Murrieta, CA (March 9th, 2016)
This past weekend in Austin, TX at Circuit of the Americas marked Will Rodgers' first fully professional automobile race weekend. Will successfully competed in the 2016 Pirelli World Challenge TCB (Touring Car B) class and on track with over 50 cars combined in three classes. The weekend consisted of two 45 minute sprint races both of which were live streamed and pre-recorded for the CBS Sports Network television show airing on Thursday March 17th at 9:00PM ET.
A tumultuous weekend began on the Tuesday prior to the race as he loaded into the Jordan's race toter to embark on a 22 hour trip to Austin, TX. Arriving in Texas Will saw, for the first time, the Mazda2 race car he had purchased just days before. The car was a proven winner in SCCA club racing events but had never raced in a professional series. Jim Jordan and Will proceeded to prepare the car as quickly as possible to "pass tech" and be ready to hit the track for test day (Thursday).
After proving fastest on track for tests on Thursday, the next step was to qualify the car and prepare for race 1. Will went out in qualifying as one of the most competitive cars on track and laid down the fastest time of the session followed closely by teammate Henry Morse. Assuming the pole position secured the race Will proceeded to impound for inspection. Will was then informed his car and Henry Mores's were both under weight according to a 2016 rule they were unaware of.
Race 1 began with Will managing to pass several cars before turn 1 on the first lap. Several laps in, Will found himself in some tough battles with other competitors all fighting for top spots with other racing classes on track at the same time. TCB drivers soon began to experience lap traffic. For some this is a stress on their performance but Will was able to embrace the traffic and help it work to his advantage. Towards the end of the race Will found himself out front of the field but not alone as Ted Hough, a TCB competitor, was utilizing a draft from Will's car to gain ground. On the last lap in the last corner, Ted dive bombed Will, and they drove side by side through the turn. The drag race to the checkered flag went to Will in a photo finish!
Celebrations pursued but were cut short as the series informed the team of Will's disqualification from the race. The DQ was due to a maximum limit exceeded by the negative camber on the front left wheel. Perhaps the limited time the team had to prepare the car for the race the necessary precautions were not taken to ensure the camber bolts on the car would not slip. The car began the race within spec rules but finished slightly out of spec. The team worked late into the night to fix the issue and give it their all for Saturday's race.
Race 2 on Saturday began with Will starting from the back of the grid once more, although this time from a standing start. “I knew I had to redeem myself, but I didn’t know how I would do in the standing start," said Rodgers. "I had done them in karting and motorcross but this was my first pro race doing the standing start. I hadn’t done any tests." Will ended up having a terrific start and by turn 1 had passed several competitors. The laps following were full of nose to tail battles with bump drafting and dive bombs. With 10 minutes remaining in the race, Will found the lead and made the pass stick. By the time the checkered flag flew Will had gapped his closest competitor by 8.5 seconds!
"The weekend overall was quite a rollercoaster. I can't thank the Hale Motorsports team, Jordan family and all of my marketing partners; Solvang Brewing Co. Frank Kelly, Dynotronics Tuning and Mazda, enough! I'm very much looking forward to RD.2 at Canada Tire Motorsports Park in May!"
"I can't remember having a race weekend with so many ups and downs," said Jim Jordan. "After Will drove his heart out on Friday, only to have the win taken away because of a minor preparation issue, I was going to make sure the car was perfect. Will rewarded that late night effort with a win on Saturday and it was all worth it. Will proved he has the talent to run up front consistently, and I am excited about the rest of the season."
Will and the Hale Motorsports team look forward to RD.2 of Pirelli World Challenge at Canada Tire Motorsports Park, May 19-22nd. Both races will be broadcast live via world-challengetv.com
Murrieta, CA (March 9th, 2016)