The Goodsport Racing Mitsubishi Evolution, driven by David Bongiovanni, took first place in the first United States Touring Car race of the 2008 season. Held at Thunderhill Raceway in Willows, CA, the inaugural race held much promise with good weather, excellent car count, and some fierce competition including past USTCC champions and Grand Am veterans.
The team arrived at the track with the car in top shape, though with little information about the new to the series Nitto NT-01 race rubber sized in 225/50-17 for all competitors. At an all up race weight of over 3350 lb., the Goodsport team had to scramble to find suspension settings that got the most from the tires, as the Evo was heavier than the next heaviest car by over 400 lb., and was running the AWD mandated 12.45 lb/hp, the lowest power to weight ratio of any car in the field. Luckily, Robert Fuller of Robispec was able to supply critical suspension components and settings without any track testing opportunities, using his many years of experience to make great decisions on how to best manage these tires.
The qualifying session only lasted for two laps due to an on-track incident, and traffic only allowed Bongiovanni to qualify in fourth position. With three cars ahead at the start, using the great launch characteristics of the Evolution would be difficult.
When the green flag dropped the traffic kept all cars in their qualifying position through turn one as the pack settled into the single file line that would last the first few laps. A small mistake in turn nine sent the 2nd place Mini to sixth place in one turn, as the other drivers struggled to maintain position in line. After another two laps, the leading Dodge SRT-4 suddenly lost power on the main straight, instantly falling back to mid-pack and 6th place. With the Honda Civic in the lead, Bongiovanni settled into second place with the Chevrolet Cobalt SS, which ran the fastest lap of the race, filling the rearview mirror of the Evolution.
The first place Honda was fast enough to keep the Evolution behind it in second, but as the race wore on, the abilities of the AWD really began to shine. Eventually, the Honda pushed its tires beyond their abilities, and had a big spin coming out of turn eight. Bongiovanni was able to capitalize on the mistake and pushed through to take first place, with the Chevrolet Cobalt in close tow. As the pack came back across the finish line, a full course yellow was shown due to an incident behind the lead pack. The yellow continued until the checker was shown, giving Goodsport Racing and David Bongiovanni the first win of the 2008 season.
Bongiovanni states "Goodsport Racing is very pleased to return to USTCC after a one year absence. The newly developed promotional opportunities and fantastic new series sponsors including Nitto Tire have made this the premier pro touring car series on the West Coast. Today's win is directly attributable to the fantastic efforts over many years by the Goodsport crew and our sponsors Robispec, Innovate Motorsports, and Evil Genius."
Goodsport Racing will return to Round Two of the United States Touring Car Championship at Infineon Raceway on April 13, 2008 with Dave Bongiovanni behind the wheel once again. The hard work starts now, however, as the competition is fierce and the Goodsport crew will have to continue to improve the capabilities of the Evolution in order to stay at the front of the pack.