May 1st (Las Vegas, Nevada) – Rounds 5 and 6 of the Western Conference Division SCCA US Majors Tour took to the track of Buttonwillow Raceway this past weekend. The track configuration was a new one, as the series ran the 25 Clockwise configuration, offering high speed sweepers, no bus stop, and the star Mazda turn. Michele had never run this configuration, but looked forward to giving it a shot. With two weeks to plan for the event after returning from their trip down under to the Bathurst 6 Hour in Australia at Mount Panorama, things in the states hadn’t slowed down…
In fact, upon the return of the GRR Racing team, new partnerships arose with perfect timing. While working closely with the Pedders Racing team, Abbate fell in love with the set up of their right had drive Toyota 86. “I am so very thankful and grateful to now be partnered directly with Pedders Racing and their US distrubuter, 3PConnect!”, Abbate shares. The GRR Racing Toyota 86 is now equipped with Pedders Suspension including the external reservoir set up. “Special thanks to Grant at Pedders Racing Australia for help with our baseline set up”, Crew Cheif Anthony Philleo notes. The team had a very busy week leading up to the race. Including an unexpected motor swap, followed by an unexpected transmission pull, after their full suspension changes — they had their hands full!
Finally heading to Buttonwillow in the early am hours on Saturday morning, they had given it everything they had to make it happen. With the help from additional new partners, AntiGravity Batteriews, Driven Oil, and Beastronix, the team was thankful to be on their way to the event after a few major curve balls.
Shaking the car down in the first qualifier, Abbate and Philleo decided to try out the car without the rear wing. Michele quickly discovered she perferred having the extra rear grip, especially through riverside. The team qualified P2 in GT-1 but was facing engine issues. “It’s unfortunate that we had to swap back to our old [hurt] motor; but we didn’t have any other option”, Anthony explains. Michele drove as smart as she could and she was able to bring the car to the checkered flag with a P2 finish, being the first Toyota 86 to ever podium in GT1 in the SCCA. “A great accomplishment we have been chasing all year”, Abbate shares. Although the circumstances were not ideal, the team worked hard and they felt rewarded for their efforts.
For Sunday, GRR Racing prepped the car as best as they possibly could to prevent further issue with the motor. Although, late to grid and started at the rear of the pack; Abbate played it cool for the entire race. “My goal was to see that checkered flag, so I did everything I could to keep the car happy”. Ultimately GRR Racing capture another P2 podium finish bumping them into the 2nd place position for the Western Conference division, trailing the leader by just 16 points.
“Our purpose of running GT1 this year with our 86 is to qualify for National Run Offs for the GT1 program that is being built”, Anthony confirms. The team has done just that and is excited to be making progress up the ladder of motorsports. The next SCCA US Majors Tour event is set for the beautiful Pacific Northwest at Portland International Raceway on May 20-21st! Be sure to catch all of the action on the live stream at www.M1cheleAbbate.com/live!