March 6th, 2006/Monterey, CA. – The Hankook U.S. Touring Car Championship will begin their seventh season of competition this weekend of March 10-12 at the famous Mazda Raceway, Laguna Seca, Monterey, CA.
For the first time since 2001, the series will return to Laguna Seca, where also for the first time, the opening round of the fastest growing touring car series in the U.S. will be hosted by the inaugural U.S. race of the A1 Grand Prix of Nations. While the off season brought major adjustment, changes and additions in the competition schedule and series personnel, drivers and teams also made several key moves in preparation for the upcoming season. One item does remain, defending driver’s champion Dave Brown will be the one to beat as the 2006 campaign begins, but not without the extra challenge of getting in behind the wheels of a new car and joining a new team.
Subarus have been a main stay, standard performance and major contender in the USTCC series since Gary Sheehan and Team SMR started the USTCC WRX touring car program in 2001. It was the first time ever a WRX competed on any road racing series in North America and the first time an all wheel drive, force inducted vehicle successfully competed in a touring car series. Subaru, Sheehan and Team SMR won multiple USTCC races before GOTO Racing took over the program during the 2004 season.
In 2005, GOTO Racing in their first full season of USTCC competition didn’t perform like a rookie team, for they’re no stranger to winning. They are multiple winner and champions of the NASA Racing’s Honda Challenge series. GOTO Racing and driver Brian Lock scored a pair of wins, two second place finishes, six top 5’s and five podiums to finish second in the USTCC driver’s championship standings and won the APEX-I Rookie of The Year Award.
Now, Subaru is back for the its sixth straight season stronger than ever behind the expertise and touring car program of GOTO Racing and lead driver Brian Lock. This time around, Subaru, GOTO Racing and Brian Lock are all on the same page and have their eyes solely set on winning both USTCC manufacturer’s & driver’s title. GOTO Racing patriarch Steve Lock bolstered their chances of completing the USTCC sweep on their second season of USTCC competition by acquiring a brand new Subaru Legacy GT racer through Subaru of America. The Legacy will be piloted by son Brian, while his brother Chris will step in behind the wheels of the famous Subaru WRX for a two car Subaru effort. Chris Lock, like his brother Brian and father Steve graduates from Honda Challenge competition and won the driver’s west coast H1 class championship.
Perhaps the biggest off season development was the announcement that Dave Brown will defend his 2005 USTCC title with a new car and new team in 2006. Dave Brown won the 2005 USTCC Driver’s Championship with a dominating performance, winning four races out of seven, two second place finishes and seven top 5’s for Spoon Sports/Opak Racing of San Bruno, CA., while leading the way for Acura’s second Manufacturer’s Title behind the wheel of his Acura RSX-R. This season, Brown partnered up with David Bongiovanni, who’s a NASA Pro Racing championship winning team owner, to create GoodSport Racing that is based in San Francisco, CA. Brown and GoodSport Racing will campaign a Mitsubishi EVO VIII RS. This will be the first time the famous high performance Mitsubishi Lancer EVO VIII RS will compete in a major road racing series in North America and first time in a touring car series, much like the Subaru WRX did in 2001. It will also be the first time that a Mitsubishi EVO and Subaru WRX will go head to head in a touring car series, outside of the racing arena they are best known for in the World Rally Championship.
However, the rest of the USTCC field is primed to pick off either Lock or Brown for the top steps as the field’s diversity gets deeper in 2006. This includes Dale Sievwright, in a brand new MPACT Motorsports built E90 BMW racer. Dale wowed the USTCC crowd last year as he finished second at the first San Jose Grand Prix and was the main obstacle in Brian Lock’s rookie of the year campaign. Justin Elin is set for a strong return after a string of bad lucks in 2005. Elin was the 2004 Apex-I Rookie of the Year and the runner-up in 2004. Jeff Misthway in his Motokars Audi A4 is set to return as well after blown-engines plagued his 2005 season.
A host of others look to improve their touring car programs developed in 2006, including the highly anticipated return of 2-time USTCC Champion Tom Lepper with a brand new teammate, Austin Harris. The duo will campaign a pair of Chevy Cobalt SS race cars. The Honda Research Team 2006 Civic Si, that created a big buzz at the 2005 SEMA Show in Las Vegas and then went on to dominate its class in the 2005 NASA 25 Hour Enduro of Thunderhill will make its debut in the USTCC, a driver is yet to be announced. Robert Tallini will also debut his 2006 Mitsubishi Eclipse in the series which should mark the debut of the new Eclipse model’s road racing career.
Official practice for the 2006 U.S. Race of A1 Grand Prix of Nations starts on Friday, March 10. Qualifying will be on Saturday, March 11. The Hankook USTCC field will take the track for it season opener race, followed by the A1 GP main race on Sunday, March 12. Event updates and results will be available here on the U.S. Touring Car Championship official website.