A Brand and A Dream: A Change of Focus (2008 Grand-Am KONI Sports Car Challenge)

I hope you all enjoy this recounting of Karl’s hunt for that elusive professional racing championship.  If you enjoy this telling tale of a brand and a dream, please rate/comment and pay it forward by sharing it.

My Thoughts Enclosed…Rb

2003 – The Birth of a Brand

2004 – The Up-Start Crew

2005 – Building Upon a Dream

2006 – A Partnership of Sorts

2007 – A Hard Fought Year

2008 – A Change of Focus

The success of 2007 proved to the team that a championship was truly reachable. With this success in mind, Compass360 and Karl’s branding efforts took center stage again. The three car team was entered again simply as Compass360 Racing.  It was then that Karl also started using the acronym C360R for the team.

Ray Lee and his team stayed on in a continued partnership with Karl. The cars now featured a black livery, with a car specific colour scheme, as hinted to last year. The entire team was also sporting tailored and expensive team gear and racing suits. This marked a noticeable departure to the penny shy Karl, but the additional exposure made it mandatory and timely.

2008 Karl
Photo by Robert Lavigne

The season brought a driver lineup to the team that would make the entire field salivate. The defending series champions left Turner Motorsports to join their past season rival. Adam Burrows and Trevor Hopwood signed a one-year contract to drive the #74 Acura TSX with sponsorship by Fishcher Skis.

Travis Walker returned to the team, he truly loved, and paired up with Karl Thomson in the #76. Karl would provide much guidance off the track for Travis. In return, Travis would bring his natural talent and speed on the track. This was a great opportunity for the seemingly maturing driver.

New driver Christian Miller joined the team and would co-drive with a returning Kevin York. Their #75 Acura TSX sported promotional material for the book The Art Of Racing In The Rain by Kevin’s friend Garth Stein. The GoEnzo.com marketing campaign was a brilliant tie-in and Compass360 fully endorsed the book.

I am very fortunate to have a signed copy by both Kevin and Garth. It is a brilliant book and I highly recommend it to anyone reading this.  Go to your favourite online bookstore and order it now. Fellow Grand-Am driver Patrick Dempsey (yes, McDreamy himself) is slated to produce and star in an upcoming movie based on the book.

(In Canada: Indigo, Amazon)

Fresh From Florida 200 (January 24 – 25, 2008)

Once again, the season would start with a trip to Daytona. My annual trip for the Rolex 24 at Daytona is the closest thing I have to a yearly routine. After last year’s win, I was eager to see how Daytona would treat Karl this year. Added exposure meant added expectations, but Karl was going into this season with confidence and hope.

You could tell by the sight of the crew, that much had improved during their championship challenging year. This was a much larger and far more professional team than in past years. This little startup was no longer supported only by a van and a few friends. This was a team whose driver lineup included both the series champions and runner-up.

With over 100 cars entered for the race, Adam Burrows in the #74 started sixteenth. Trevor Hopwood brought the car into fifth going into a caution. At the restart, in an attempt to avoid contact, Trevor passed before the start finish line incurring a dubious penalty. This was in direct contradiction to what the officials mentioned during the driver’s meeting. Not only was it evasive action on his part, but Trevor had given back the spot right away. The #74 found itself relegated to fourteenth after the penalty. After three hours of racing, the defending champions would finish a frustrating ninth.

(2008 Fresh From Florida 200 #74 Blog)

Starting near the back (25th), Kevin brought the #75 up quickly into fifteenth going into a perfectly timed caution. The team opted to do a full three car service and driver change. Christian Miller would set out in a very familiar car albeit an unfamiliar team. Christian ran with a rival TSX team the previous year. Getting the #75 up from the back to fifth, must have been too much. With very little brakes left, Christian finished his first race with the Compass360 Racing in a defining sixth.

(2008 Fresh From Florida 200 #75 Blog)

Karl started the race with a team leading qualifying position of sixth. By the third corner, Karl was up to second and fought in the top three for his full stint. Travis, now behind the wheel of the #76, was enjoying plenty of TV coverage. The enhanced branding work by Compass360 was getting plenty of exposure. While in second, Travis was passed by the greatest Honda/Acura driver of all time Peter “PD” Cunningham.

Shortly after, the final yellow of the race would be flagged quickly followed by the checkered.  Travis finally saw a podium with Compass360 Racing having finished third. Pairing with Karl for the season was the right decision for Travis. The early results already spoke for themselves.

Post race inspections removed first and second from the points due to technical infractions. Daytona had teased Karl with a potential win as Grand-Am does not amend the podium nor its trophies.

Third at Daytona
Photo by Robert Lavigne

(2008 Fresh From Florida 200 #76 Blog)

In the first race of the season, the team had all three Acura TSX in the top ten with a third (#76) , a sixth (#75), and a ninth (#74). On paper, Karl was once again leading the championship leaving Daytona.  Last year had started slightly different from this year yet with similar results.  The team was hoping this year would end slightly different from last year as well.  The rest of the field had to take note that Compass360 wanted the championship badly.

(2008 Fresh From Florida 200 Results)

With a huge gap between the first and second race of the season, Karl was able to refocus his efforts on Compass360.  Karl leveraged his branding and graphic design work in Motorports with his “Type-R: Good Design and Racing Cars” presentation.

(Karl’s Blog)

The 2007 championship fighting #75 Acura would join the #95 BMW as the showcased cars for the Koni Challenge souvenir t-shirt.  Karl used to brand his karting swag with his Compass360 brand (I have a closet full).  Now his Compass360 brand was prominently displayed along side that of Grand-Am.  Karl was also asked by Grand-Am to blog his adventures on their fan-friendly site joining the likes of Nic Jonsson and racing legend Hurley Haywood.

(Karl’s Blog)

K&N Filters would step up their technical support program with Compass360 Racing.  This new partnership would bring additional expertise and exposure for Compass360.  K&N featured the team in numerous street tuner magazines and advertising programs.

I remember sitting with Karl, in the Daytona Media Room, the night of the Rolex 24.  While I was busy warming up to “borrowed” coffee, Karl was hard at work making graphic edits to the pictures that would eventually grace the campaign.  Even in his off time off the track, Karl was always on and on track when it came to Compass360 Racing.

(Karl’s Blog)

Lime Rock Park (May 23 – 26, 2008)

Four months later, the next race took place at Lime Rock Park.  The team went into the Memorial Day race weekend well rested and the three TSX fully prepped.  The time away from the track would bring many announcements from Compass360 Racing.

Lime Rock now had four cars being fielded under the Compass360 Racing banner.  The team had been working hard behind the scenes on their new car program. Lime Rock was the inaugural event for the team’s new Honda Civic Si.  Karl had been working on this new entry in the series since the season finale. Karl was now racing a Honda Civic Si with Travis Walker retaining the #76.

(Karl’s Blog)

The third Acura TSX would now be raced by Kenny Wilden and Jeremy Willard as the #73.  Kenny was no stranger to the series having won championships in both of their previous incarnations: Firehawk (1992) and Motorola Cup (1994). He was recently racing Daytona Prototypes proving both his skill and speed.

(Karl’s Blog)

With four cars in his stable, Karl and Compass36o Racing were by far the largest team in Koni Challenge.  Not bad when you consider all this started with a beat up BMW Z3 on a flatbed.

Adam Burrows and Trevor Hopwood consider Lime Rock Park to be their home track.  Compass360 Racing was hoping for a good showing by the defending series champions for their local fans.  An electrical problem put the #74 at the back of the field for the start of the race.

This was made worse by the fact that 46 cars took the green flag for the Street Tuner split-race that weekend.  Now in fifteenth after 50 laps, Hopwood would pass the car over to Burrows.  On Lap 72, Adam would be in the top five.  With the tires wearing thin, Burrows would finish the race a respectable seventh.

(2008 Lime Rock Park #74 Blog)

With such a large field, Kevin York would start mid-pack (18th) in the #75.  After an hour of defensive racing and some new tires, Christian Miller would take over from Kevin having maintained their spot.  Miller would take the car as far as fifth by Lap 118.

In a repeat of the season opener, he struggled to secure the position in the closing laps and finished 6th.  Kevin York was now contending for the MESCO Building for the Future Rookie of the Year Award.

(2008 Lime Rock Park #75 Blog)

The #76 Civic, having been field tested at Mosport, qualified a dismal 43rd.  Being so far back in such a large field would make for a hazardous fight to the front.  The three trailing Compass360 Racing cars (#74, #76, and #75) were moving up the field in unison.  They were following Trevor’s track expertise to wedge them through the traffic.  Coming up on a lapped car and fighting hard for position, Karl found himself being shunted off the track.

On Lap 44, Karl would barrel roll five times destroying the new Honda Civic Si. Having been safely pulled out the car by the safety crew, Karl signaled to the team what happened on his way to the Medical Center.  After the race, Karl would have vivid memories of only the last four of those five rolls.  Karl would DNF with a 27th with Travis earning no points having never raced the Honda.

(2008 Lime Rock Park #76 Blog and Karl’s Blog)

Willard started the race 36th in his first race with the team. Early contact and hanging part saw him black flagged.  Lengthy body repairs made for an extended pit stop.  Midway through the race, he would hand the #73 over to Wilden.  Struggling with the car and tight traffic, Ken would finish 22th in his first race with Compass360 Racing.

Christian Miller and Kevin York were now second in the Championship with Burrows and Hopwood in third.  Karl fell out of the top ten in the championship having just led it. The team left Lime Rock scrambling to find a new Honda.  The team also needed a car for Karl and Travis for the next race in two weeks.

(2008 Lime Rock Park Blog and Results)

Mosport International Raceway (June 13 – 14, 2008)

Mosport saw the return of the old yet faithful Acura RSX-S with the Honda Civic Si having been buried so young.   Karl always looks forward to racing at Mosport and cherishes the years it is on the schedule.  It is a special track and not just to those who call it home.  The track is regarded highly by racers worldwide.  Corner Two brings respect and Corner Five brings frustration to anyone daring to challenge it.

Karl would have the honour of being invited to the media sessions for the event.  He would join one of his friends and racing idols Scott Maxwell on the panel of drivers.

(Karl’s Blog)

I always find it funny to hear Karl talk about Scott and other established drivers.  I guess it is one of those rare moments, where the racing fan in Karl shines brighter than usual.  One day soon, Karl would fully realize that he now shared the track with so many of his racing idols and future champions.

During second practice, the #75 Acura TSX was involved in a major crash coming out of corner one.  Let it be known, that if you crash in one at Mosport, it will likely be a major crash.  In one of my first spectator races at Mosport, I witnessed a Trans-Am driver die in that very corner.

(Mike Gagliardo R.I.P.)

With trepidation, I tracked my own Porsche 951 over the resulting oil spill the weekend following Gagliardo’s death.  I have driven behind a 911 losing both their front and rear in that corner.  Corner one at Mosport is not the place you want to have an accident.  It is a fast, downhill blind corner from days gone by.  You are very much in harms way until the field goes by safely.  Racers love this corner and rightfully so.

Kevin York had been enjoying a great weekend having his friend Garth Stein on site promoting “The Art Of Racing In The Rain“.  All that joy was before the accident in corner one.  This marked the second car in two weeks destroyed in spectacular fashion.  Kevin, clearly in pain from the accident, would not drive that weekend.  He showed the Harper Collins representatives on hand, how true to life Denny Swift really was (order the book to find out why). Kevin lost valuable points towards his Rookie of the Year award that weekend.  Christian Miller, on the other hand, would take over from Karl in the #76.

(Karl’s Blog)

Karl was always smart when it came to vacating his racing seat.  Christian was third in the championship and every point counted.  Karl had effectively lost his championship hunt after the accident at Lime Rock and indirectly this one Mosport.  The decision to step aside was not an easy one to make.  Christian was very fortunate to race for a Team Principal, who put the success of the team ahead of his own personal ambitions.  Karl had very much been looking to race again at Mosport for Compass360 Racing.

The defending champions were also looking forward to Mosport.  Adam Burrows and Trevor Hopwood in the #74 wanted to vindicate their last-lap loss the previous year.  They were now driving for the team in the very car that won that race the year before.  With only mere seconds separating the field, they were not alone in wanting a win at Mosport.

Adam Burrows raced the car from eight to third by Lap 15.  A well timed caution emerged on Lap 37.  A botched call on the part of track officials allowed some teams to pit before others.  This completely changed the race outcome as the #74 had to wait an extra lap to pit.  Coming back out in tenth and a lap down, Hopwood would make a final charge and finish the race in fifth.

(2008 Mosport International Raceway #74 Blog)

With the Acura RSX-S out of retirement, Christian took the field in a car he didn’t know very well.  His unfamiliarity with the RSX-S saw him qualify an uncharacteristic 23rd.  On Lap 62, Travis Walker had the #76 RSX-S runnng in ninth.  Following the #74 of Hopwood past the finish line, Travis Walker in the #76 finished sixth.

Kenny Wilden has as many more competitive laps around Mosport than most professional racers.  During practice Ken was in the top five driving faster laps that Burrows.  The #73 TSX would be in good hands, but would start the race in 26th.  Contact at the beginning of the race would break a rim and affect the car’s handling.  Ken Wilden ended up finishing eighteenth in the #73 at his home track.

By not penalizing the cars who pitted out of sequence, the officials put a large part of the field down a lap early in the race.  A fifth and a sixth did not make up for the team’s destroyed TSX.  Karl’s familiarity of the track would have likely seen the #76 RSX-X on the podium.  Scott Maxwell went on to win Mosport overall that weekend with muted delight from Karl.

(2008 Mosport International Raceway Results and Blog)

Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (June 20 – 22, 2008)

The team made their way to Mid-Ohio seemingly losing a car every race weekend.  Mid-Ohio would be kinder perhaps and it would be, somewhat.  It only claimed a few engines and clutches before the start of the race.  Being a Street Tuner only race this year, a field count of 46 cars took the grid for the race.

Kevin York was now driving a Fountain Motorsports BMW with Compass360 Racing and GoEnzo.com livery.  The BMW took on the #75 keeping it in contention for the Team Championship.  However, the u-joint and transmission gave out on the BMW on the pace lap ending Kevin’s race before it began.  The season was not being kind to Kevin.  Thankfully, the book was selling well, thanks in part to his promotional efforts for GoEnzo.com.

Adam Burrows qualified the #74 TSX on the front row at Mid-Ohio.  Keeping his qualifying pace, Adam kept the TSX in second for his stint. After the driver change on Lap 24, Hopwood received some unwanted television coverage. The left rear wheel on the #74 became suddenly dislodged from the car.  This would cause the entire rear hub to be launched into the nearby forest. Trevor was able to bring the car safely back to the pits to affect repairs.

With the rear hub repaired, the #74 TSX returned to the track in last place.  Through rain and fierce competition, Trevor Burrows crossed the finish line in 29th.  This would hurt their championship season dropping them to tenth in points.

(2008 Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course #74 Blog)

Jeremy Willard was taking advantage of Mid-Ohio to continue to improve his familiarity with the TSX and road racing in general.  When a Mazda hit the #73 hard, the handling was severely affected.  Jeremy would spend the rest of the race driving and learning.  When the rain came down, Jeremy saw it as a perfect opportunity to learn more about “The Art Of Racing In The Rain” (another shameless plug I know ;-)).  The #73 would eventually cross the line in 25th.  Jeremy was getting more confident racing the TSX every race.

Billy Johnson returned to take over from Travis Walker that weekend in the #76.  Travis had some off-track problems and needed to return to Toronto immediately.  With rain coming down, Christian turned the car over to Billy and some rain tires.  Billy proved that he was still very fast in an Acura running in fourth by Lap 43.  He secured a sixth place at the line.

With four consecutive sixth-place finishes, Christian Miller was continuing to do well in the championship. Karl’s sacrifice was paying off for the team.  He was patiently awaiting a new Honda Civic Si and a return to driving.

(2008 Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course Blog and Results)

Watkins Glen International (July 3 – 5, 2008)

The defending champs left for Watkins Glen still searching for their first win of the season.  From a qualified third, Adam Burrows started the race.  On Lap 10, Adam was leading the race.  Having brought the car into the lead, he turned the #74 over to Hopwood.  Trevor would hold off a determined Shane Lewis looking to make up for last years second place finish.  In a passing attempt, Shane would put his Accord (running its final race) into the gravel trap.  With mere laps to, Trevor was leading the field.  The #74 passed the finish line and gave the defending champions their first win ever in the series.

(2008 Watkins Glen International #74 Blog)

Kevin again raced the #75 BMW having been repaired since the last race.  The rear-wheel BMW 330 was a totally different car than the TSX he had been racing prior to the Mosport accident.  He finished the race in 15th and more importantly in one piece.  This made Kevin’s pocket book much happier than recent races.

Christian Miller paired up with returning driver Beau Buisson.  Beau took on driving duties for a now departed Travis Walker.  Karl had also listed himself as a driver in the hopes of getting some racing laps in.  Christian and Beau finished 23rd and on the lead lap in a damaged #76 RSX-S.

During warmup, Kenny Wilden set the fifth fastest lap-time.  At one point, he was running as fast as third.  During the opening laps of the race, Jeremy would hit the tire wall and damage the right rear.  Twenty laps later, the #73 returned to the track out of contention.  The #73 of Wilden and Willard had another disappointing finish in 32nd.

(2008 Watkins Glen International Results)

This win made up for the three other team finishes.  The same Acura TSX had won The Glen in two consecutive years.  The win was also the first for Compass360 Racing without Karl at the wheel.  Karl had won five of the team’s six wins.  This was a surreal moment for Karl, who was reevaluating his role in the team.

The win at The Glen occurred during the Indy Racing League (IRL) weekend prompting additional team exposure.  Honda of America was once again impressed with Compass360 Racing and much paddock talk ensued.  They were very interested in Karl’s Honda program.

(2008 Watkins Glen International Blog)

Iowa Speedway (August 9 – 10, 2008)

The team left for Iowa fueled by their win at the Glen.  With his eye on the leaderboards, Karl shuffled the deck going into the race weekend.  Trevor and Adam would now be running in the #76 TSX.  Kenny Wilden was now running the #75 TSX.  The new Honda Civic Si was to make its debut that weekend.

Adam Burrows qualified the TSX in fourth.  Within a few laps, the #76 was up front racing for first.  Adam would hold onto second going into the driver change.  Trevor would experience a drive shaft failure thankfully not while on the oval.  The transition from the infield to the oval had taken its toll on the TSX.  It would DNF in seventeenth.

Christian Miller would spend the rest of the season in the new Honda.  The Honda Civic Si was experiencing teething problems early on.  A last minute adjustment had the Honda now racing as the #74. Perhaps Karl had something larger in mind with all the number changes.

A problematic driver change cost the #74 Civic two laps.  A frustrated Miller pushed the new Honda to its limits making up a lap.  Turning lap times faster than the leader, the new Civic finished its first race in eight.  Christian was very impressed with the new Honda platform.  He looked forward to fine-tuning the car over the rest of the season.

In his new TSX, Jeremy Willard qualified tenth in a testament driver coach and co-driver Kenny Wilden . Willard is an exceptional athlete with only six professional races to his credit, all with Compass360 Racing.  Clearly, he was getting comfortable with the TSX and learning fast.  In ninth, he came into the pits for a driver change.

(Karl’s Blog)

With Wilden now behind the wheel, the #75 TSX was in seventh.  The pain of past races pushed Kenny further up the leaderboard.  With the checkered in the mirror, Kenny and Willard defied all critics with their first podium finish.  The #75 finished a very satisfying third.  This was Jeremy’s first professional racing podium in only his sixth car race. Now bad for the rookie, not bad indeed.

(2008 Iowa Speedway Results and Blog)

Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres (August 15 – 17, 2008)

The race in Trois-Rivieres was a family affair for Toronto-based Compass360/Racing.  Karl would have his wife and kids join him for the weekend.  The rest of the team would have family in tow as well.  The weekend is exceptional due to its passionate community and track-side culture.  This would make two events in a row that Compass360/Racing raced in front of over 10,000 racing fanatics.  It is no wonder that Compass360 Racing loves to race at this closed-street circuit.

(Karl’s Blog)

The defending champion would once again qualify on the outside pole.  Taking the lead early in the race, Hopwood turned the TSX over to Burrows.  This was a change in driving order for the teammates and it was showing dividends.  A ten-second lead evaporated with the raising of a yellow flag.  Adam Burrows would eventually win the race by over a second.  This was now two wins for the normally win-deprived Burrows and Hopwood.  Their decision to move to Compass360 Racing was proving wise.

Cristian Miller qualified the Honda thirteenth. Wilden qualified the TSX #75 in 17th.  Billy Johnson and Kevin York both returned to the team for the race.  Kevin started in 30th in the Acura RSX-S now sporting the #73. The significant changes in car number assignments would hopefully give the team its best changes for a championship.

At the drop of the green flag, Kevin York in the #73 RSX-S started tearing through the field. A short-stinting Kevin would hand the RSX-S over to Billy Johnson. Billy would continue the charge of the #73 RSX-S. While in racing in seventh, the car suffered a axle shaft failure and would DNF.  Their working strategy towards a podium finish was over.

Jeremy driving the #75 incurred a stop-an-go penalty for avoidable contact on Lap 12.  Christian, driving the Honda, was penalized five-seconds for blending the line coming out of the pits.  On Lap 36, Kenny started going slower and slower eventually retiring with a busted transmission.

Christian Miller secured yet another sixth place finish in the #74.  Billy and Kevin finished a distant 28th in their return.  After their success in Iowa, Kenny and Jeremy were once again finishing at the back in thirtieth.

With over thirty years of racing, the annual race weekend had seen its fair share of winners.  This year Compass360 Racing dominated the field and the #76 won the race.  Karl sat out yet another race weekend.

(2008 Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres Results and Blog)

New Jersey Motorsports Park (August 29 – 31, 2008)

From Trois-Revieres to New Jersey, the team was back in the States.  Being a new track, over 70 cars showed up for the inaugural race.  During opening practice, the reigning champions looked to be out of a drive having blown the engine of their #76 TSX.  With hard work by the team, they were able to qualify for the race.  Starting in 25th, Hopwood was progressing through the field.

The #76 was assessed a stop-and-go penalty for jumping the restart while avoiding contact with another car. This was not the first time this happened to Trevor.  This was the same call and similar circumstances as Daytona.  Clearly, the officials were making a point.  Sadly, nobody really knew what it was.  Should you be penalized for not taking out the field on a restart?

The reigning champions used this frustration to their advantage.  Taking over the #76 TSX, Adam waited patiently for the last twenty minutes of the race to make his moves.  A trip through a cloud of dust would make racing interesting.  With a final burst of vengeance, the #76 crossed the line in seventh.

Kevin York started the race and was running great times in the RSX-S.  The increasingly dirty track blew dust everywhere.  Grand-Am struggled to keep track of what was going on. Karl took over from Kevin and finished mid pack in nineteenth.  Wilden and Willard finished 27th in the #75 TSX.  After 16 laps, Christian Miller had the #74 Honda in the top five. The race went backwards from there.  The new Honda finished 33rd.

(2008 New Jersey Motorsports Park Results and Blog)

Since its inception in 1999, Grand-Am has been closely followed by NASCAR.  In Daytona, they share office space very close to each other.  I have gone to pick up my credentials only to be standing in line behind NASCAR Sprint Cup teams and drivers. Numerous NASCAR drivers have driven in Grand-Am over the years.  To celebrate almost a decade of success, NASCAR made a formal intent to acquire Grand-Am.  Karl and Compass360 Racing were now racing in a NASCAR series.  The NASCAR marketing budget could propel Grand-Am to even further heights.

(Karl’s Blog)

Inside Track Magazine featured Karl and Compass360 Racing in a two page spread in their September 2008 issue.  Karl’s branding efforts had already generated K&N magazine ads and local newspaper coverage.   Now a major racing magazine was interested in Karl’s efforts.  Karl started putting down hints to the future aspirations of Compass360 Racing.

Still wearing his Compass360 Racing suit, Billy Johnson was tearing up the field in Grand Sport with another team.  He made impressions with his six lap back and forth battle with past-champion Craig Stanton in New Jersey.  Even the best BMW driver in North American Bill Auberlen was tired of seeing Billy’s bumpers.  I have respected Craig Stanton and Bill Auberlen’s racing talent for years now.  It was quite pleasant to see Billy taking it to some of my favourite drivers.  Billy would be on the podium in GS in the last three races.  The speed he showed with Compass360 Racing allowed him to move up in the ladder series.

The Honda Civic program was coming along nicely since its maiden crash.  So confident in the Honda, Karl planned on retiring the Acura TSX program at the end of this season.  However, the RSX-S showed Karl was always willing to reach back to drive the team forward.  The Compass360 Racing #76 was the most successful Acura TSX the series ever saw.  If he needed the points, he knew what he would go to in a clutch.  Going into Miller, the team would have two upgraded Acura TSX, a new engine in the RSX-S, and the Honda Civic Si still being tweeked.

(Karl’s Blog)

Miller Motorsports Park (September 19 – 21, 2008)

Trevor Hopwood qualified his TSX third at Miller Motorsports Park in Utah.  At an altitude of 4400 feet, he would quickly fall prey to the forced induction cars.  Managing to keep the car in fifth, he turned the car over to Burrows.  Finding himself now further back after the driver change, Adam knew what direction he needed to go and fast.  With its aspirated engine, The #76 struggled to pass the faster cars going into the straights.  Adam would have to earn his spots by passing them in the corners.  Keeping momentum through the corners and making full use of the brakes, the #76 TSX crossed the finish line in sixth.

(2008 Miller Motorsports Park #76 Blog)

Jeremy started near the back in 27th. He had not yet mastered the art of qualifying. He clearly had learned though, how to race through the field.  He drove the #75 Acura swiftly up the field into seventh.  With Wilden now at the wheel, the car came in ninth.  This result was no small feat at this track.

After only 30 minutes of racing, the team changed drivers in the Honda and sent Christian out to challenge the field. The early driver change strategy may earn the Civic its first podium. Running in third for most of the race, the new Honda was seeing plenty of television coverage.  The aggressive fuel strategy was met however with aggression on the track. Contact from behind would send the #74 Civic backwards in the field to finish 22th.

Kevin York was also showing signs of race speed.  He recently rejoined the Speed Secrets coaching team.  Did Kevin finally figure out something he had missed with the RSX-S? He must have, as he ran the fastest lap time during the race.  The #73 RSX-S finished behind the team’s Honda Civic in 23rd.

(2008 Miller Motorsports Park Results)

Miller Motorsport Park clearly favoured the force-induction cars.  Grand-Am needed to consider competitive adjustments for future races.  Two top-ten finishes was the most Compass360 Racing could really hope for leaving Utah  For the fifth time in five races, Compass360 Racing brought in top points among all the Acura entrants.  Compass360 Racing had become the class of the Street Tuner paddock as far as Manufacturer’s were concerned.

(2008 Miller Motorsports Park Blog)

Bosch Engineering Twin Six Hours (October 3 – 5, 2008)

The Virginia race marked the return to competition by series driver Jason Workman.  Jason was involved in a freak accident while in an Ariel Atom the previous year (Top Gear Ariel Atom Review).  A gust of wind flung a 55 gallon anchoring bucket into open cockpit car and hit Jason firmly on the head.  Jason was in an induced coma for six week with possible brain damage.  Months of physical therapy would see him repair 16 broken bones with no signs of brain damage.  Jason was truly lucky to survive that day and it was a pleasure to see him racing a car again.

Ken Wilden in the #75 was the first to break the 2:12:00 lap time in practice at VIR.  Trevor Hopwood would follow suit in the #76.  The #74 driven by Beau Buisson was not far behind in speed.  All the TSX looked good during practice.

The #76 TSX qualified sixth.  The #74 Honda was further back in 21st.  Wilden and Willart qualified 29nd.  The #73 RSX-S was behind them in 30th.

Virgina was a split race.  The Street Tuner entries had the track to themselves. A total of 37 cars passed the green flag for this six hour race.

On Lap 4, Beau Buisson in the #74 would make contact with another car.  The contact must have affected the electronics as Beau shortly went behind the wall.  Beau later reported handling problems by Lap 10.  During his run, Beau had his share of offs and ons.  This was not the way to start a six hour race.

Adam Burrows was running in fifth.  A charging Jamie Holtom would pass both Adam and Karl taking away fourth. On Lap 30, Karl would pit out of sequence and be given a stop-and-go penalty.

Adam was pacing himself while trying to hold onto top five. He was not treated kindly in this quest and contact ensued. Trevor would take over from Adam on Lap 44.

Trevor was showing similar pace running back to fifth after the driver change.  A fight for third would emerge between Trevor Hopwood and Zach Arnold, who had raced with Compass360 Racing in the past.  Now in eighth and on Lap 83, Trevor would push forward to fifth by Lap 88.  Third pace quickly followed on Lap 92.

With Adam now driving in the #76, the car was still running in the top-five.  On Lap 108, Christian Miller served a collection of penalties dropping the #74 back.  A full course caution would come out on Lap 113.  Ken Wilden in the #75 was stopped in Turn 14.

On the restart, Adam Burrows took over the lead coming out of the first corners.  On Lap 132, a Cobalt would pass Adam for the lead.  One lap later, Adam would reclaim his spot at the front.  With the clock ticking down, Adam would lose first again.  He finish second after six hours of racing with Holtom in 3rd. This was hardly enough to keep Jamie from winning the Driver Championship.

The rest of the team didn’t finish as well as the championship hopefuls.  Miller in the #74 Honda finished 15th and three laps down.  Wilden and Willard would end their season in a familiar 27th.  The old RSX-S lasted 41 laps before saying enough.

(2008 Bosch Engineering Twin Six Hours Results and Blog)

2007 Season Enclosed Thoughts

The turbo-charged Cobalt of Jamie Holtom would be too much for the Acura TSX that year. Adam Burrows and Trevor Hopwood won twice with Compass360 Racing.  Two seemed to be the theme for Adam’s season.  Standing on the second step at VIR, Adam Burrows was also second in the Driver Championship.

Trevor Hopwood couldn’t share in the standings due to an official improperly attributing his points for his Trois Riviere win.  Bad officiating and cloudy regulations would again haunt Trevor’s 2008 season.  How can two drivers getting the same results all year not have the same points?  It turned out to be a matter of twenty seconds of missing seat time.

(Karl’s Blog)

In his debut season with the team, Christian Miller impressed everyone with his top ten standing.  He had a total of six top 10s in the season. What would the season have been like for Christian if he had some car and Co-Driver stability .  With a partial season feeling out the Honda Civic Si, Christian and Compass360 Racing were feeling out 2009.

(Karl’s Blog)

Compass360 Racing would earn second in the Team Championship. Karl having hardly raced all year would rank a distant sixtieth in the Driver Championship have finished second the year before. The destroyed Honda and Travis’ departure affected so many decisions that year. A year showing such promise ended yet again with second place results.

(Standings – Driver Points 2008)

2008 Grand-Am KONI Sports Car Challenge Trophies and Contributions

  • 2nd in Driver Championship – C360R Driver Adam Burrows
  • 2nd in Team Championship – Compass360 Racing (C360R)
  • Wins – Watkins Glen International – Long Course, Circuit Trois-Rivières

The story of Karl’s quest continues in 2009 – A True Champion and Brand Leader.

2009 – A True Champion and Brand Leader


4 thoughts on “A Brand and A Dream: A Change of Focus (2008 Grand-Am KONI Sports Car Challenge)

  1. Pingback: A Brand and A Dream: A Hard Fought Year (2007 Grand-Am KONI Sports Car Challenge) « My Thoughts Enclosed…

  2. Pingback: A Brand and A Dream: A True Champion and Brand Leader (2009 Grand-Am KONI Sports Car Challenge) « My Thoughts Enclosed…

  3. Pingback: A Brand and A Dream: From Start-Up to Triple-Crown Champions « My Thoughts Enclosed…

  4. Pingback: A Brand and A Dream: A Tribute « My Thoughts Enclosed… « My Thoughts Enclosed…

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