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M1 Racing's Bowlin Gets a Sixth and a Seventh
In His First Pirelli World Challenge Doubleheader
Last Weekend at Toronto Exhibition Place
TORONTO, Ontario, July 22 - M1 Racing's Walt Bowlin of Tarpon Springs, Fla., posted a sixth- and a seventh-place finish in the GT-A class with the Tampa Bay Jaw Surgery Audi R8 LMS ultra during his first doubleheader ever in the SCCA Pirelli World Challenge Championship last weekend at Toronto Exhibition Place.
Both races on the 1.755-mile, 11-turn temporary street course supported the Honda Indy Toronto Verizon IndyCar Series event.
Bowlin started seventh in class and 18th overall in Saturday's race after qualifying with a time of 1:12.960 on Friday afternoon. Several cars were involved in an accident in Turn 2 right after the standing start. Although Bowlin missed getting involved he did slip three spots overall while taking defensive action. That put him eighth in class and 21st overall for the restart on lap seven with the #23, which is also sponsored by Jet Concepts.
Tim Pappas had a problem at that point which gave Bowlin one spot and he got another position when Andrew Palmer spun in Turn 3 working lap nine. He passed Dean Martin working lap 10 to move up to 18th overall and seventh in class, and he advanced to 17th overall and sixth in class working lap 12 when he passed Bill Ziegler.
That was as high as he'd get that day, however, as he nosed into a tire wall working lap 13. He got going again but the incident was costly, as he had dropped to 30th overall and eighth in class by lap 15 and was a couple of laps down. He was still fast, however, as he set his fastest lap of the race on lap 17 with a 1:13.847.
There were only about 20 minutes remaining in the race to regroup, however. He got by Jorge De La Torre and then he got two more spots when Butch Leitzinger and Albert Von Thurn had contact working lap 20. Bowlin was 27th overall and sixth in class for the restart on lap 24.
His class position remained constant until the checkered on lap 30, but he moved up one spot overall after the sixth-place driver, Robert Thorne, stopped on the track working lap 25. Bowlin moved up one more place when he passed Jack Baldwin on the next lap, and he took the checkered four laps later in 25th place overall and sixth in class.
The team worked hard to replace the car's clutch Saturday night prior to Sunday morning's race, which was moved up a couple of hours when the event schedule was altered due to rain later on Saturday. Sunday's race began with a rolling start instead of the series' usual standing start too due to damp areas on the course, although all the cars still used Pirelli slick tires.
Bowlin started 16th overall and fifth in class on Sunday thanks to his fastest race lap during Saturday's race. Bret Curtis started right behind him in 17th place overall and he passed Bowlin on the first lap. By lap two Bowlin was 17th overall and sixth in class. Curtis passed Henrik Hedman working lap two, so for most of the race Bowlin was running comfortably in 17th place overall and sixth in class, with Hedman just ahead and Ziegler quite a ways behind him in seventh in class.
Bowlin was consistently getting faster each lap too. He set his fastest race lap on lap 10 with a 1:13.819, which was the fifth-fastest lap for the class at the time.
Unfortunately Curtis spun coming out of Turn 3 working lap 12 and collected Bowlin, who had nowhere to go, and both Audis ended up in a tire wall to bring out the race's only full-course caution flag. Both got going again under their own power, although Bowlin had to drive back to the pits with his Audi's hood up and blocking his vision. He retired at that point to finish 37th overall and seventh in class.
There were only two 30-minute practice sessions on Friday prior to qualifying. Bowlin was seventh in the GT-A class in the first practice session with a 1:15.037 and eighth in the class in the second practice session with a 1:15.111.
"It was our first event in the series and it was a great learning experience," Bowlin said. "The people were very accommodating and welcomed us.
"The races were disappointing because of the off-track excursion in the first race and the crash in the second race. But the Audi performed very well here and I'm looking forward to driving it again. The Audi customer support was fantastic. We should fare better at Mid-Ohio after a great learning experience here in Toronto."
The next event is Aug. 1-3 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio.
The Toronto races will be broadcast on the NBC Sports Network on Sunday, Aug. 10 at 1:30 p.m. Eastern, with a rerun on Saturday, Aug. 16 at 12 a.m. Eastern. They can also be seen on world-challengetv.com.
Additional information is available on the series' Web site at world-challenge.com. The Dallas-based team's Web site is at m1racing.co and the team also has a Facebook page and a Twitter account.