NASA Southeast’s Hotlanta Challenge is know for sweltering heat that tests the drivers, but this year temperatures were relatively mild for Atlanta in August, and it seemed that the cars were the ones being tested, with mechanical retirements plaguing the GTS crew starting from the first session.
Werner Stark had to retire after the first practice session on Saturday when the differential in his widebody BMW M3 blew up, leaving the battle for the top GTS spot in the Thunder group between David Richardson in his Porsche C2 and Drew Ewing in his BMW E46 M3. On Saturday Richardson qualified .4 seconds quicker than Ewing, and in the race Ewing tried everything he could to get by. For several laps it looked to those watching like the two cars were attached until late in the race when Richardson was able to pull away for a little breathing room.
On Sunday, Ewing out-qualified Richardson. From the start, Ewing was able to gap the Porsche, but Ewing went wide coming out of Turn 7, hit a pothole in the grass and damaged his oil cooler, causing him to hand the race to Richardson.
The Lightning Group suffered the same plight as the Thunder Group had with Rafael Torres (BMW E36 325is) taking the top spot in GTS2 both days aided by the prerace withdrawals of the Mercedes 190 of Chuck Ellis and Brandon Pantas’ BMW 325i . Torres did not let the lack of in-class competition hold him back, however, driving from 32nd in the third starting group to sixth overall on Saturday and fifth overall on Sunday.
On Saturday Thomas Crookston drove his Volkswagen GTi to an early lead in GTS1 and was able to hold off a hard-charging John Mock in a Porsche 944 through the first half of the race. Late in the race, Mock developed a mechanical issue of his own and had to concede second place to the BMW 2002 of Jeff Coffee. Crookston took an easy win on Sunday, furthering his lead in the championship. Newcomers Todd Hanson and Jason Workman shared the driving duties of the Auto Sport Promotions BMW 330i taking the top spot in GTSU both days.