By Ali Arsham / Photo: Head-On Photos
The Nitto Tires United States Touring Car Championship (USTCC) teams will commence their new season next month in Southern California. 2015 promises to be a very competitive season with lots of new drivers and new cars that will be filling the paddock. Once again the series is using the fantastic Nitto NT-01 race tire and is supported by AFE Power, Specialty Products, Advanced Clutch Technology, Race Ramps, Optima Batteries, Cobra Electronics, Airaid, CRC Chemicals, Mothers products, Disc Brakes Australia, AutoMeter gauges, and many others. The series continues its involvement with Final Drive TV which produces a 30 minute TV show covering each of the seven races in 2015.
One of the promising new drivers is Mauricio Lastres, who comes from Lima, Peru. Lastres started by racing karts and moved onto Formula cars and now he starts his touring car career while he is doing his graduate studies at UC Berkeley. Lastres will be driving with a proven team for 2015 as he joins Life’s Good Racing and will be driving the team’s Works Motorsports/AST Suspension Mitsubishi Lancer Ralliart. Another new driver is Gary Hutto, who will be making his return to USTCC for 2015. Hutto is the 2002 USTCC Champion and his BMW 325i will be a force to be reckoned with. While other BMW teams are selecting the M3, Hutto’s HD Motorsports/HuttoDean Financial BMW bucks the trend and is going for less power and less weight strategy.
Returning in 2015 even stronger will be Michele Abbate in the GRR Racing Scion FR-S. Abbate managed to raise over $13,000 in funds through her successful 30 day all or nothing dark Horse Pros campaign. During the off season the team has aimed their focus on lightening the Scion while maximizing horsepower.
Beau Borders will be returning to the Life’s Good Racing team with one goal, become the 2015 champion. He is the series’ only Oscar nominated driver and finished the season in second place in 2014. Borders is hell bent on putting the Hawk Performance/Competition Clutch BMW M3 on the top step of the podium this year while balancing his hectic film career. While Borders will be driving the #12 BMW M3, he may have a teammate soon as the team is preparing the #11 BMW M3 for a potential new driver.
TNI Racing will be well represented in 2015 as they will campaign up to three Mazdaspeed 3 race cars as well as a BMW M3. Expect to see Ron Valtierra behind the wheel of one of the Mazdaspeed 3s but the team is trying to re-sign the 2010 USTCC Rookie of the Year, Felipe Cabezas back with the team. Doug Makishima is also rumored to be linked with a SanDisk backed BMW M3.
Michael McColligan has not been in a USTCC race since 2009 but he has not been sitting still. The Mazdatrix/Racing Beat Mazda RX8 has been receiving regular upgrades and now sports more power and less weight. He will rejoin the series with the only rotary powered car in the series.
Last year the GoGoGear.com team won the championship in their Konig Wheels/UTI Hyundai Genesis Coupe. This year Gary Sheehan will have a new partner, 2008 USTCC Champion Rod Rojas. Together Sheehan hopes to repeat as champions, something that has not been done since 2009.
The MBO Motorsports team has not missed a season in USTCC since 2005 and team boss Pete Bovenberg will be back behind the wheel of the PPG Paint/Super Tech valves Honda Civic. The team has not confirmed that teammate Curt Simmons will be back in the Rota Wheels/Martin Auto Color Service Dodge SRT4, but there are rumors. The team does say that they will have some surprises in store for the new season so we will have to wait.
Lots of others will be trying to take the crown in the Touring category including many that are going for the win in the Sportsman category including 2014 Sportsman Champion, GoGoGear.com’s Larry Bani, and at least two BMWs from Achilles Motorsports as well as 2013 Sportsman Champion Tom Milburn.
Red Star Racing’s Daniel Akhromstev won the GT class championship in 2014 and he wants to stay at the top in his BMW M3. Life is not going to be easy though as VJ Mirzayan will be trying to dethrone Akhromstev. Mirzayan will be driving a very quick BMW M3 that is backed by Achilles Motorsports, one of the leading BMW performance and racing specialists in the country. Team Prototype Development will be racing a Factory Five GTM with notable drivers Paul Edwards, Davy Jones, Elliott Forbes-Robinson and Steve Lisa. Life’s Good Racing will also be fielding their Chevrolet Camaro SS for Karl Chicca, who finished second in the Touring class last year.
The 2015 season promises to be one of the most competitive seasons of American touring car racing in memory with some great competition and even better races as the teams will start their season at Buttonwillow with a two hour long race that starts in the day and finishes at night. After that they make the trek to the world class Miller Motorsports Park near Salt Lake City for a huge event as they support the Lucas Oil Off Road series that draws tons of spectators. The next stop will be the world famous Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca circuit in Northern California with another big race as the group joins the NASA Western States Championships, an event that has become one of the biggest of its type in the country. The next two races are at Sonoma Raceway joining Formula Car Challenge, Radical Cup and Porsche GT3 Cup. The season closes with a race at one of the most popular tracks on the schedule, Thunderhill Raceway in November.