surprised looks on many faces

June 19, 2011 – Pooler, Georgia: There were surprised looks on many faces as the MINI of Charleston/MINI USA.com trailer arrived at Roebling Road Raceway for the Chump Car Series races June 18 and 19. The Chump Car Series is an endurance race series established for $500 race cars. Chump Car’s rules allow any type of vehicle as long as “if you put it in front of your house with a for sale sign, nobody would offer you more than $500 for it”. Unfortunately because of their excellent resale, nobody can find a $500 MINI. So what was being towed into Roebling? Two 1992 Saturn SC Coupes. The Saturns were previously part of a track day fleet that Hendrick Motorsports used for sponsor events at Charlotte Motor Speedway. When the fleet was being prepared for a trip to the scrap yard, Rick Hendrick Imports saved them from the crusher with the thought of one day making a useable car or two out of the 6 broken Saturns.

Several months ago the decision was made to give 3 cars each to Garrett Academy of Technology, the Charleston County career high school and Stratford High School Auto Tech class in Berkeley County, with the instructions to piece things together to create a $500 race car for a little inter-school competition. The last week of school both schools’ projects were driven onto a trailer and brought to the Rick Hendrick Imports technical staff for final race prep and installation of the racing safety equipment. Car Chiefs and drivers Andrew Giaquinto and Chip Hall spend some long days, late nights and an early morning getting the car race ready.

By random draw the driver teams were divided between the two cars in preparation for 14 hours of racing, 2 seven hour enduros on Saturday and again on Sunday. Driving for the Garrett team; Andrew, Brad Davis, Leon Fox and Ben Karnes. Driving for the Stratford team; Chip, Stuart Kestenbaum, Tom Blocker and Wayne Simpson.

In the team’s first Chump Car event, we found out our cars were way “under prepared” compared to our competitors, but all we were really concerned with was the inter-school challenge, so we accepted the fact that our basically showroom stock cars on all season radial tires would be bring up the rear of the field.

Calvin Mathews and Chris Gathers, recent graduates of Garrett academy were the lead techs in the preparation of the race cars and joined us for the weekend as our race team crew. Auto Body instructor and Garrett JV Football Coach Michael Branch also served as our pit crew.

Saturday, both cars lapped the track at remarkable speeds with surprising reliability. One small clutch linkage problem put the Stratford car a few laps behind the Garrett entry and after 7 hours and 211 laps (422 miles), the Garrett car finished 18th in the 30 car field. Stratford’s entry was 19th, completing 208 laps (416 miles). The winning Garrett car had a fastest lap of 1:34.702, an average speed of 76.028 miles per hour. This feat was very impressive considering 6 of the 8 drivers had never driven at Roebling Road and the race format allows no time for practice.

Sunday with temps again hitting the 100 mark, the High School cars headed out for another 7 hours on the 9-turn, 2.0 mile asphalt track. Garrett Academy again won the grudge match after the Stratford car suffered a blown head gasket after overheating when it lost a drive belt. In the closing laps, the Garrett car was able to get by a couple of cars that broke down late in the race and improved Sunday’s finishing position to 17th. The Garrett car again ran flawlessly all day and completed 215 laps (430 miles) and had a fast lap of 1:34.115 for an average speed of 76.502 mph. In the Stratford car, before dropping out after 104 miles, turned its fastest lap of 1:34.419 (76.256 mph).

The Chump Car Series awarded the Garrett team a trophy for being the best Novice team and the best school spirit. “This is an incredible testimony to the quality of the technical training available in public schools in the Charleston area” said Brad Davis MINI of Charleston racing team manager and Rick Hendrick Imports Executive General Manager. “This was an incredible experience for all of us and the schools. I want to be sure to give a special thanks to Mr. Hendrick for thinking of us and sending the cars and saving them from the junkyard, teachers Mr. Branch and Mr. Smalls at Garrett and Mr. Bolton at Stratford and all the students that assisted in this project. Also a special tip of the helmet to Mrs. Camens at Stratford who sent this great idea to us through her husband our BMW team Leader Uri Camens.”

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SCCA BF Goodrich Super Tour Double National at Virginia International Raceway

Charleston, SC: In April Robbie and Brad Davis, competing in their MINI of Charleston/MINI USA/CarboTech Brakes/Hoosier Tires MINI Coopers, ran the SCCA BF Goodrich Super Tour Double National at Virginia International Raceway near Danville, Virginia. This is one of  nine national events that carries a national award for drivers earning a ticket to the National Championship Runoffs in September. Using a points system that awards additional points for larger entry levels the BFGoodrich Super Sweep award is a secondary National Championship. Currently both Brad and Robbie are 3rd in points in the nation in their respective classes, but South East division drivers get a jumpstart on other drivers in the country that start their season a lot later than those of us that have good weather all year around.

At the VIR event 250 drivers from all over the country came to compete in the double national weekend. Saturday’s race was competitive with Robbie ending up with a 5th in Showroom Stock B and Brad 5th in H Production. Both Davises were hoping for a rain race, but the severe storms stopped all racing for a couple hours as rain and tornados threatened the area. However, when the storms left the track dried quickly and the MINI front wheel drive rain advantage dried up also. The race had a previous national champion and professional racers in the field, showing the level of competition for this event.

Sunday Robbie got a great start and lead for a while, but the horsepower advantage of rest of the class over the MINI gave them the advantage on the long 3.27 mile course. Robbie’s close rival Mike Scornavacchi got by Rob in his BMW Z4 and held on for the win. Peter Schwartzott, of Freeville, NY used the 30 additional horsepower of his Honda Civic SI to also power past Rob on the long straightaway, followed by Tim Meyers in his Ford Mustang. Rob’s 4th place finish was not a good representation of the fight he put up to stay in the race with cars that have a lot more power than the MINI.

Brad’s Sunday race was much better than Saturday’s outing. After missing two track sessions getting the mystery computer/theft unit problem fixed again, Brad’s learning curve on VIR with the new car improved his performance. Ron Bartell from Madbury, NH  put his MG Midget on the pole. The two time national champion jumped into the lead, but from his 5th place starting position, Brad jumped into 3rd at the start and within a couple laps was holding down 3rd by a 10-15 second margin. However with 3 laps remaining, a car went off course hard and then came to rest back on the track with a broken suspension. A full course caution was required to move the disabled car and the pace car allowed the other cars in the class to close up on Brad. Cars in a faster class that were also running in the H Prod race had just lapped the slower HP cars and the restart was total chaos. Brad was pinched behind another car and Greg Plush, from Reston, Va. got his Nissan past Brad and stole 2nd! However the Super Tour event still featured a full podium celebration complete with champagne spraying, so Brad’s 3rd place finish still let him participate in the post race fun.

The final weekend of the April marks another challenge for the team as co-driver Robbie Davis has moved to Dallas, Texas to take the job as the Marketing Director for a Chick-fil-A in Irvine. Rob has qualified for the National Championship Runoffs at Road America, Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin in September and hopes he can juggle events to allow him to compete.

Brad will take the one car MINI of Charleston team to Road Atlanta for the SCCA National May 21st. Brad is currently 2nd in SEDiv points in HProd.

Attached Photos – credit Mark Boudoucies

For additional Information contact Brad Davis 843 402-6551.

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Heavy Rain

The morning dawned with heavy rain in places and a threatening sky everywhere else around north eastern Georgia and many felt the rain was inevitable at the Hutchinson Island Road Course. As it turned out Hutchinson Island , just across the river from Savannah , did not see a drop of rain and the sun came out brightly at about 8:00 am. Over fifty autocrossers showed up ready to challenge a very nice quick course put on by Coastal Empire group of the Sports Car Club of America. For the second time in a row the MINI of Charleston 2007 Cooper S was on top of the indexed results, besting all other cars by over a half second. In the raw times the car was beaten only by three trailered in race cars, a Subaru Turbo, a Porsche 996 and a Nissan 300ZX Turbo. The Cooper driven by Stuart Kestenbaum, a Service Advisor for MINI of Charleston is driving his wife’s bone stock MINI Cooper S and changes tires so he doesn’t wear out their street tires. The results are following last year’s Championship where the car won the overall SOLO II series with no one even being close. The car will run again in either April or May, look for updates as they become available. At the awards ceremony the comment was made that there now is a target painted on Stuart’s back and everyone will be gunning for him.

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Southeast Division of the Sports Car Club of America hosted a double race

Braselton, Georgia – The Southeast Division of the Sports Car Club of America hosted a double race weekend at historic Road Atlanta, one of the premier road courses in the US. The challenging 2.5 mile road course hosted over 200 participants to vie for class wins and an invitation to the SCCA’s National Runoffs coming is September. The clear weather created great track conditions for the competitors and several new track records were set.

The MINI of Charleston Racing Team represented MINI USA in both the Showroom Stock B class and the H Production class. Coming off a first race win in the rain at Roebling Road, Brad Davis tried the difficult task of taking a newly built race car and getting back to back National Series wins. After qualifying on the class pole, Davis and his 2002 MINI Cooper got pinched on the start and was relegated to chasing down the Toyota Corolla of Keith Church from Greensboro, North Carolina. The two cars turned their fastest laps within 4 hundredths of second of each other. Church’s smaller and lighter car had the advantage on the straight and Davis’ MINI closed the gap in the turns. Ultimately a loose plug in Church’s transmission gave Davis the victory just 3 laps short of the 18 laps, 45 mile race. In the rematch on Sunday Davis found the MINI in 3rd on the start after again setting the fastest qualifying time but worked his way past the Honda Civic of Terry Boylan of Lakeland, Florida and set out to chase down Church’s class leading Toyota. Davis caught Church with 2 laps to go and made a pass in turn 5, but Church was able to re-pass Davis in turn 6. Church was able to hang on for the win and Davis finished 2nd.

Things were no less exciting for Robbie Davis in the team’s 2005 MINI Cooper S. Davis qualified 2nd, behind last year’s third place National Championship Runoffs driver Mike Scornavacchi, of Manheim, Pa. On the start 4th place qualifier Peter Schwartzott of Freeville, New York jumped to the front and an accidental contact between Scornavacchi’s 2007 Pontiac Solstice and Schwartzoff’s 2008 Honda Civic, left the Solstice with a bent suspension. Tim Meyers from Atlanta later took the lead with his 2006 Ford Mustang and held on for the win. Schwartzott’s Honda held off Davis for 2nd. The stage had been set for a showdown in SSB on Sunday. Sunday’s cool weather helped Davis move his MINI into the number 2 starting position, behind Scornavacchi. The younger Davis has a fantastic start and found the MINI of Charleston MINI in first by turn 3. Davis held the lead for almost half the race as the other 3 top qualifiers battled for position behind him. However, the chasers soon stopped swapping positions and the race tightened up. Eventually Meyers moved his Mustang back into the lead and Scornavacchi slid the Solstice into 2nd place ahead of Davis. The two changed positions several times (sometimes on the same lap) and gained on Meyers in the closing laps. In the end Meyers got the victory with Mike, Robbie and Peter right behind him in a space close enough to be covered with a blanket. The track public address announcer focused on the SSB race and called it one of the best of the weekend. Final results showed the top 4 cars turned their fastest laps within three tenths of a second fastest to 4th. All of the cars averaged over 87.5 mph.

The team now begins preparation for the next SCCA SEDiv Double National at Virginia International Raceway in April.

For additional information, contact Brad Davis 843 402-6551or brad.davis@hendrickauto.com

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The MINI of Charleston Cars Take Savannah By Storm

The MINI of Charleston Cars Take Savannah By Storm.

The three MINI of Charleston cars had a great two weeks from Feb 27th to March 6th winning three times in and around the Savannah area.

First, the Solo II car driven by Stuart Kestenbaum won the overall indexed Autocross event held on Sunday Feb 27th in his wife’s MINI Cooper S daily driver. The car is a bone stock 2007 Cooper S with the only modification being a set of Hoosier Autocrosser tires. His time  was over a second quicker, using the index, then the next car and ahead of some trailered in, purpose built race cars. This puts the car ahead in the Championship and looks to be a continuation of last year’s domination of the Coastal Empire’s Solo II Series Championship.

On March 6th, just one week later, the H-Production MINI of Charleston Cooper of Hendrick Imports GM Brad Davis won his Race at Roebling Road, Ga., in a car that was built over the winter months. This was the car’s first race and Davis’ first race on rain tires, due to wet track conditions at the start of the race. He qualified fourth in class and worked his way to the front winning in race group 1 at the Buccaneer National at Roebling Road Raceway, just outside of Savannah. H-Production cars are purpose built race cars using stock chassis with suspension and engine modifications along with many pieces of safety equipment installed. It was quite a challenge getting the car sorted out in only one session before the race was run. “I qualifying I had to relearn the entire track, since this car handles so well, as opposed to the showroom stock cars I’ve driven the last 25 years. Real race slicks and adjustable suspension make the great MINI handling unbelievable. When the rain came the learning curve was erased and years of experience racing in the rain kicked in. The Hoosier Rain Tires were great at moving the water and finding traction”, said Davis in the past race interview.

Later on the that same day Robbie Davis, Brad’s son, won his race in the MINI of Charleston Showroom Stock B car. Robbie had to start from the back of the pack due to work commitments making it impossible to get to the track on Saturday for qualifying. During the race Robbie managed to get to the lead and hold off the competition to win the event and make it a clean sweep for the MINI of Charleston cars in Georgia on these consecutive weekends. Showroom Stock B cars are bone stock with safety equipment and DOT legal tires installed. Robbie is now 2 wins in 2 National starts for the season.

All these cars will be competing again later this month in and around the South at various venues. Look for updates on the progress of the team in the future releases. Wish them luck, it’s going be a long tough season now that the competition is gunning for them.

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MINI of Charleston Racing Team started their season at the famed Sebring International Race Course

Sebring, Florida – The MINI of Charleston Racing Team started their season at the famed Sebring International Race Course. The first stop on the 2011 Sports Car Club of America’s National Racing Series attracted 100s of amateur racers to the hallowed concrete and asphalt of Sebring. The 3.7 mile, 17 turn road course is known as one of the toughest race tracks in the world and the fast but bumpy course has broken many a race car. Robbie Davis, driving the 2005 MINI Cooper S, qualified 2nd in the Showroom Stock B class race. During qualifying, Mike Scornavacchi, making the trip down from Pennsylvania, set the fastest lap in his Pontiac Solstice, but damaged the car, hitting the inside wall on turn one while trying to get past a slower car. The damage was not repairable at the track and Mike was forced to withdraw from the double national event. Robbie started first in class, but veteran driver Tim Meyers pushed his Mustang to within 2 car lengths of Davis’ MINI, only to drop out when a cooling system hose disconnected on the rough course. Davis went on to win and claim the first 2011 SSB win for sponsor MINI USA. “The Hoosier Tires stuck great and combined with the Carbotech Brakes, I was able to go a little deeper into the turns than the Mustang. It would have been an interesting race had Tim not fallen out early”, said Davis.

Sunday morning Robbie put the MINI Cooper S on the pole for Sunday’s race but late in the qualifying session the bumps at Sebring claimed another victim, the MINI Cooper S jumped a course defining curb at high speed and broke the housing on the steering rack. Not having another rack available, the team was forced to miss the 2nd race of the season.  The team has elected not to go to next week’s double national at Homestead Raceway in Miami, but when the team returns to action in March at Roebling Road in Pooler, Georgia, Davis will be in the points hunt.

The expected debut of the teams new H Production 2002 MINI Cooper was delayed when the mandatory electrical cut off system caused the new car’s electrical system to scrabble the cars main control unit computer during its per-race technical/safety inspection. The team will be doing some testing in February and be ready to race in March.

For additional information, contact Brad Davis @ 843 402-6551

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MINI of Charleston Racing Team has released their 2011 Schedule

Charleston, SC – The MINI of Charleston Racing Team has released their 2011 Schedule. After missing the 2010 SCCA National Series due to team manager/driver Brad Davis’ knee replacement and 2nd team driver Robbie Davis’ changing job responsibilities, the team is excited to announce they will again be actively competing in the Sports Car Club of America’s National Racing Series, competing for a Southeast Division invitation to the SCCA’s National Championship Runoffs in September at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. Both Robbie and Brad have won SEDiv Championships (Brad in 2006 in Showroom Stock C and Robbie in 2008 in Showroom Stock B) and both hope to add a second Divisional Championship to their resume. Robbie will again be driving the 2005 MINIUSA.com/MINI of Charleston/Mini Mania MINI Cooper S, competing in the Showroom Stock B class. Brad will be driving a 2002 MINIUSA.com/MINI of Charleston/Mini Mania MINI Cooper in the H Production Class. This class allows many modifications not allowed in Showroom Stock and will be a proving grounds for performance parts supplied by two major sponsors, MINI USA and Mini Mania. “After 25 years of racing cars that were basically straight off the showroom floor, the change to a car with virtually everything adjustable will test the old adage about old dogs and new tricks. But the team and I are really excited about the chance to race a car that we have built from the ground up, around the reliable and dependable R50 MINI chassis and drive train.” commented driver Brad Davis.

For additional information go to www.minicooperracing.com or contact Brad Davis @ 843 402-6551 or brad.davis@hendrickauto.com

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