Whenever you start a new racing series – or begin taking part in a new series for the first time – there's going to be growing pains.
That was the case for Precision Racing LA (PRLA), which made its debut in the new Toyota Racing Development-backed GR Cup Series this past weekend at Sonoma Raceway north of San Francisco.
The PRLA team showed some good progress, but there was also some frustration, as well. Still, it was a good start overall, with promise for the rest of the upcoming inaugural season.
Here’s a recap of how the new team did:
After nearly a year of planning and preparation, the brand–new GR Cup Series got underway with qualifying and Race 1 of two races scheduled for the weekend (a second qualifying session, as well as Race 2, took place on Sunday).
In the first-ever GR Cup Series qualifying effort Saturday morning, Precision Racing LA held its own in the 30-car field.
Aidan Yoder was the quickest driver for PRLA, securing the 11th spot on the starting grid with a time of 1:54.620.
Harry Cheung was second-quickest of the three PRLA drivers, covering the 2.505-mile, 12-turn circuit with a best time of 1:55.349, good for a starting spot of 15th.
Cat Lauren, one of six female drivers in GR Cup this season, was third-quickest in the Precision Racing LA stable, qualifying 21st with a time of 1:55.723.
And then came the first-ever GR Cup race later that same day. Suffice to say, unfortunately, virtually everyone affiliated with Performance Racing LA was reaching for aspirin afterward.
Cheung barely got going before he was hit on Lap 3 of the 20-lap event by another car, sending Cheung not only into the retaining wall, but also ending his day and weekend. Cheung was not injured, but he finished last, and the damage to his No. 37 Toyota GR86 was so significant that it was unable to be repaired for Sunday’s second race (the team did not have a backup car).
Things were equally disappointing for Yoder, who finished 27th after also being involved in a wreck, not of his doing. He was running a strong eighth place when he was hit by another car, ending his day three laps from the finish.
If there’s a bright spot for Yoder and the No. 73 Toyota GR86, the damage on his car was able to be repaired and he was able to take part with hopes high for a better showing in Sunday’s Race 2.
The highest-finishing PRLA driver Saturday was Lauren in the No. 09 Toyota GR86, who completed all 20 laps and finished 19th.
In Race 2 of the new GR Cup Series, Precision Racing LA improved it’s pace significantly with Aidan Yoder who finished a very promising eighth of the 30-car field.
“Overall, I’m happy with our first weekend in the Toyota GR Cup North America,” Yoder said. “Sonoma is a new track for me and although I did a lot of Sim preparation, it still takes a bit of time to get fully up to speed.
“It’s a shame how Race 1 ended for me as we were having a good race. Precision Racing LA gave me a great car all weekend and I have to say the Toyota GR86 is a lot of fun to drive. I’m looking forward to the next round, which is at COTA (Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, May 19-21), as it’s a track I have raced at before.”
There also was a lot for the organization to celebrate as PRLA’s Cat Lauren, one of six female drivers in the series, earned the quickest female award, taking home a $5,000 check to boot.
Lauren finished 19th in the race.
“First race weekend in the books!” an excited Lauren said. “This was also my first pro racing experience, which was challenging. I learned a lot and am excited to grow from here.
I am beyond excited for the rest of the season! This first weekend was both knowledge packed and thrilling. I’m so grateful for the opportunity and experience. Being given the award for the highest finishing female in race 2 by Lyn St. James was meaningful to me as a women in motorsports. It’s great that Toyota is supporting women’s involvement and achievement in motorsports.
“Overall, it was a good weekend with two top 20 finishes, despite some setbacks. I am very excited for the rest of the season and a big thank you to everyone who helped and supported me.”
Unlike other series that usually only have one qualifying session for two-race weekend events, the GR Cup had separate qualifying sessions for each of the weekend’s two races.
In Sunday’s qualifying for Race 2, Precision Racing LA (PRLA) admittedly had its challenges. Because his Toyota GR86 was wrecked and unable to be fixed following an incident in Saturday’s Race 1, Harry Cheung was unable to compete in Sunday’s Race 2.