Team GTI

Kirk's 25th Racing Anniversary
What's that saying about old age and treachery...?

Event Reports 2011
Last updated 6 February, 2012

Summit Point Motorsports Park
Summit Point, WV

16-17 April
SCCA MARRS 1 Regional Race

Kirk qualified fourth in wet conditions behind Michael Tinis (VW), Tom Martin (VW), and Gregg Ginsberg (Honda) but solidly ahead of the rest of the 15-car field.

Saturday's qualifying race ran in the wet as well. The lead four finished in the same order as they started, as Tinis took full advantage of his 4-5 seconds-per-lap advantage to run away from the ITB field.

The Sunday race started with entrants gridded in the order of their fastest lap, leaving the front two rows made up of Tinis, Ginsberg, Martin, then Knestis in that order. At the green flag, Kirk got caught up behind the scuffling Ginsberg and Tinis, who moved left enough to give Martin the inside into Turn 1.

Knestis and Tinis staged an epic battle for 2nd, ahead of Ginsberg who would eventually fall out after contact with the Alfa Romeo of Patrick Pegues. The fun would end on lap 10, however, as Knestis's car suffered an unusual failure. The oil drain plug left its assigned location in the transmission case, draining all of the fluid along with Kirk's chance at a podium finish. (See the 5:00 min. mark of the video to the right.).

Martin continued to a well-deserved first MARRS win. Tinis's transmission was found to be noncompliant with the rules following a post-race protest, which elevated Beth Burkhard (Honda CRX) to second place.

In-car action video courtesy of Beth Burkhard

New Jersey Motorsports Park
Thunderbolt Raceway
Millville, NJ
30 April
Sports Car Club of America
Devil in the Dark 12-Hour Enduro

Kirk Knestis teamed up with Maximum Attack Motorsports and team principals Brandon Lewis and Ed Werry for a half-day blast on the Thunderbolt course at NJMP. Joined by fourth driver Rob Foley, the team was victorious in ITB, beating Knestis's nemesis Team Troxell VW Golf and the quick-but-fragile Mazda Protege of DTM Racing.

The weekend could have ended much less happily - and way sooner - if Kirk's off-course excursion in Friday night's qualifying had been more costly. Running wide out of the back-straight "kink," Knestis discovered a ditch running perpendicular to the track. His subsequent rally-style jump damaged the oil pan and pump, broke a transmission mount, and cost his codrivers most of their practice time as the car was rendered hors de combat for the evening.

Thankfully, the team was able to effect repairs in time for the race start at noon on Saturday. Kirk avoided further theatrics, although his late stint was slowed by an electrical glitch that was also fixed quickly. The blue Golf (a near twin to Kirk's regular ride, Pablo) completed 359 laps and finished a solid 23rd overall.

Click images to enlarge - © 2011 Mike Ferrett

Image Copyright © 2011 Colin J. Vozeh

Mid Ohio Sports Car Course
Lexington , OH
29-31 July
Sports Car Club of America
5th Annual IT SPEC*tacular

Kirk Knestis made amends for his weak performance at his first visit to the IT SPEC*tacular in 2008, with a solid third place in the multi-race festival format event. He did so trailing RennGruppe Motorsports teammate Tristan Herbert in his similar VW Golf III and local Rabbit GTI driver Scott Hileman in some of the closest racing of the weekend.

Much credit for this success goes to Herbert and RGM team engineer Cameron Conover, for their contributions during the Friday test session before racing started. The "IT Fest" format, in which starting positions for each session are determined by performance in the previous on-track session, puts a premium on being fast "out of the trailer." Doing the test sessions, chasing Brimtek Motorsports World Challenge Touring Car driver Herbert, helped Knestis be on pace for qualifying on Saturday morning. That first 15-minute session would end with Knestis in 3rd, just four tenths of a second behind the virtually tied Herbert and Hileman, and one second up on 4th-place qualifier Dan Hardison in his Civic.

Saturday's 35-minute race finished in the same order following some ferocious racing that included contact with Herbert when Knestis misjudged a pass attempt in the Keyhole turn. Herbert called them "even" because he was racing with a pair of Knestis's tires on the front of the Brimtek Golf. When it was done, these top three in ITB had finished with just over a second covering them, with fast race laps of 1:46.2, 1:46.3, and 1:46.4, in order of finish.

Knestis improved one spot by the end of Sunday morning's 15-minute "qualifying race" (also a points-earner for festival medals), sneaking past Herbert after he and Hileman were balked by a lapped car. Knestis's fast lap was just a tick better than Hileman's and he was closing at the finish, but he ran out of time before the checkered flag dropped.

The final race of the weekend finished very much like that of the previous day, but with Knestis coping with an overheating engine so nearly 10 seconds adrift of the battle for first. The points system made it necessary for organizers to break a tie between Herbert and Hileman by comparing the weekend's fast laps, so after more than 1.5 hours of on-track fighting, the margin between top two was just a few thousandths of a second.

That is good racing.

Update - A post mortem on the cooling issue revealed a collapsed thermostat, which almost completely blocked water flow. The entire system - including water pump and radiator - was refreshed in anticipation of the ARRC.

Image Copyright © 2011 Blair Judson

Video of Sunday's qualifying race (14:47 minutes)
Watch in a larger format on Vimeo

Video of the first half of Sunday's main race (15:52 minutes)
Watch in a larger format on Vimeo

Video of the second half of Sunday's main race (18:06 minutes)
Watch in a larger format on Vimeo

In-car, four-camera system courtesy of Race-Keeper and rep Bill Stevens

Virginia International Raceway
Alton, VA

22-23 October
SCCA Goblins Go Regional Races

Failing again to secure enough codrivers with funding for the Charge of the Headlight Brigade 13-hour enduro, Kirk decided to travel to VIR for the Goblins Go regional racing weekend at the end of October. This event, put on by North Carolina Region SCCA, would serve as a final tune-up prior to the season-crowing ARRC by Grassroots Motorsports.

Kirk qualified and finished first in the ECR enduro. The SARRC sprint was somewhat more competitive, with Steve Strickland (in Jeff Underwood's Honda Civic) qualifying on the pole, Kirk second, and longtime ITB competitor (and Competition Cages tube guru) Chris Schimmel in third. However, Kirk took advantage of traffic at the start to gap Strickland, used traffic to his advantage, and went on to the win and fastest lap of the race.

Road Atlanta
Braselton, GA
3-5 November
Sports Car Club of America
American Road Race of Champions (ARRC)

Knestis went to the 2011 ARRC determined to put in a good effort, having lucked into a bronze medal in 2010. He committed to the pre-race test day and entered the Pro IT race for additional track time, and had RennGruppe Motorsports put a fresh alignment on Pablo the Golf. The Pro IT turned out to be a success, with Knestis qualifying on the pole and taking the class win, but the Grassroots Motorsports Championship sprint race was the real prize.

Qualifying for the main event went well, with Kirk sharing the front row, just half a second off of Brimtek Motorsports trailer-mate Tristan Herbert in his Golf, thanks to some motivation and cooperative drafting from the WC Touring driver. The pair were ahead of Chi Ho (Mazda Protege), past ARRC champion Kevin Ruck (Honda Civic) and four other ITB cars...

...and then came the Worst Start Ever™.

Missing the third-to-fourth upshift coming for the green flag (it's a long story why), Knestis was swamped by five competitors and trailed Ryan Hall (VW Golf III) into the first turn. Efforts to quickly make up spots lasted until Turn 7 on the second lap, at which point a good run on Hall coincided with Tom Martin (running 4th) getting crossed up at the apex. Knestis clobbered Hall's rear bumper in the ensuing jam-up, resulting in ugly - but not performance-hurting - damage to Pablo's left front fender, and damage to the rear quarter from contact with a still-spinning Derek Lugar. Knestis was now in 8th position (Brad Sellers had sneaked past in the melee in his earlier-model Golf) and farther from what was now a Herbert-Ruck battle for the lead.

After a number of back-and-froth passes showed how fruitless a battle for 6th would be, Knestis latched onto Hall's rear bumper in an attempt to push the pair up the order. They passed Sellers and Ho's Mazda on the track, then Ruck fell out with brake problems. On Lap 15, Knestis passed Hall, then Lugar succumbed to mechanical issues, elevating the blue Golf to the bronze step of the podium when the race ended.

VW Golfs fielded by the Brimtek/RennGruppe cooperative swept the podium, with Herbert maintaining his lead and Martin hanging on for second. Knestis's result was the same as in 2010 but he was much happier this year, given the challenges overcome to claw back to 3rd.

Seventh in ITB on Lap 1 of the ARRC Championship sprint race, trailing Ryan Hall into the Esses

Showing superficial damage from contact on Lap 1; performance of the RennGruppe Motorsports Golf was unaffected

Jumping the curb at Road Atlanta's Turn 3, trying to make up for lost time
Images by Perry Bennett

All text and photos protected by copyright
Use by permission only
Last updated February 6, 2012
Project GTI is headquartered at RennGruppe Motorsports, Lexington, NC


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