One of the surprise but welcome stories in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge season has been the rise of the single-car CRG-I Do Borrow team in the ST class.
Compared to some of the bigger organizations in the paddock, the CRG team is something of a throwback in the best way possible.
The toterhome isn’t big, E-Z Up pop-up tents are ubiquitous, and there are only a handful of crewmembers for the Joe Cattaneo-run team.
And yet for Owen Trinkler of Nashville and Sarah Cattaneo of Scottsdale, Ariz., they’ve executed perfectly behind the wheel, posting a consistent season and starting to get on a roll from a results standpoint.
In the last five races, Trinkler and Cattaneo have finished fourth, seventh, fifth, fourth and second – the latter finally getting them to the podium in their recognizable pink-and-black No. 44 Honda Civic Si.
They now rank third in ST points, only 16 behind class leaders Chad McCumbee and Stevan McAleer, with three races remaining.
Considering the pair only had two top-10 results in all of 2014, the year-to-year improvement has been nothing short of miraculous.
It comes after the two were title contenders co-driving together in 2011, then with Orlando-based RSR Motorsports in MINI Coopers. Trinkler had served as both team manager and driver, and at some points even the transporter driver.
But following that team’s withdrawal at the end of 2013, it left Trinkler in an awkward position, late into the offseason before the Cattaneos threw him a lifeline as the seeds of a new team were sown.
“I thought my career was over. I thought it was, ‘I’d made it to this point,’” Trinkler told Sportscar365. “The way it all dissolved left a sore taste, to be honest.
“Sarah and Joe called the end of November, and I’m grateful to them. I went about 30 days, called and asked, and there was an offer to buy the Honda assets from RSR.
“I didn’t know where I would end up if anywhere. Some management positions were offered, but nothing driving. It’s tough to get back in. We did… and to do what we’re doing this year is really cool.”
What’s been done this year is a result of a small, but tight-knit, crew bonding together and executing in all facets.
Jim Hasser serves as engineer and race strategist, and Brian Buttler and Richie Trombley are, on paper, crew chief and second-in-command. All go above and beyond to put the No. 44 car together.
They work in tandem with the Rum Bum Racing pit crew, who service the car on pit stops thanks to a longtime relationship Trinkler has had with them. Pit stops are one of the team’s strongest attributes.
“I have to say there are only strengths being small. We get to solely focus on our car at all times,” Cattaneo told Sportscar365.
“It’s more intimate and we have all bonded over last season and this season, and it’s great to have that family feel between us all.”
Cattaneo is recapturing the form behind the wheel that brought her and Trinkler success in 2011. Trinkler praised her driving this season.
“She’s getting the confidence back,” Trinkler said. “The shocks had been a big problem in the past. Now that we can run the shocks we want to, we can adapt to what she needs.
“She’s been here before and she can do this. This weekend at Road America was good for her to be in the lead. She led, she settled in and ran a good race.”
“Working with Owen in 2014 helped a lot; the transition to the Honda was pretty hard for me for some reason and I’m not sure why honestly,” Cattaneo explained.
“But with all Owen’s help we have got my driving back to where it was in 2011. We tested all offseason and finally something clicked.”
While Trinkler was initially frustrated when he saw the Porsche Cayman get introduced to ST, he is still thankful the team has maximized the Civic Si, the lone front-wheel drive car remaining in ST.
“We’ve asked for a bigger tire in front, but overall I think our car is really consistent,” he said. “We look at data, and run consistently to the end.”
The six-person team has already overachieved in 2015 and will look to continue the underdog story for the final three races, in looking to upend the CJ Wilson Racing and Freedom Autosport Mazda squads.
“I think it shows the talent level we have on the team,” Trinkler said. “It’s an incredible situation for us. We’ve been on the other side of the fence in the RSR days.
“Joe is dedicated to making this thing go. Being a one-car effort, we can really focus on it. We seem little, but we spend our time in the right places to make sure we’re fast.”
Cattaneo added, “Between the six of us, we make it work! It’s not always easy being a small team, but our guys work so hard to make the car the best it can be.
“It’s definitely a big change going from such a big team to such a small one. But the good part about that is, it’s all about us.”