It was a challenging but still promising overall outing for the young Precision Racing LA team (PRLA) in this past weekend’s two-race Toyota GR Cup event at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas.
There were several high points that gave the team optimism for the 10 races remaining on the schedule.
Aidan Yoder, driver of the No. 73 Toyota GR86, recorded his first pole position in the first-year series, taking the top spot for Sunday’s Race 2 of the two-race weekend with an effort of 2:35.660, leading the No. 2 qualifier by 1.6 seconds.
It was an impressive run for the young driver, given qualifying took place during rainy conditions, which significantly slowed cars down from qualifying for Saturday’s Race 1 (Yoder qualified No. 4 for that event with an effort of 2:28.431).
“The active rain on Sunday made it 50/50 on what tires to use in qualifying, and I put my full trust in the team’s decision to run on slick tires,” Yoder said. “I wholeheartedly believe that was the right decision, and to leave COTA with a pole position on my record is much more than I expected.
“This was also my first race on slick tires in active rain, which was both a fun and mentally taxing challenge. Our early run pace was very strong, and I’m looking forward to continuing this momentum into VIR (the next race is June 16-18 at Virginia International Raceway)."
After qualifying 18th for Saturday’s Race 1 (best time of 2:30.228), Yoder’s teammate, Cat Lauren, roared back with a massive rebound behind the wheel of the No. 09 Toyota GR86, earning her best qualifying effort thus far this season, with a third-place showing prior to Sunday’s Race 2, with a best time in her five-lap run of 2:37.571.
As for Yoder’s and Lauren’s overall performances in the weekend’s two races:
Yoder earned respective eighth-place finishes in each of the two races, giving him three top-10 finishes thus far in the season’s first four races.
“In a weekend of changing weather conditions, we’re leaving with a pair of 8th place finishes and my first pole position of the year,” a happy Yoder said.
Lauren, meanwhile, one of six females racing in the 35-driver GR Cup Series in its inaugural season of competition, was involved in contact with another driver in Race 1, bringing out a full-course caution. To further add to the problems, Lauren’s car struggled to get restarted before finally doing so.
Lauren drove the damaged car to a 28th-place finish, one lap off the lead lap. The PRLA team spent several hours repairing the damage Saturday night so that Lauren would be ready for Sunday’s Race 2, and her third-place qualifying effort showed the great job the team did.
When it came time for Race 2, with 31 cars on-track, Lauren got bunched up in traffic, ultimately finishing 20th.
Lauren commented on Saturday’s competition “Got unlucky yesterday during the race but with a very good call in qualifying earlier, I am starting pretty high up” she went on to acknowledge after
Sundays performance “Unfortunately race 2 didn’t end as I hoped with contact on lap 1 knocking the toe out, it became a completely different car to drive. I still managed to finish and it was definitely a learning experience. Although this weekend was rather unlucky for me, luckily VIR is right around the corner. Thank you to everyone that made this weekend possible!”
The PRLA team played shorthanded this weekend as the car of its third driver, Harry Cheung, suffered mechanical issues in the season-opening event at Sonoma Raceway that prevented it from being repaired in time for this past weekend.
Cheung is expected to be back to action, bringing the team back to full strength, in the GR Cup series’ next race at Virginia International Raceway (VIR).
The Toyota GR Cup has now completed the first four races of its 14-race season. Races 5 and 6 (also known as Event No. 3) will take place at VIR on June 16-18.
PRLA came into the weekend ranked 10th of the 16 GR Cup teams. Individually, Yoder came into this weekend tied for 10th place in the GR Cup driver standings, while Lauren was one of 16 drivers tied for 14th place.