Tom Drewer has claimed a podium finish for the second successive year at the Road Atlanta circuit in Georgia USA at the running of the Petit Le Mans event.
The ex- Adelaide driver took second place in the pent ultimate 2009 IMSA Lites round, backing up his two victories at the iconic event last year in the L2 category that also saw him take the Championship in his first year of international competition.
Drewer started his 2009 Road Atlanta campaign extremely strongly on the fast undulating 2.54mile (4km) circuit with his Ubantu Resort sponsored car second fastest until the dying seconds of qualifying when he was bumped to fourth.
“Qualifying was like a world title fight. We were trading fastest times all session long and it was a matter of who landed the last blow with the fastest lap before the bell rang to finish the session. It was a real blast and I guess any of about six of seven drivers could have had pole”, Drewer said.
In Race 1 Drewer and his Ubantu Resort Elan showed electrifying pace and he pushed Canadian Kyle Marcelli until the very end after the pair eventually broke away from the pack in the highly competitive 25 car field.
“Like in qualifying I had a ball. The race was run all the way without a caution or a pace car and we really went for it.
For about the first third of the race the top ten were all backed up with each other, but then Kyle and I broke away and in the end we finished more than 20 seconds ahead of the guy in third. We just kept on punching out 180kph average lap speeds, but I just couldn’t put the pass on Kyle and he deserved the win. He drove a great race”
With grid positions for Race 2 determined by lap times in the first event, Drewer was elevated to the front row by virtue of him turning a lap of 1:21.059 - faster than Marcelli - but an agonising 6 thousands of a second off the pole time set by Gary Gibson
In the race Drewer again pushed hard from the green and slotted into second, but then Marcelli attempted a pass around the outside into turn 10 and the two cars touched.
“I wanted to give Kyle racing room and I figure he didn’t try to pull into me, but when we made contact my car got a little out of shape and it turned me round into the gravel.
It’s a little unusual to come out second best in an incident like this when you are on the inside, but I’m not blaming Kyle and I figure it was a true racing incident. We race to win and drive tough but as far as I am concerned it was just one of those things. I figure I will still buy Kyle a beer and a pie from the Aussie pie shop here in Atlanta when I get a chance!
Unfortunately I got beached in the gravel and it took forever to get out of it. I was nearly a lap down on the leader but I just went for it from the back of the field and set the second fastest lap of the race, and went faster than the three guys on the podium despite all the traffic I had to pass.
I was sort of hoping for a yellow to bunch it all up. It’s funny because most of the time I hate the caution laps, but anyway it didn’t happen so I passed about 10 cars and finished in 13th.
It was a great race and it’s sometimes like that. You don’t get the result at the end but you know you when you are in the zone and I was very positive about my drive. I had a good car, I had the speed, and I didn’t leave anything in the garage. That’s why I go racing.
I guess my podium in race 1 and the drive in race 2 made some impact also because one of the guys from the Audi Le Mans team and plenty of others in the paddock took the time to give me a pat on the back. That’s nice when you get that sort of feedback from guys who really know the business.”
Drewer now looks to winter testing in the USA for the 2010 season before returning home to Australia for Christmas.
“I am determined to make another progression in 2010. I’m already speaking to multiple teams about different rides next year and I might just be testing one of those possibilities very soon. So as they say, stay tuned.
I didn’t win the Championship this year, but I am a better, more complete driver than I was 12 months ago, and two years ago when I left Australia to have a real go.
Pole in New Jersey was cool and to podium here at Road Atlanta was really great.
A huge thanks to everyone that has made this season possible- Ubantu Resort, Nichole Jennings and John Trimble, my dad Mike and mom Jacquie, Terry Little, and everyone who has backed my car from Australia.
Then there is my trainer Gary Daniels and Health Defense, Comprent Motor Sport team owner Kevin Kloepfer, my crew guys Terry Jinks, Casey Free and John Stephens and all the others back at the shop. They have all done an awesome job.”
This week Australian Tom Drewer will compete in the final two rounds of the 2009 IMSA Lites Championship presented by Frisby Performance Tire as part of the 12th Annual Petit Le Mans powered by Mazda 6.
The event held at Road Atlanta, Braselton is effectively Drewer’s home event as he’s been staying in Georgia for the past two years during the racing season.
“My US base has been Georgia for two years now. Both West Races Cars, who I drove for last year, and Comprent Motor Sports are based here and I have been staying in Atlanta and Athens, both only about an hour from the circuit. I guess you could say it’s a home away from home.”
So does the young Le Mans hopeful feel that this gives him a hometown advantage?
“I don’t think so. Although living close to the circuit has allowed me to visit a few race meetings I have been on a very limited budget so it’s not like I’ve done many laps around it. Its not since the start of the year that I have turned a wheel around here. This will only be my fourth or fifth time on the circuit. Most of the guys I am competing against have been driving this place for years.”
However, his lack of experience around the fast undulating 2.54mile (4km) track didn’t sway Drewer last year. From pole position Drewer won his first two races at Road Atlanta setting a new track lap record in the process. It was his 7th and 8th win of the 2008 season and allowed Drewer to wrap up the 2008 IMSA Lites 2 Championship with two rounds remaining.
This year Drewer has moved up a class and is driving a Comprent Motor Sport prepared Élan DP-02 in the Lites 1 category.
“2009 has certainly been more of a rollercoaster than last year. It has in many ways been more of a learning year too, even though 2008 was my first here in America.
I proved in New Jersey I have what it takes. I am focused on finishing the year, here at Road America on another positive note.”
In New Jersey Drewer put his Ubantu Resort sponsored car on pole position with the fastest lap of the weekend and dominated the first half of the race.
“I’m determined to end the season on a high. It’s the best way I can repay all those who are helping me achieve my dreams and goal of becoming Australia’s next Le Mans winner.
I want to use this opportunity to thank everyone who is behind me. Particularly John Trimble and Nichole Jennings from Ubantu Resort, my mother and father for giving up so much, Terry Little and all of my friends, family and fans back home in Australia who share my belief and give up their hard-earned cash to make this happen. We are getting closer.
I am ready to make the next step. Part of my focus this year has been developing into a well-rounded driver.
I have been working on my physical and mental fitness with Gary Daniels and Health Defense. I have tested a GT2 car and have another test announcement to make soon. I am already talking to teams about next year, looking at both GT and prototype drives including the new ALMS Le Mans prototype Challenge class using the Oreca-Courage P2 Formula Le Mans car.
But my focus for this week is Road Atlanta. The Petit Le Mans event is always fantastic. Looks like it may be a wet race week so that could be interesting. It’s an extremely challenging circuit in the dry!”
Drewer and the IMSA Lites are scheduled to hit the track on Tuesday morning for free practise. Official practise takes place Wednesday, Qualifying and Race 1 at 5:20pm Thursday and Race 2 at 12:10pm Friday.
Tom Drewer couldn’t replicate the success of last year during this year’s Mobil 1 Grand Prix of Mosport for Rounds 11 & 12 of the 2009 IMSA Lites Championship.
2008 was Drewer’s first race at the famous Canadian circuit and he marked the occasion winning the IMSA Lites 2 category. This year driving in IMSA Lites 1, the up-and-coming Australian had what he described as a ‘lack-lustre’ weekend for both himself and the Comprent team despite demon passes and tough, hard-fought races.
“2009 has certainly been more of a rollercoaster ride than last year. We made a good progression and peaked with taking pole position at New Jersey, and although I’ve been up the pointy end of the field and consistently collecting points we just haven’t been able to convert into podiums yet.
I came to Canada looking to put all the drama of Road America - where I got incorrectly black flagged - behind me. But it just seemed the team; both my teammate and I struggled to find the pace all weekend, especially straight-line speed.
As usual it was another fantastic event at Mosport and the Canadians came out in droves despite the weather that turned from high heat to rainstorms all weekend long. I think my highlight was letting a few lucky young race fans get a thrill by taking a seat in the Number 1 Ubantu Resort car for photos.”
Drewer started Round 11 in tenth position after qualifying was abandoned due to heavy fog on the high-speed 2.5mile (4km), 10-corner track located 1 hour east of Toronto, near Bowmanville Ontario.
“Both Charlie (Shears) and I were dealt a bit of a blow when qualifying was aborted. We had both been working away during the practice sessions, collecting data to pool for qualifying, rather than get outright times so we stared down the order.
I made a fantastic start though and immediately passed (Anthony) Nicolosi to be right behind my teammate. We duelled it out for a few laps. Charlie wasn’t giving me an inch, and I didn’t give him an inch back. I felt I was faster and pounced when he pressured (Gary) Gibson going into Turn 2 and they both ran wide, with Gibson running off and hitting the wall.
After the restart I pushed on and caught Antonio Downs. As I was catching him he had a bit of a moment but heading through Turn 8 his car was at full speed. Into 9, Antonio just checked up and I had nowhere to go. I know Antonio well and I think he must have had a problem; he wouldn’t do anything on purpose. It was just one of those things.
I avoided major contact with him but locked up the rears in the process and the car spun into the wall breaking the rear hub. It was a shame because we were on for another top 6 finish.”
Round 11 was won by Matt Downs. Round 12, won by Canadian local Kyle Marcelli, saw Drewer start in 9th, one position behind his teammate Charlie Shears.
“Again, I got off to another strong start and battled pretty hard with my team-mate and passed him before getting stuck behind (Johnny) Meriggi. He was so slow through Turn 2, but if you try anything on there you’ll be in the wall, and he blocked me heading into Three. I made quite a few solid attempts to pass him both in Three and Five and each time he just moved over and forced me off the road. I was quite surprised he didn’t get penalised for blocking, actually.
Due to one of those attempts I lost momentum out of Five and Charlie and Nicolosi got passed me. But I quickly redeemed myself, making an awesome move through Turn 3 to take Charlie on the inside and Meriggi on the outside. Meriggi then immediately started blocking Charlie and I guess Charlie got sick of that and put him into the wall at Three to bring out a full course yellow.
With two to go the race was restarted and coming up the back straight for the last time I passed Nicolosi to take the flag in eighth. It was a good, tough race but a pretty lack-lustre result.
I guess I can just take comfort in the fact I out raced my teammate in both races. In a situation where the team doesn’t have the pace that is all you can hope for. Regardless, a potential 6th and 8th weren’t the results I was looking for. I am still looking for my first podium of the season.
Comprent is a fantastic team who knows how to win and we know the Ubantu Resort car can be fast as we proved at New Jersey. I know the guys will put in the hard yards to get back at the front, and so will I. We are testing at Road Atlanta before the next race and, although I won’t be driving due to budget, I’ll be up there too learning as much as I can from the sidelines to make sure I’m as prepared as I can be for the season finale at the Petit Le Mans event.”
The last two rounds of the 2009 IMSA Lites presented by Frisby Performance Tire season will be held at the Petit Le Mans event at Road Atlanta on Thursday, September 24 and Friday, September 25.