THERMAL, California – Young driver Steven Aghakhani remains “podium perfect” in SRO Winter Invitational series competition after the 16-year-old pulled off a pair of second place finishes this past weekend in Round 2 of the new three race winter series at The Thermal Club.
Aghakhani’s podium sweep of the Saturday/Sunday doubleheader was backed up by a pair of overall fastest race laps each day despite a driver Balance of Performance (BoP) adjustment heading into Round 2.
After a race win and second-place finish in December’s debut Winter Invitational weekend, the sliver-ranked Aghakhani’s No. 6 US RaceTronics SADA Systems Mercedes-AMG GT3 was required to carry an additional 20 kilograms – more than 40 additional lbs. – for Round 2.
“Because of my age and silver ranking in a field of mainly bronze drivers, we had to carry some weight for this past race,” Aghakhani said. “That obviously has some influence on the car and hurts your time and straightaway speed, but we still went into the weekend feeling good and really strong. We came up with some good practice sessions, were really excited to be back out there, and it was a good weekend. The car came back in one piece and podium finishes both days.”
Despite the extra driver weight, Aghakhani pressured for the victory in both races and consistently ripped off race laps just .3 of a second off of his top times from the December race weekend.
“The weight is harder on the tires and makes it more difficult to push down the straights, but we are still out there getting fastest race laps,” Aghakhani said. “The Mercedes-AMG GT3 is at its best in corners and under the braking zone. The car makes it up through the corners. It really shows how far we have come and the strengths of the car. Even though there are two very long straights on this configuration, we made it up in the braking zones and the corners and had the fastest race laps.”
The new SRO Winter Invitational Series winter series includes three race weekends on three different course configurations at The Thermal Club, which is located in Southern California near Palm Springs. December’s debut event used a 2.7-mile track and this past weekend’s layout was 3.1 miles in length. February’s series finale will be contested on a 4-mile configuration.
“So far, I’m really enjoying the Winter Invitational,” Aghakhani said. “The series is great. The people are great, and everyone is really good with each other on track.”
Aghakhani’s overall record of one victory and three runner-up showings in the opening rounds of the Winter Invitational is the best in the series.
The only other driver to reach the overall podium in each of the first four Winter Invitational races is Aghakhani’s fellow Mercedes-AMG Motorsport Customer Racing competitor David Askew who has earned a second-place finish and trio of third-place showings.
Next up for Aghakhani and the No. 6 US RaceTronics SADA Systems Mercedes-AMG GT3i is the SRO Winter Invitational series finale at The Thermal Club, February 7 – 9.