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“SETUP; Pontiac Solstice GXP models featured on SPEED TV”
by Bill Davis for Pontiac Performance Magazine Summer 08′ Edition
TWENTY-FOUR up-and-coming drivers. Twelve identically equipped turbocharged Solstice GXP models. Several challenging racing courses. And, ultimately, one victor emerging from the pack.
That, in a nutshell, sums up the exciting second season of SPEED TV’s Setup program. After eight weeks of hotly contested racing, Chris Prey grabbed the top spot, earning $100,000 and the opportunity to test with Pontiac’s factory Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona race team, Banner Racing.
“Obviously, the money will allow me to follow a couple of opportunities,” says Prey, who has participated in Skip Barber and SCCA National events. “The test and getting involved with the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series provides me an opportunity to showcase my skills, and work with a top-flight professional team.”
Teamwork was an important element of the show. Twelve two-man teams started the contest, with each driver bringing a crew chief along for the ride. Teams prepped their factory-built Solstice GXP’s before competition, performing general maintenance and slight adjustments to the engine and suspension. (The vehicles had already been equipped with roll cages and other safety equipment by Pratt & Miller.) Participants then alternated driving during a given broadcast’s two races. Drivers were then eliminated during the program’s races, which took place on oval and different road course configurations. Eventually, teammates became competitors.
“When it got down to the final six guys or so, you really got the feeling how much the competition took out of them, and how much it ultimately meant to win,” says Robert Ecker, SPEED’s Vice President of Programming. “There was no second place for any of them.” The last race represented a true battle of attrition, with four cars holding a chance to prevail with five laps remaining. Prey grabbed the title on the last stretch, and had nothing but good things to say about his car. “It displayed great handling, and the power was impressive,” he says.
Since his victory, Prey — a truck driver by trade — has worked with the Banner Racing team, hauling their racecars across the country and working on their pit crew. “It’s been a great experience, which I owe to the show,” he says. For SPEED TV’s Ecker, the Setup series accurately captures the essence of sporting competition. “There is no coverage of things outside of the track and garage — the focus is on good, intense racing,” he says. “As a result, it comes across completely credible and real — and not for the faint of heart.”