LAKEVILLE, Conn. (February 01, 2002) - With a new format, two new sponsors, an impressive schedule and enhanced prize money, the region’s top Improved Touring series, the Lime Rock Park Import Challenge Series presented by OMP, is poised for its most exciting season ever in 2002.
OMP, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of safety equipment and automotive performance enhancement products, comes on board as the new presenting sponsor. In addition, Sunoco, the largest manufacturer of racing gasoline in the world, will add its support through a season-long awards program.
In just two seasons, the Import Challenge Series has become one of the most hard fought and competitive SCCA championships in the Northeast, and the bar has been raised even higher in 2002. One could even say the road to the title will be twice as hard this season with the debut of an all new race format.
Instead of one 45-minute feature, Improved Touring A (ITA) and Improved Touring S (ITS) drivers will compete in back-to-back 12-lap sprint races at each event, doubling the amount of rounds in the championship chase to six. The new format, similar to the British Touring Car Championship, will showcase the excitement of SCCA competition at three of Lime Rock Park’s premiere events, giving these Club Racers the chance to compete before some of the biggest crowds of the season at the Road Racing Center of the East. The Import Challenge Series presented by OMP kicks off the season with Rounds 1 & 2 at the Lime Rock Park Grand Prix, the Memorial Day weekend sports car spectacular May 24-27. Rounds 3 & 4 are on July 4 as part of a Mohawk-Hudson Region, SCCA Regional. The season finale will be held at Burnham Boilers 200 NASCAR Busch North Championship even at Lime Rock Oct. 11-12.
The series awards points based on a driver's finish in his or her class, giving ITA and ITS competitors an equal shot at the championship. The champion will be determined by the five best results for each driver. The Import Challenge Series presented by OMP will present a purse structure that has been increased by more than 33% over previous seasons. Nearly $9,000 in prize money will be available to the top three finishers in each class after every race and in season-ending bonuses. The overall Import Challenge Series champion will receive a $500 bonus and a fully funded ride (valued at approximately $10,000) for the SPEED World Challenge Touring Car Championship race at Lime Rock on Memorial Day weekend in 2003.
OMP will add over $5,000 in product awards through its Driving Impressions outlets. The top five drivers in each class following all six rounds, as well as the top five ITA and ITS drivers in the final points standings, will receive OMP awards. In addition, each and every driver who competes in the series with receive special offers for substantial savings on top OMP safety and performance products available in North America.
Sunoco, Inc., the Official Race Fuel of Lime Rock Park, will back the Import Challenge Series via the Sunoco Hard Charger of the Race award. The ITA and ITS drivers who improve the most positions in each round will receive a $100 credit toward the purchase of Sunoco Race Fuel. A $200 bonus fuel credit will be given to the two class drivers who make up the most positions over the course of the season.
In all, more than $25,000 in prize money and awards will be given out during the 2002 season.
The Import Challenge Series presented by OMP attracts the top ITA and ITS drivers from throughout the Northeast and features some of the world’s most popular import performance models including Acura Integras, BMW 318s and 325s, Honda CRXs, Civics and Preludes, Mazda RX-7s, Nissan 300 ZXs, Toyota Celicas and Volkswagen Golfs and Jettas.
Last season, the Import series drew drivers from eight different SCCA regions and averaged a very strong 27 entries per race. Entering the season finale, four drivers were separated by a mere point at the top of the standings and each drove a different ITA or ITS class car. ITS class champion Kip Van Steenburg came away with the overall championship, edging ITA champion Philippe Manuel by just one point in the final standings. Van Steenburg will get the chance to compete in the upcoming SPEED World Challenge Touring Car race at Lime Rock in a new Mazda Protégé prepared by long-time World Challenge competitor David Rosenblum. For more information about the Import Challenge Series Presented by OMP please call the Lime Rock Park track office at 1-800-RACE-LRP or visit www.limerock.com. - Roy Hasty