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  • Writer's pictureRoger Maeda

Frustrating Weekend Ends Up in Smoke for StudioVRM's Roger Maeda

Photos by Sam Draiss Media


Millville, NJ – A close quarters duel with BRT’s Martin Szwarc ended in disappointment as the StudioVRM Prelude’s H22 powerplant expired halfway into the Round 2 Feature Race at NJ Motorsports Park. Adding to the frustration was the fact that the East Series Championship contenders were enjoying their most competitive race weekends of the year and were gearing up for a fantastic fight before mechanical gremlins struck for the second time in two races.


Qualifying

Fast lap: 1:15.373


The team’s debugged 2024 aero package showed its strength in Qualifying as Maeda weaved through traffic to post a 1:15.569 on his first attack lap. As the track rubbered in and other cars pulled off early, Maeda continued to improve his lap times, ultimately recording a 1:15.373. This was fast enough to place the StudioVRM Prelude 11th overall and fastest of the USTCC SP class cars.


Saturday Heat Race


A strong start allowed Maeda to immediately overtake two cars and jump up to 9th overall, with Braci Racing Team’s Martin Szwarc following closely behind. This position would be short lived, however, as the battling duo would have to cede position to allow some of the higher-powered cars to race with cars in their own classes. By lap 5, Maeda and Szwarc found themselves locked in single combat while running behind the Corvette Z51 of Chuck Burns. As the straight-line speed of Burns’ Corvette made it difficult for the two Sportsman class Hondas to overtake cleanly, Maeda was forced to defend against attacks from the BRT Honda Civic while patiently waiting for an opportunity to get past the crimson V8 sports car ahead. Ultimately, the Saturday Heat Race ended in Maeda’s favor when Szwarc experienced a splitter support rod issue on his Civic and was forced to back off.


Sunday Feature Race



Sunday’s feature race saw the grid reshuffled slightly due to some of the competitors improving their lap times during the Saturday Heat Race. Maeda managed a strong start once again, lifting the StudioVRM Honda Prelude up to 12th overall by the end of the first lap, with BRT’s Martin Szwarc once again following inches behind.


The two Sportsman Class runners navigated both faster and slower traffic, only for this time to catch up to the fight between brothers Jim and Robert Benson in their exotic high powered GT cars. Maeda once again found himself working to fend off Szwarc’s attacks while trying to keep his distance where the Prelude’s aerodynamic advantage made it faster than the cars ahead.While the USTCC SP class drivers dueled for top honors, trouble began brewing deep within the StudioVRM Prelude’s H22 powerplant. A problem in cylinder #3 of the car’s engine was allowing combustion gasses to get past the piston rings and blow engine oil into the catch can. That oil eventually overflowed the can, causing some of it to spill out onto the track, to the unfortunate peril of other cars behind.


Faced with the possibility of creating an even more hazardous situation for other cars on track, Maeda decided to retire the car early and ceding the SP class lead to BRT’s Martin Szwarc.


Roger Maeda - #22 StudioVRM.Racing Honda Prelude Si VTEC

Feature Race: 2nd in Sportsman, 4th overall in USTCC

Qualifying Time: 1:15.373

Fastest Race Lap: 1:17.422


“It's been a tremendously frustrating weekend for us, and we have no one to blame but ourselves. The engine failure looks almost identical to the issue we experienced at Pittsburgh in 2022 and is one we would have been caught if we hadn’t compromised our race preparation to run the car at an exhibition event on the weekend prior to this one. Our apologies to the competitors who were behind us when the car’s catch can overflowed and laid down oil on track.


We are down but we are not out. With the help of our technical partner Bad Guys Worldwide, we are building a new engine to the limit of the power rules allowed in USTCC’s Sportsman class. With that extra horsepower and some of the chassis upgrades we have in store, we should be able to bounce back with a competitive showing later in the summer.”


Z. Jefferson – Race Engineer – StudioVRM.Racing


“We were elated at the end of the first session where the Prelude managed all qualifying laps without incident and with a respectable time. There seemed to be a handful of adjustments to make for the following races but nothing major.


After completing all laps of the first race, the Prelude came back with oil on the splitter and a full catch can, giving us flashbacks of prior gremlins and massive oil cleanups. After retiring early in the final race of the weekend we know this will take a bit of time to correct but are hopefully the majority of the setup is in good shape and we can return with a reliable fast car.”




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