Double Top-five for Sally McNulty at TC America opener
Sally McNulty met her expectations for the TC America's season opener, claiming two top-five finishes that prove she belongs to the front of the TCA class field, as she now sits fourth in the standings thanks to consistent performances at Sonoma.
Alongside the headline event GT World Challenge America, Sonoma Raceway hosted plenty of interesting action also from the other SRO-sanctioned series including TC America - at its fourth season in 2022.
The touring car championship is featuring a three-class competition, with TCX, TC and TCA entries shaping a really competitive field of over 30 cars for the opening round at the Californian venue. Furthermore, TC America has seen some talented female racers making their way in the SRO America competitions lately - with Samantha Tan, Olivia Askew, Lindsay Brewer and Sally McNulty all contesting partial or full campaigns in 2021.
McNulty - at the wheel of the #780 VGRT Racing Team Honda Civic Si - will return for a full season in 2022 in TCA, having stepped up her game and with an important year of experience under her belt. Likewise, Olivia Askew kicked-off her season in the #29 BMW M2 CS Cup car in the TCX category, in a Fast Track Racing's entry.
With two podiums to her name in 2021, Askew was fifth in the drivers' standings last year and will aim for even higher in her third year in the series.
In a weekend marked by changing weather conditions, Sally McNulty started her racing season with really strong performances in class, earning two top-five finishes in the Borla Exhaust-sponsored Honda Civic.
The weather made for a challenging qualifying session on Friday morning, with drivers going out on slicks just as the rain started to pour down. Due to multiple incidents, the cars could only complete two timed laps, and the series decided to revert back to the second practice session to shape the starting grid - which put Sally McNulty to fifth in class.
A good start and consistent pace did the job, as McNulty quickly opened a gap to the following cars and ran in fifth to secure her first top-5 of the season.
Reigning champion Jacob Ruud (Fast Track Racing) took a dominant win overall in race 1, leading from lights to flag in the TCX #1 BMW M2 CS. He was followed by Stephen Cugliari (accelerating Performance) and Lucas Catania (Rigid Speed), as the BMW M2 CS cars locked out the top-seven spots.
2021-runner up Kevin Boehm (Skip Barber Racing Honda Civic Type-R) led the TC field across the line, again with an over 10-second margin on second placed Mat Pombo (LA Honda World Racing) and the Mini Cooper JCW of Clay Williams.
Carter Fartuch preceded Gresham Wagner and Spencer Bucknum in TCA, followed by Cristian Perocarpi and Sally McNulty.
The starting grid for race 2 - decided by the first race's fastest laps - saw McNulty starting from sixth in TCA, in what was a warmer day at Sonoma.
Jacob Ruub took off from pole position overall and was never challenged again - he took another dominant win by 9 seconds from Lucas Catania and Spehen Cugliari - in what was a tighter fight for the podium positions.
Olivia Askew had a challenging weekend in the #29 BMW and finished ninth and eighth in TCX.
It was a back-to-back victory also for Kevin Boehm in TC class, while Williams and Pombo swapped places compared to Saturday's heat.
The battle for the top spot in class was more heated in TCA, as Gresham Wagner - also among the leading protagonists of the Mazda MX-5 Cup - had to keep Carter Faruch at bay throughout the first part of the race. He would then gain a comfortable margin and win by six seconds in the #21 TechSport Racing Subaru BRZ.
Sally McNulty had a good race in sixth place and was able to catch up with Cristian Perocarpi (Mini JCW Team) once the overall leaders started to mix up in the field. Targeting a second top-five, McNulty brought home the result when Pericarpi slowed down on the final lap due to a technical issue.
For the Shift Up Now athlete was another strong result that keeps her at the front of the pack with championship ambitions: she now sits fourth in the standings with 20 points, thanks to a very consistent opening round.
"I came into this weekend with hopes of just getting into the top five, being fast, and being consistent" - said McNulty, who perfectly met her expectations. "I’ve had a lot on my plate starting with a brand-new car. Once we got past some electrical problems and figured out how to deal with the car losing throttle on the out lap, we could run the rest of the race", she explained.
"We definitely wanted to show pace and I think we were able to. We are really looking to win the season championship and the best way to win is being consistent and always scoring points, and being in the top five every single race."
"We’re going to strive really hard for that and I think we did a good job this weekend."
With the help of Victor Gonzales Jr's VGRT Racing Team, Sally McNulty proved to belong to the front pack in TCA and will aim to keep the momentum going at the second round of the TC America's season: the series will head to a brand-new track, Ozarks International Raceway, Missouri, on May 20-22.