On Saturday June 5th, at Virginia International Raceway, Erin Vogel made history when she and her co-driver Michael Cooper won the first GT World Challenge race of the weekend in the Pro-Am class, and finished in third place in the overall standings.
Under cloudless skies, and with temperatures in the 90s, the heat and humidity played havoc with the handling of many of the cars, and Vogel’s DXDT Mercedes GT3 was also affected by the extreme heat. After a tough official practice session, the team felt the handling issues were solved in qualifying, but multiple red flags kept them from showing their hand.
Vogel started the first race in seventh in the Pro-Am class, and battled the continuously changing track conditions. However, once she found a rhythm, she was able to make passes and move up the order. Hours of driver change practice then paid off as the DXDT crew executed a flawless stop, and Vogel’s co-driver Michael Cooper left the pits leading the Pro-Am class, and in fourth overall. Cooper then extended the pairings lead and passed another car to place himself and Vogel in third place overall at the checkered flag.
Vogel also wrote her name in the history books as her and Cooper’s win marked the first win for a female driver in GT World Challenge America.
“Michael and I have been working towards this for so long,” said Vogel. “Today we had a perfect car, a perfect pit-stop, and we finally won! I love this car, I love this track, and I love this team!”
On Sunday June 6th for the second race of the double header event, Cooper started the race but was involved in a first lap incident, causing a slow puncture and knocking the set-up out of alignment which lead to understeer issues. Despite these handling difficulties, coupled with cockpit temperatures in the 130 degree range, Cooper and Vogel battled forward towards the front. In the closing laps Vogel found herself engaged in a heated fight for fourth place in class, crossing the finish line side by side with her competitor, but having to settle for fifth.
“DXDT Racing gave us the car, we had the pace, we had another great pit-stop, but in the end the damage to the car, and the brutal heat and humidity meant that I had my hands full. Fifth place today feels like something to be proud of, and I will always remember this weekend for the team-work and camaraderie that helped us claim yesterday’s win.”
The fifth place finish marked Cooper and Vogel’s fourth top five finish in six races so far this season.
GT World Challenge America returns at Road America on August 27th-29th.