The Nitto Tire United States Touring Car Championship (USTCC) is a racing series where production-based coupes, hatchbacks and sedans compete at tracks throughout North America. Established in 2005, the series utilizes both a sprint race format of 30-50-minute races and an enduro format of contests up to two hours in length; both utilize a standing start, making the on-track competition intense from the very first second.
Scion Racing pilot Michele Abbate immersed herself in that intensity in 2014. The Las Vegas, Nevada native was born into a family in which both her father and brother raced. At 15 years of age, she joined the family in its racing pursuits by joining an SCCA Autocross, and has since gone on to compete in numerous series. Partnering with Scion Racing in 2011 and piloting a tC chassis initially, Michele competed in the MotoIQ Pacific Tuner Car Challenge Series, where she was the first female to compete in and take the championship in 2012, as a rookie no less. She continued her partnership with Scion Racing in 2014 and was the first driver to compete with a Scion in the USTCC, this time utilizing the immensely popular rear-drive FR-S sports car against 11 other makes.
The USTCC is a National Auto Sport Association sanctioned series, with its set of rules working in conjunction with the NASA Club Codes and Regulations. Following these guidelines, Michele and her partners set out to build a competitive vehicle to campaign throughout the year. The FR-S chassis was purchased in February of 2014 with just a hair over 1000 miles on it. As with any race car, creating the most optimal power-to-weight ratio is crucial. As per the rules, "The engines used must have been available for sale in that body, style, year, make, and model by the manufacturer," so the team set out to maximize the power of the OE 2.0-liter boxer-4 motor.
USTCC rules require that the intake system function identically to the original system, so an AirRaid intake system channels air, while a set of JDL headers and a Berk Technology Full Race Dual Tip Exhaust provide the necessary outlet, with the combo given race optimization by Delicious Tuning. An OE application Mishimoto radiator and Direct-Fit Oil Cooler kit keep the AMSOIL fluid temperatures in check.
The FR-S was designed to be a nimble vehicle from the factory, but lightening the chassis as much as possible is crucial when racing in a series limiting the modifications to the powerplant. The rules allow for all interior pieces including passenger seat and rear seats to be removed, but no sheet metal to be removed or deformed, except for the case of the door panels. This rule allowed for the team to eliminate the innards of the doors including glass and power window mechanisms. Here alone they were able to eliminate 33 pounds, while also making room for the NASA-style door bars that were utilized in the 6-point roll cage design.
Reklaw Design was called upon and created the OD Green vinyl with American Flag and sponsor decals to envelope the FR-S's shell and the Five:AD Aero Kit. In the front, an APR Performance Five:AD Splitter was used, protruding no more than five inches from the front bumper, as per the rules. Additionally, an APR GTC-200 spec wing with 2.5 risers in the rear provides necessary downforce and keeps compliant by not being wider than the width of the chassis. When it came to suspension duties, AST coil-overs prepared by MANN Engineering were bolted in at all four corners, and the team utilized numerous offerings from Whiteline and GTSPEC to deal with anti-sway, bump steer correction, and virtually infinite adjustability in the realm of camber, caster, and toe, all necessary to dial in a proper race car.
With a host of amazing sponsors and support, Michele aims to better herself behind the wheel and continue pushing the Scion Racing/Delicious Tuning FR-S to the limits. Finishing the 2014 USTCC season seventh in points, this trailblazer has already accomplished a lot, but we're pretty sure she's got a lot more in the tank - keep an eye on this one.