TORRANCE, Calif. — In the team's first trip up to Canada, Robert Stout and Tom Lepper put both DG-Spec Scions on the podium at Mosport, just outside of Toronto. Known as one of the fastest tracks in North America, both drivers were engaged in dogfights in the double-header weekend that saw races on both Saturday and Sunday.
The Touring Cars managed to put on the best show for the fans, as both races had the slimmest margin of victory, with multiple lead changes during the course of the 50 minute sprints. On Saturday it was Lepper, driving the 36 car, who put the Scion tC on the second step of the podium, finishing a scant two-tenths of a second behind Chip Herr in the turbocharged VW. Lepper also ran the fastest lap of the race. On Sunday, Stout, driving the 18 car, would emerge victorious, nudging Herr off the top step of the podium for the big win.
"I'm proud of the whole team for how hard we fought this weekend," said team owner, Dan Gardner. "If anyone had any question about this team's ability or mettle, I think it's been quashed. Robert and Tom did a great job out there. As a driver, I know what it's like to battle hard, and give it everything you've got. Victory tastes so much sweeter when you have to earn it by brining your A+ game to the show. Every member of this team brought theirs to Mosport, and the results speak for themselves."
The first and second practice sessions on Saturday showed that the Scions had the speed, as Stout was fastest in both sessions in a highly competitive field. Qualifying on Saturday continued to prove the point that the Scions were the cars to beat, as Stout and Lepper put both DG-Spec cars on the front row, claiming P1 and P2.
On the start of Saturday's race the Scions held their position going into Turn 1, but Shaffer in one of the Jettas would bang up against Lepper on the inside, taking the position away from him, putting himself between the two Scions on the way to Turn 2. On Lap 3, Herr's VW would go side by side with Lepper through Turn 4, with Jetta getting the best of the Scion going into Turn 5.
With Stout consistently motoring up front, Lepper put his head down and tried to fill the Jettas' mirrors. Indeed on Lap 11, Shaffer went off track as Herr and Lepper shot by. The Scions were in P1 and P3. A few laps later, Stout would shoot wide in Turn 5, allowing both cars to push ahead as they came onto the back straight.
From there it would be close quarters combat as Lepper repeatedly pressured Herr to make a mistake, sometimes banging on his back bumper to let the Volkswagen driver know the Scion was right there. Lepper got on the inside, but Herr would hold the position. It went this way lap after lap with the Scion and VW nose to tail or side by side. In the end, as the checkered flew, the two cars came onto the straightaway side by side, but it just wasn't quite long enough, as Lepper was edged out by two-tenths of a second. Still, a hard-fought second place finish was something to be proud of, especially considering the fact that Lepper turned the fastest lap of the race.
"I pushed him as hard as I could," Lepper said. "Chip drove a very defensive line, and I thought for sure he'd run the tires off the car, but it never quite happened. If I could have gotten in front of him, I think we had a bit more speed, and we wouldn't have looked back. But that's racing. It was a good clean battle, and second place is nothing to sneeze at."
Sunday would be challenging for all teams, as no practice session was on the schedule, and teams would have to qualify first thing in the morning. Stout would qualify well, just two-tenths of a second behind Herr's Jetta, as the number 18 Scion claimed P2. Lepper was picking up speed, but then lost fourth gear and had to come into the pits.
There would be barely more than two hours before the race would start, but the talented crew of Brad Allen, Sean Morris, David Fredrickson, and John McNulty sprung into action at warp speed. Somehow, someway, the team swapped out the transaxle, reinstalled the sub-frame and supercharger, and had the car ready to go for the race just five minutes before the start. They would miss pre-grid and have to start from the pits, but at least Lepper had a chance to climb back up through the field. And Stout was poised to strike from a favorable P2 spot.
Stout shot the Scion off to the great start, briefly getting in front of Herr, but the VW would hold onto the lead going into Turn 1 as Stout tucked in behind. As the field got through the first turn, Lepper was released from the pits.
On Lap 1 it would be Herr, Stout, and then a GTI that was hot on the heels of the number 18 Scion. Shortly after that the GTI would get around Stout, and from there the two would swap positions repeatedly. When Stout was running in the second spot he put pressure on Herr, but the VW would not make a mistake. Finally on Lap 24 Stout cleverly used a GT car going into Turn 5 to take the position from the Jetta. And he never looked back again, as Herr and the GTI driver battled amongst themselves for the remainder of the race. When the checkered flew, Stout in the number 18 car had brought Scion home yet another big win.
Lepper, in the 36 car, drove a phenomenal race, starting in dead last from pit lane as he worked his way through half the field before the checkered flew.
"This might have been the most intense race I've ever had," Stout said. "Talk about bumping and grinding, swapping positions, a three-way battle for the lead. This was absolute racing warfare. I really had to earn this one, but it feels more satisfying because of it. The team was phenomenal, giving me the best car they possibly could. It's awesome to be driving one of these Scions."
After Sunday's victory, Stout extends his lead in the season points, having accumulated 587. That's well over a 100-point cushion from Eric Meyer in the RX-8. The team's performance keeps Scion in the lead for the Manufacturers' Points, ahead of second place VW and third place Mazda.
Standings and results can be viewed at http://www.world-challenge.com/index.php. The race will be broadcast on the Versus Network on Saturday, July 31 at 3:00 p.m. Eastern. Twenty-four hours later the program can be viewed online at www.world-challengetv.com. Round 3 of the series can now be viewed at http://www.world-challengetv.com/2010/#/races/179.
The team now readies for historic Watkins Glen in upstate New York. The event will take place July 2-4. Saturday's race will begin at 4:15 p.m. Eastern. Live timing and scoring can be viewed at www.world-challenge.com.