The first event of 2015 brought out 24 racers for the German Touring Series, six in GTS2, nine in GTS3, eight in GTS4 and one in GTSU.
The entire weekend in GTS2 turned into a back-and-forth battle between Luke Pardi and Michael Sousa. Saturday turned out to be Pardi’s day, with him winning the pole and finishing on top in the race. At the end, Pardi was one short second ahead of Sousa. On Sunday, the roles reversed and Sousa managed to get the pole and held on to the win in the race. David LeBlanc could have challenged the dominance of Pardi and Sousa, but an engine failure took him out of the battle barely into five laps of the Saturday’s race.
Hugh Stewart dominated GTS3 both days, even though Luiz Serva made an attempt to steal it from Stewart, especially on Sunday, when he managed to out-qualify his teammate. But Stewart’s experience paid off and he finished ahead with a good margin both days. Frank Ferrara finished third both days. In GTS4 on Saturday, Mathieu Lussier ran away from the field, finishing nearly 11 seconds ahead of Michal Kuna and more then 1 second better per lap. New to NASA Northeast, driving a Porsche Cayman, Rob McInerney finished third. On Sunday, Lussier didn’t run, and in his absence, Jeff Segal took charge, not only by winning the race, but also by putting down the GTS4 lap record time of 1:10.081. Rob McInerney managed to finish second just ahead of Michal Kuna this time. Both races went clean, which marked promising start to the busy season of 2015.
For round two of the 2015 season, NASA Northeast returned to NJMP to run the Thunderbolt course with the chicane. This event brought a total of 35 drivers pre-registered for the weekend in GTS.
On Saturday, Michael Sousa took pole in GTS2, running fast 1:33.083, followed by Dan Harnick and Aaron Turek. All three cars are E36 M3 BMWs running with restrictor plates. The entire race was nose to tail between those three drivers, entertaining to watch and keeping the audience on the edges of their seats.
Unfortunately for Sousa, in the heat of battle and defending the position, he attempted an inside pass on a lapped Miata in Turn 1, which didn’t work very well, sending the Miata off, resulting in minor bruises to the front bumper of his car and a DQ, which gave the win to Dan Harnick, who finished .040 seconds ahead of Aaron.
In Saturday’s Thunder race, GTS had its own start as a second wave. Hugh Stewart was untouchable in his somewhat restricted but very fast E46 328i/M3. No one could seriously contest Stewart during the race and he ran away from the rest of the GTS3 field with the best lap of 1:29.8, finishing almost 15 seconds ahead of Luiz Serva and Robert Jakowitz.
The GTS4 field was dominated by Michal Kuna in his wide-body E46 M3, running the best lap of 1:29.75. Shaun Ashley was getting comfortable in the newly built E46 325 with an M3 engine and sequential box. He was improving from one session to another, finishing second in the race 7 seconds behind Kuna. Jack Haberman and Mathieu Lussier kept the tensions high, running bumper to bumper through the entire race. Kudos to both – run close, but clean and with respect to each other and everyone around, finishing third and fourth respectfully.
Sunday morning Shaun Ashley (GTS4) was on pole of the GTS group with qualifying time of 1:30.1, joined by Hugh Stewart (GTS3, 1:30.6), followed by Kuna (1:30.9) and Jeffrey Segal (1:31.0), both in GTS4. Ashley ran away and never looked back, feeling much more comfortable with the new car. Segal was piloting Josh Smith’s old car, which he acquired in off season, (the car that Smith won two National Championships in GTS 3 back in 2011 and 2012, now upgraded for the GTS4 class). He is a fast driver in a fast car, but sometimes still struggles with consistency in the heat of the battle. On lap seven, he was too hot in Turn 5, dropped two wheels off, attempted to correct, couldn’t catch it, spun and collected Hugh Stewart on the way, who was an uncontested leader of the GTS3 at the time.
To everyone’s surprise the double yellows never came. The track was doing hot pulls and the entire field was navigating around wreckers for a good portion of the remaining race. Kuna finished second in GTS4 followed by Jack Haberman. With Stewart out, the battle for the win in GTS3 was between Frank Ferrara, who took the lead after the incident, and Luiz Serva, who got stuck behind Haberman for a few laps. Serva got around Haberman and caught Ferrara at the Octopus one lap before the end of the race. Luiz was in a better position at the exit of the Octopus, taking advantage of traffic slowing down Ferrara, passed him and never gave it back. At the checkered flag they were separated by just .137 seconds!
The Lightning grid was a repeat of Saturday: Sousa, Harnick, Turek. On lap seven, Harnick suffered with the flat tire and dropped out. Aaron Turek challenged Sousa, but at the end Sousa came out on top by .4 seconds. — Michael Gershanok