Maddie Aust claims maiden podiums in TC America after remarkable COTA weekend
At only her second weekend in TC America, Maddie Aust claimed two podium finishes, a fastest lap and a pole position at Circuit of the Americas, proving she belongs to the top of the series, in her first year of touring cars.
Maddie Aust completed a remarkable weekend at Circuit of the Americas, claiming her first podiums in touring cars, thanks to a third and a second place finishes at only her second participation in the SRO-sanctioned TC America.
Aust, 18, contested her first season in race cars in 2022, when the Texan raced full time in Formula 4 US Championship. She was previously assessed at the W Series selections, and went on to collect valuable experience in single seaters before making appearances at the wheel of closed-cockpit cars in World Racing League first, and then in the highly competitive TC America.
At the wheel of the #09 Fast Track Racing BMW M2 CS, Aust showed speed at the Austin circuit straight from the practice sessions, where she was second, and eventually qualified in third for the first race of the weekend – in her best career qualifying effort to date.
From overall pole position, Dai Yoshihara (#99 VGRT Honda Civic Type-R TCX) kept the lead into turn one despite being challenged by Maddie Aust, who had a strong start from the second row, but eventually ended losing out third to Colin Garrett (#44 Rooster Hall Racing BMW M2 CS), in a clean start throughout the classes.
In the following laps, Aust had to battle with Kenny Schmied (#14 AOA Racing BMW M2 CS) after losing fourth place in TCX; Aust, though, had pace and pressured Schmied, until the latter hit trouble and retired with a technical issue on the back straight 10 minutes into the race.
Once the leading trio started a close battle for the overall lead, Aust seized the opportunity to close back in; Catania grabbed the lead from Yoshihara, who was also attacked by Garrett – but had to watch his mirrors from Aust, who completed a perfect move around the outside of Turn 12 to move up into third. Catania and Garrett continued to trade paint in the lead – and Aust surprised everyone with another spectacular move at the same corner, eventually passing both on the following lap.
Maddie led her first laps and started to build a gap, as Catania and Garrett battled through the Esses section. Once Catania cleared Garrett, he caught back up with Aust; the driver of the white BMW M2, though, had thick smoke coming out of the back of his car, despite not showing signs of performance loss. Aust held off the attacks of Catania, as Garrett re-joined the two front running drivers with 10 minutes to go.
Aust showcased perfect racecraft and defensive driving, reading well the traffic of the slower categories – but Catania found a small gap at turn 12 with 3 minutes to go, snatching back the lead from Aust, who had led most of the first race. On the final lap, Aust defended from Garrett but ended losing rhythm into the Esses, dropping to third. At the end of an incredibly closely-fought first race, Lucas Catania took his first win in the series, ahead of Colin Garrett and Maddie Aust – who secured her first podium in TC America at only her third participation.
Despite missing out on her first win by a couple of laps, Aust still recorded the fastest lap of the race and pole position for race 2.
On Sunday, a few raindrops welcomed the drivers on pre-grid, but the race remained dry for the whole duration. For the first time in her career, Maddie Aust lined up on pole position: the Texan had a great start, but then left Colin Garrett some room on the outside of Turn 2, and the driver of the Rooster Hall Racing BMW was quick to grab the opportunity and the lead. Garrett and Aust soon opened a 1 second gap after the first lap, with the Honda Civic Type-R TCX of Kyle Loh and the BMW M2 CS of Adam Gleason battling just behind them.
Positions settled ten minutes into the race, but the top seven were separated by tenths of a second in TCX. Aust never lost contact with Garrett, even after the latter set the fastest lap of the race with 22 minutes to go; Aust attempted a move at Turn 12, but then came under pressure from Loh, while race 1 winner Lucas Catania was making up positions and overtook Gleason for fourth. While Aust masterfully held off Loh, Garrett managed to open a one second margin in the lead. The TCX pack hit traffic of the TCA class – and Aust perfectly managed that challenge – an important skill to learn for a single seater driver – gaining a few tenths to Loh. While there were not as many positions changes, the race was certainly a tense one throughout the pack; Lucas Catania retired due to a technical issue and handed fourth to Schmied, while the top three – separated by two seconds – continued their runs through traffic. Aust took no unnecessary risks and held second, while Gleason and Loh traded places for third with two minutes left on the clock.
Aust closed in on Garrett on the very final lap, but couldn’t eventually get close enough to attempt a move. With a second place in race 2, Maddie Aust topped her best finish in TC America with another remarkable performance, as she proved to belong to the front of the championship. "It was definitely an amazing weekend ending on the podium during both races and claiming the fastest lap of race one, putting me on pole for my first time", Aust told us after her home round. "The weekend prompted tons of learning opportunities as I was put in positions which I had not been in before as well as racing with the front runners who have tons of race craft and experience."
"Overall I felt that although some mistakes were made during the weekend, a lot was learned and we definitely progressed from my debut at Nola", she continued. "I am now looking forward to the next round at VIR where I look to continue to progress with what I have learned at COTA!"
Despite having missed the first round, Maddie Aust now sits fifth in the drivers' championship standings – and will be looking forward to carrying momentum into the fourth double-header of the season, scheduled at VIRginia International Raceway on 16-18 June.