DAYTONA BEACH — For FAST MD Racing, how quickly its TCR program in the IMSA MICHELIN Pilot Challenge came together is described right in its name – fast.
It was less than two weeks before the inaugural race of 2019 that the team’s No. 23 Audi RS3 LMS entry was announced with full-time co-drivers Nick Galante, a two-time Pilot Challenge champion, and James Vance, a Canadian racer with a wealth of experience across multiple racing platforms.
While both drivers have been in the racing industry for years, the brains behind the team’s operation necessarily haven’t.
A pair of Tampa, Florida-area doctors and neighbors, spine surgeon Dr. Farhan Siddiqi and orthopedic surgeon Dr. Jared Salinsky co-founded FAST MD. They’ve both had a longtime passion for sports cars, yet this is the first involvement in the IMSA paddock for Siddiqi. Salinsky previously drove a handful of races for LAP Motorsports after making his Pilot Challenge debut in 2017.
“We quickly realized that GT3 is absolutely not what we’re doing because there’s no need to dive in with millions of dollars right away,” Salinsky said. “(Siddiqi) was actually more interested in GT4 and I said if you’re going to get your feet wet, let’s do TCR. It’s less expensive, but you get similar notoriety. It’s a new international class, as is GT4. It’s going to be a great field, the cars are less expensive to acquire and less expensive to maintain and you know, let’s just see how it goes.”
Salinsky was the team’s endurance driver alongside Galante and Vance for the four-hour season opener at Daytona International Speedway two weeks ago. He also owns a ST victory from 2018 at Sebring International Raceway, which is where the team travels for the series’ next race, the Alan Jay Automotive Network 120 on March 15.
If the team’s debut performance at Daytona is any indication of how the rest of the season may go, the future looks promising. The No. 23 Audi survived a race that saw only three of 14 TCR cars on the lead lap at the checkered flag. In its debut, FAST MD Racing took the third and final spot on the podium, a welcome surprise to all involved.
“We weren’t sure what to expect,” said Siddiqi. “Obviously, it’s a new team and we’re sort of rookies in professional racing. The fact that we put the team together pretty quickly, I thought that we had some really good components of the team. The drivers are super experienced and our crew chief has a lot of experience, but we as FAST MD are kind of newcomers. We were just hoping to put together a good race.”
It’s not just the team’s performance that should make them stand out, but also what Salinsky describes as the team’s “synergy.” With Siddiqi and Salinsky sharing a similar profession, and Galante continuing his partnership with the charity Racing to End Alzheimer’s, the team is establishing a cohesive identity based on science and medicine.
Siddiqi’s medical practice is, in fact, the namesake of the car – Florida Advance Spine and Sports Trauma MD – and has been open five years.
“Spine surgeons are super fastidious about details and need to understand everything so they can control what they need to control,” Salinsky said. “(Siddiqi) is really good because he’s like a superfan, but he understands the value of making the right decisions along the way and he understands the value of IMSA in general.”
In terms of Galante’s ambassadorship for Racing to End Alzheimer’s, Salinsky admires his co-driver’s role with the organization.
“I thought it was cool that someone not necessarily in the medical field has taken such a relationship to it and is tied so closely to it,” said Salinsky. “No one is a better ambassador for Racing to End Alzheimer’s than Nick Galante.”
In the meantime, FAST MD Racing has no plans to slow down anytime soon, with the team’s commitment to IMSA and the Pilot Challenge set for the long term.
“There’s no sense in going into a business venture if you’re going to nickel and dime it,” said Salinsky. “(Siddiqi) openly said from the beginning, ‘Fifty percent of this project is legitimate advertising and marketing for my business and 50 percent of it is my love of motorsport. I understand there might be a loss and I understand we’re going to learn from 2019 to do 2020, and we’re going to learn from 2020 to do 2021.’
“Dr. Siddiqi openly says this is at least a three- to five-year effort, which also puts us at ease as far as ‘Oh my gosh, if we don’t show results we’re going to be out, but if we do show results, we’re going to be in.’ No, we already know results or not, that we’re in for three years.”