He’s only 20 years old, but already Reza Arsham has made history by becoming the youngest ever winner of a US Touring Car Championship race. Racing for the GoGoGear.com team, which is backed by Motul, he took the win despite only being in his second season of professional car racing. Even more impressive: Reza had never driven the car, a BMW M3, or the track, Buttonwillow, California, before. We had to hear more!
Reza, how does it feel being the youngest ever USTCC race winner?
The win really means a lot to me because I’ve been working really hard on my car, on myself and on my driving. I felt the win was coming. Every race I seemed to be improving and I had a couple of races last year where I was fighting for a podium position. I was very emotional when it happened as it means a lot to me and my family. I’m really thankful to the team for all the hard work they’ve done.
Tell me about your win. I hear it was quite a challenging weekend at Buttonwillow.
The whole weekend was really interesting. I was not in the car I was supposed to be in. Normally I’m in a Honda Civic, but at the last minute we decided not to run it because we were worried about the engine (we’d just rebuilt it). Luckily, the benefit of being in a big team like GoGoGear is there’s a backup car. So, I was able to hop into our E36 BMW M3. I was familiar with the chassis, but I’d never driven that car before. And I’d never driven the track. When qualifying came I gave myself one lap to set a fast time so that I could conserve the tyres. That lap was enough to allow me to put the car on pole in qualifying. I was super happy about that. Afterwards I got protested and the car was sent to park fermé, where a technical inspection found that the car was not within the legal limits of horsepower for the class. Because of that my qualifying time was deleted and I was sent to the back of the grid for the race. Which wasn’t ideal.
How did you make a comeback from that come race day?
On the green flag I got a great start and I managed to get past everyone in the class. By turn one I was in the lead. The car just hooked up really nicely. I had a couple of battles on the first lap and by no means was it easy. But then after that first lap, I was able to build a gap over second place and they couldn’t catch me from there. It was smooth sailing.
How’s your racing season been shaping up since then?
That was the first race of the year, late June/early July. That was round one. Since then we’ve had a second round. It was going well. I was back in the Civic, a front-wheel drive platform. Getting reacclimated to front wheel drive didn’t take too long. In qualifying I was able to put the car on the front row, in second place. I got another fantastic launch and I was able to take the lead again after the first turn. I had the lead for most of the first lap and then I got passed and went down to third. It was a very hot weekend and before the end of the second lap the car went into limp mode, which restricted the power. And it was like that for the rest of the race and I finished last in class. But there was pace in the car and the driver so I’m hopeful we’ll be right back in the mix, fight for the championship and get back the points we lost. In my most recent race, unfortunately the engine blew up in qualifying. I managed to find a back-up car to get some points at least.
Given your success in the BMW would you like to stay in that car?
I’ll be staying in the Civic. It would be nice but it’s not my car and it was really only a one-time deal. The Civic has the pace to win and I enjoy driving it.
How did you get into racing?
Racing has always been in my family. I was at the racetrack before I was even born. My mum was racing when she was pregnant with me. I was at the track when I was three months old and I’ve always had racing in my DNA. But it really started when I was four or five years old, in karting. That’s where I developed the knack for it and slowly built up to track day events and getting my licence. 2019 was my first year doing wheel-to-wheel car racing. I was in a slower, underpowered car, but I finished fourth in the championship. This season will be the first year I’m hoping to do all seven races. It’s been a short career, but we’re progressing forwards and going through the ranks.