tan: “What an awesome year! It takes a lot of effort and teamwork to win a championship and I’m so proud of our crew and drivers for working together all year. The passion and the synergy were our key ingredients and that is what I believe allowed for our success. After three short years, our team gelled and came together as one big family. From our talented drivers to our hard-working and resourceful mechanics and engineers, as well as the full support from BMW Motorsports and our sponsor, Laurel BMW of Westmont, we made it to the top. Winning first and second place in the driver’s championship as well as the overall team championship is the best reward. I want to thank each of our drivers and crew, our media people especially Anne Roy, as well as our sponsors for making this possible in 2019. Now we look forward to our next challenge – the 24-Hours at COTA in November. Stay tuned!”
CBS Sports Network coverage for SprintX races from Vegas airs October 27 at 2 pm EDT.