Portland 2005: Biela, Pirro deny unlucky Dyson
31 July 2005
Trailing by 1.5secs with two laps left, Emanuele Pirro couldn't believe his eyes as he closed quickly on Dyson Racing's #16 Lola, which had lost fuel pressure while leading, to win the Portland Grand Prix.
Four miles proved to be the difference, as Pirro clawed his way back from third place with about 30 minutes left to put himself in position to go by James Weaver on lap 136 of 138. Chris Dyson and Andy Wallace, in the second of the Dyson Lolas also found a way past Weaver, who had led by more than four seconds in the waning moments, to finish ten seconds out of the lead.
"I've known James since our F3 days, and I like fighting hard with a guy with a lot of experience," Pirro said afterwards, "I know I can push hard and still trust him to do right.
"Initially I was unhappy that I took the lead under those circumstances, as I would have rather passed him under racing. But, when I found out it was because he ran out of petrol, I was happier because that means they took a risk and it didn't play out for them. That's racing, that's another story."
A second straight win for Pirro and ADT Champion Audi co-driver Frank Biela moved them ahead of team-mates Marco Werner and JJ Lehto in the P1 drivers' championship, after fortune frowned upon the defending race and series champions after just 45 minutes.
As Werner attempted to go past the #4 Corvette Racing C6-R of Olivier Beretta, the Audi spun under braking. The German was able to nurse the damaged car back to the pits, but the crew had to replace the rear cover. Lehto took over but, once back on the track, the rear bodywork flew off, this time as the #1 machine moved past the #63 ACEMCO Motorsports Saleen. Lehto spun off the track and took Terry Borcheller with him, both cars retiring from the race.
"We are a young crew," Pirro said, "By each race, we are improving and improving and improving - now the championship looks good for us."
In LMP2, the #37 Intersport Racing Lola won for the third time this year, as Clint Field and Gregor Fisken drove past a stranded #10 Miracle Motorsports Courage near the two-hour mark. Field has now won three times this season and moved past Miracle's Jeff Bucknum and Chris McMurry for the drivers lead in P2.
"It's always a struggle to get a good match, but with great drivers at your disposal like Liz Halliday and Gregor Fisken that can adapt to my driving style, our car, and our team, it makes winning easier," Field said, "Gregor did a great job on his stint. He kept it safe and kept it clean and our team did a great job on the stops.
"I was plugging away two seconds a lap faster so, if the #10 car had held up, I was thinking it was going to be a great finish. We had a bit of the same trouble last year - a couple of wins but a couple of DNFs - so we know how it can be."
The ACEMCO Saleen's misfortune opened the door for another 1-2 finish for Corvette Racing in GT2. Beretta and Gavin won for the second time this year, posting a 0.714secs victory over the #3 sister car of Ron Fellows and Johnny O'Connell.
The critical moment, ACEMCO exit aside, came during a pit-stop at just about the two-hour mark. Both cars pitted under caution, but Gavin beat O'Connell out of the pits, and that's the way it stayed.
"At Sebring, we lost the race like this and, today, we nearly lost it again," Beretta said, "The car was very difficult to drive, but I'm very happy for the #4 crew."
Gavin added that the Corvette's steering wheel was bent, and the car wasn't nearly as smooth in the corners as it had been before the incident. However, he praised the team's quick and timely pit work that ensured that the car never relinquished its lead from that point.
"The team did an amazing job today," the Briton said, "The car was quite badly damaged in the accident with the #1 car. It looked like we were going to have to make an unscheduled pit-stop, but Olivier kept going and the pit crew worked their magic."
Third place fell to the #5 Pacific Coast Motorsports Corvette C5-R of Alex Figge and Ryan Dalziel, which took its first ever podium. It also marked the first time three Corvettes had climbed the podium in the ALMS.
In GT2, Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas maintained their march towards the points lead by winning their fourth straight race in the #23 Alex Job Racing Porsche. Not only did they finish comfortably ahead of the second placed #43 BAM! Porsche of Martin Jensen and Wolf Henzler, but also unofficially took the class points lead over Patrick Long and Jorg Bergmeister, after the #31 Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing Porsche could finish not better than eighth in class.
"I knew our strongest competitor was not on the same lap as us," Bernhard said later, "That was a little better for us. I walked away from the BAM! car, and that allowed me to save my tyres. It was a good thing because we had a yellow and everyone else pitted for tyres."
Over the past two races, Bernhard and Dumas have led every lap, a span of 226 consecutive tours.
"It might have looked easy in the last two races, but it wasn't," the German insisted, "It would have been a good battle with the #31 car, but everything is good at every track we go to. We have the experience."