This past weekend at Sebring International Raceway marked Remo Ruscitti’s first weekend with new LAP Motorsports LLC racing team, and the brand new MINI John Cooper Works race car. The partnership that is set to run through the remainder of the 2015 Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge season will see Remo as one of the team’s lead drivers in the #37 MINI Cooper ST (Street Tuner) car. MINI, an iconic brand, got a warm welcome back from its loyal fans who were excited to see the car on track once again, after a two and a half year absence from the series.
LAP Motorsports LLC, headed by Owner Luis Perocarpi, is set to run the remainder of the CTSCC with a three car program supported by MINI USA. MINI returns to the CTSCC for the first time since 2012. During its last run in the series, the Cooper S recorded 3 wins under the guidance of a previous team. 2015 marks MINI’s relaunch into the series, but this time with a renewed commitment of getting the brand its first championship in the class, with the brand new F56 platform.
Tuesday marked the first time the cars had seen the race track since being built, and the team knew there was a lot of ground to be gained. With progress being made each time on track and Ruscitti heading development on the car, the team was able to develop the car much further than expected. Ruscitti continued development into qualifying on Thursaday, a different role than usual for Remo, meaning he would determine the starting position and start the 2 hour and 30 minute race, before handing the car over for the finish to new teammate Dan Clarke, a previous stand out open wheel driver in CART and Indy Lights. With 30 cars on the grid in the ST class, Remo was able to post a lap good enough for 20th position, ahead of both debuting Audi S3 cars which was a feat in itself.
“Qualifying went very well. Each time the car heads out on track we makes big gains, and although we are about 4 seconds off the pace, I am very ecstatic to be in the position we are in. We, as a team, have a lot to learn still, and I am very optimistic for the potential of the car and the program,” stated Remo after an uplifting qualifying session.
The race started Friday afternoon which saw Remo put a mega opening lap together, working his way up 11 positions to 9th after the opening lap. The MINI’s run into the top ten lasted only a handful of laps as it was assed a drive through penalty for moving out of line too early on the start. Although the #37 car received a penalty and put the driver pairing down a lap in 29th position, it didn’t dampen their spirits. Remo gained the lap back on strategy before handing the car off to Clarke. As the race progressed, the car began to develop a problem which the team were aware of and had been working to fix throughout the weekend. The lack of endurance of the brakes, as they began to fade heavily, meant a massive drop off the pace toward the end of the two and a half hour race. The car was able to make the finish and come home in 18th place, finishing its first weekend with no major problems and a massive amount of knowledge gained. Team leader Perocarpi was elated at the end of the race, commenting “It is very satisfying to have one of our cars make it to the finish today, we have lots of work to do and I believe we will be much stronger when we get to the next round at Laguna Seca and I am glad to have Remo as a part of my team.”
Ruscitti, reflecting back on the weekend, commented “I am very grateful to be a part of this team and how the weekend went. We achieved many goals that had been set and I can’t wait to see what the future has in store for this awesome program.” Remo and the team plan on testing before the next round at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in May and hope to gain a lot of knowledge and progress before heading to Round 3 in a month’s time. Remo would like to Thank; LAP Motorsports LLC, MINI USA, Fikse Wheels, KW Springs, OMP America, Bell Helmets, Lafarge Concrete and Polen Designs for all their support in making everything possible. This past weekend’s race will air Saturday March 28th on Fox Sports 1 (Fox Sports Racing in Canada). Be sure to tune in and follow @rrusc on twitter, Facebook and Instagram for live updates during Remo’s race weekends.