Lap records set around exclusive Monticello during Whelen US TimeTrial Championship (Video)

Lap records set around exclusive Monticello during Whelen US TimeTrial Championship.

Monticello Grabow.

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Whelen US TimeTrial ChampionshipPhilip Grabow set a new Whelen USTTC track lap record at Monticello. © NARRA

The challenging twists and turns of Monticello Motor Club are usually off limits. The private resort-like country club for motoring enthusiasts rarely opens its gates for anyone but its members. However competitors in the Whelen US TimeTrial Championship were lucky enough to grace New York’s exclusive 22 turn 3.6mile circuit as part of the North American Road Racing event August 24-26. Not only that, they redefined speed around the track, setting four new class records, including a new TT-Unlimited lap record of 2:24.961 by Element Tuning’s Philip Grabow.
The response was amazing, creating what track officials called the biggest motor racing event in the track’s history with the likes of Brian Redman, Eric Curran and Ralph Gilles looking on as over 80 competition cars took to the track in the US GT Championship, SRT Viper Cup series, Radical Challenge and Rounds 9 & 10 of the Whelen US TimeTrial Championship.

Saturday

Philip Grabow returned to his winning ways in the Whelen US TimeTrial Championship, setting Round 9’s outright fastest time to win the TT-Unlimited class on Saturday. Grabow’s Element Tuning Subaru STi lapped America’s most exclusive circuit in 2:26.811.

Saturday’s TT-Unlimited podium was completed by Michael Greenberg (Viper Comp Coupe) and Kaizen Tuning’s Scott McIver, driving a Mitsubishi Evo X.

Winning TT-1 was the only other driver to break into the twenties, Richard Startare (Dezigns Constuction Viper GTS). He was also the only other driver to see his name at the top of the overall timesheet, faster than Grabow in the morning session. Going faster in the second session, Startare took the TT-1 win with a 2:29.291 from Steve Katz (OnTrackInsurance Viper ACR) and Barry Dickson (Viper SRT10).

Also particularly impressive was a pair of Vettes, driven by Scott Mandel (1st Class Alignment & Repair Corvette Z06) and Ben Lesnak (Corvette C5). Respectively, the pair took the TT-2 and TT-3 classes by storm, each more than four seconds clear of their nearest rivals.

However a technical infraction for Mandel (2:33.934) bumped fellow Vette driver Marianelli up to first, giving Ignition Ready / JMR Garage driver the win in TT-2 with a 2:40.044.

Marianelli had already stolen the show away from the Nissan GT-R of Ray Cocoziello (2:40.547) by half a second. Alan Cohen (Cadillac CTS-V) was third.

In TT-3 Cristian Stanescu (payless4braces.com Porsche Turbo) kept plugging away to edge out Jordan Levitt (Mitsubishi Evo) for second. However, their times of 2:36.358 and 2:36.537 were no match for Lesnak’s 2:31.607.

The technical nature of the stunning private circuit meant competitors spent much of Saturday’s morning runs learning the layout. Many of the fastest times came in the third session, and times were expected to drop still in the fourth and final session, but an extended clean-up due to a massive oil spill in a support category race cancelled the session.

Completely caught out was Kevin Ferguson (TT-U, Craftlogic Software Viper ACR), who was also competing in the US GT Championship. He had only planned to run the final session and was left without a time.

Sunday

Determined not to suffer the same fate on Sunday, USGTC competitor Ferguson focused more time on his Whelen USTTC effort, and pushed in session one to set the fastest time of the morning, a 2:26.838.

Monticello Ferguson
The times were much closer in TT-1 Sunday morning, with Startare and Dickson only separated by half a second after session one, and Katz only another few tenths down the road. Amazingly Startare’s time of 2:29.133, a new TT-1 lap record, came after his front splitter and underbody sustained damage after collecting an exploded rotor from Alan Cohen’s Cadillac CTS-V. But yet again the standouts were the Vette duo of Lesnak (Corvette C5) and Mandel (1st Class Alignment & Repair Corvette Z06). TT-3’s Lesnak was 6th fastest outright during the first session, and Mandel 9th fastest in a TT-2 car.
A great battle was also shaping up for the second and third steps of the podium in TT-2, between the Mitsubishi Evos of Thai Diep (2:37.040), Marc Cantor (2:38.538) and Mark Forenbaher (2:40.385). Ray Cocoziello wasn’t far behind in his Nissan GTR either (2:40.666), but was fighting a glitch with the car’s sophisticated computer.

The biggest surprise of the morning was the lack of pace from Philip Grabow, 3rd in class and only 8th outright. Reports of a fuel starvation issue circulated from the Element Tuning camp.

With the issue fixed Grabow bounced back in session 2 to claim the top spot in TT-Unlimited with 2:24.961- the fastest time-trial lap recorded for the weekend and a new TT-Unlimited lap record. Amazingly he admitted he achieved the time without even winding up the boost on his Subaru STi.

Craftlogic Racing’s Kevin Ferguson responded in the third and final session but remained seven tenths shy of Grabow, cementing 2nd in class with a 2:25.625. Michael Greenberg’s 2:30.137 (Viper Comp Coupe) from the first run of the day remained his fastest to claim third in TT-U.

Katz closed the gap to Dickson’s best in session two, the pair’s pace clearly worrying Startare, who returned to the track in the final session. Finding another two tenths he locked in another TT-1 win from Dickson and Katz with a new class lap record of 2:29.133.

With a lap record setting 2:33.203, Mandel found another second in the second session to put him well clear of the competition in TT-2, or so he thought.

Behind him Forenbaher was now only two tenths from eclipsing Cantor, and in the final session he did, extracting another nine tenths to finish with a 2:37.883.

But the real shock was Cocoziello, who rocketed up the charts from the forty second bracket to a 2:33.529 to be just three tenths behind TT-2 class winner Mandel, takeover second place and relegate Diep to third.

Jay Rudolph (Nissan GT-R) picked up the pace in TT-3 in session two, but so did Lesnak, to remain six fastest overall, six seconds clear of his competition and reset the TT-3 lap record to a 2:30.275. Cristian Stanescu completed the podium with a 2:38.618.

The Whelen US TimeTrial Championship next heads to Texas World Speedway, September 21-23, before returning to New York for the final double-points round of the championship at Watkins Glen International, October 19-21. The Watkins Glen event will also feature a stand-alone NARRA World Championship time-trial competition, and the final rounds of the SRT Viper Cup. Both events will feature the US GT Championship and the US Performance Driver Education program, allowing all high-performance car owners to take to the track.

Take a splitter view ride with Phil Grabow around Monticello for the first ever laps.
The winning lap with Phil Grabow.  You can hear the engine cutting out about 3 turns from the finish line.  A loose fitting/worn pin on the DBW throttle connector was the culprit.
We have much more in the car but we had to nurse the brakes throughout the event.  Running at NASA TTU trim we set the fast lap with 495 whp but when we finally turned up the power we had to abandon the run due to the emergency vehicle on the track. We’ll step it up next year.
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