I recently announced that FlatSixes.com's own Christian Maloof was going Pro. In fact, Christian, made the jump from the NASA GT racing circuit to the Grand-Am Koni Challenge Street Tuners division a week ago at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
covered up failed to mention is the fact that he's driving a Mazda vs. a Porsche. Oh well, we can't have it all now, can we? In all seriousness, this is a great opportunity for Christian, regardless of the marque. I'm happy to say that after an exciting weekend with team Freedom Autosport, Christian's dream of driving professionally is realized. Now we just need to get him in a Porsche. 🙂
During practice, Christian's car, #147, was oddly stricken with various small issues including ABS sensor issues, problems with the differential cooling pump, and even a power steering leak. “We kept our car chief, Ugo, very very busy,” said Christian, adding “in the meantime, Mark and I tried our best to assess setup and balance of the car, making 3 spring rate changes and an alteration to the rake angle.”
“When I went out to qualify, the car was still plagued by a lack of ABS (which would make the car give a majority of brake bias to the rear), and a sudden dash glitch: I had no RPM reading, no way to see my sector times or predictive lap times.” Still, Christian managed to qualify 26th out of 30.
Christian started the race in the 26th position. As he became more comfortable with the car, his lap times improved steadily, climbing up 1:36:26 and he moving the car up several places. "I was able to move up to 18th before the pit stops and I was within striking distance of 12-17. My car chief and I were monitoring the pace. He told me I was running .5 seconds faster than the cars ahead of me and I could clearly see I was reeling them in, getting to where we were all coming onto the back straight together.”
Surprising to me was that even watching from the pits, I could see Christian was getting faster. With each lap, you could see the distance closing between his car and the one in front. More importantly, Christian was getting faster in the more technical sections vs. the straights where it is more a test of power vs. driving performance.
The race proceeded smoothly, although it was not without incident. Says Christian, "at one point I lost the rear end and held a ‘Fast and Most Furious’ slide that lasted from turn 2 all the way to the entry of turn 3." After a nice recovery, he got back to work and continued to improve. "I had to mentally reset and get it right back."
Christian enjoyed the new track immensely. “Homestead is a beautiful facility. The combination of the high speed banking and the low grip infield makes for complex challenges for a driver and for our engineers to set up the car. One of the most exciting elements was taking turn 1 without braking, lifting a little at the 3 cone, turning at the 2 and going back to throttle to settle her as you transition off the NASCAR track onto the infield. Apex speeds are around 137mph. Other interesting elements of the Homestead track include a great switchback in 3-4 that leads onto a short straight, and rather odd astro turf at some track out points…it has very little grip as you might imagine.” As for highlights, he tells us, “I made a pass in the race into turn 1, one of the more exciting to date!”
About an hour and fifteen minutes into the race, the course went to yellow, but the Freedom pits were full, so car #147 was instructed to stay out one more lap. Christian brought the car in 18th place, but by the time the pit stop was complete, the course had returned to green and a little time was lost. Christian, however, had full confidence in his co-driver, Mark White’s ability. Says Christian, “I was confident Mark would get us within the top 10.”
Mark White put in solid driving of his own, in spite of problems with the muffler and an overheating differential (which eventually forced him to bring the car in early).
As for the other Freedom entries, #146 (Carbonell/O'Doski) also experienced mechanical issues, coming in 23rd. It was a lucky day for #145 (Long and Whitis), which came in a close second, battling Randy Pobst until the very last lap for one of the closest finishes in Koni Challenge history.
Good things are in store for the Freedom Autosport team and for Christian as they head out to Thunderbolt Raceway in New Jersey on May 1st. Stay tuned, and thanks for your support!