Crash.Net Grand AM News
Bell captures Grand-Am points lead with VIR win
6 October 2003
Bell Motorsports has been in search of the Daytona Prototype points lead all season long, and finally moved to the front of the class with its victory in the VIR 400 at Virginia International Raceway on Sunday.
"I've certainly got mixed emotions, but the result is what we were looking for," Forest Barber, who was left out of the line-up for the race admitted, "We tried to put together the best programme for the results, and it came our way. I don't know what would have happened if I'd been in the car, but I'm really glad for the finish we had."
Andy Pilgrim started the #54 Chevy Doran JE4 on the pole and Terry Borcheller captured the chequered flag 400 kilometres and 77 laps later. The #54 car's boost into the points lead was due in part to the troubles suffered by the #58 Brumos Racing Red Bull Porsche FABCAR, which fell victim to suspension damage early in the race, and dropped several laps behind, before having its fate sealed when it was involved in a multi-car pile up with only 15 laps remaining in the race.
"There were a lot of cars spinning," Brumos driver David Donohue explained, "The Multimatic spun in front of me, and I swerved to try to miss him, but a Porsche had also spun and I couldn't get around him. That ended our day.
"The car was messed up the whole time I was out there. Something happened to the rear suspension while Mike [Borkowski] was driving, and the car wasn't right after that. We pitted to try to fix it three times. The third time they came close, but it still wasn't right."
The Brumos Racing #59 entry had been leading the race prior to the pile-up, but ducked into the pits for a splash of fuel and a new front right tyre, giving the lead over to Borcheller in the #54 car. Only three turns later, Borcheller was able to manoeuvre around the three-car collision to smooth sailing to the chequer.
"We were catching Hurley late in the race and, when it was green, we were catching him about a half-second a lap," Borcheller reasoned, "I was just trying to be patient with traffic. I got together with Darren [Law] but, other than that, I had no altercations. I thought he saw me - he would have let me in if he saw me - but he said he didn't.
"Other than that, I was just being cautious and careful, and we were still catching him about a half second a lap and we would have caught him before the end. On the last restart, the words in my head were 'don't look back - just keep trucking'. I knew Bill Auberlen was there - actually, I was glad he was there, because he had gotten around Hurley and made it a little easier for me at the end.
"We wanted to put both the Doran cars across the finish line at the same time. Our strategy was great, and Bell Motorsports did a great job as always. It came our way, and it couldn't have happened at a better time. I don't know what this does to the #58 car in the points, but I know it hurt them some. The car now to focus on is #59 car, because they're now also real close."
Haywood was able to hold onto second place overall, despite a serious threat from Darren Law in the #8 G&W Motorsports BMW-powered Picchio. Law pressured Haywood throughout the final laps but could never get around the #59 car and had to settle for third-place honours.
"We were just kind of hanging on at the end, and I didn't have anything left for Terry," Haywood admitted, "Second is good, considering everything. The car was really good and the crew did a great job. We just came up a little short. That spoiled my record here -- every race I've been in here, I've won. But second ain't bad."
"It went great - I've got to give a big thank you to the whole G&W crew," Law concluded, "They worked so hard putting this car back together so we could race, and I would like to thank my co-driver Patrick [Huisman], who was fast as usual. Both of us ran good and we're up on the podium again.
"At the end of the race, Hurley had me coming down the straightaway. I was working real hard, making some time on braking and cornering, but, as soon as it was time to put the power down, I'd lose the space down the straightaway and couldn't make back up in the brake zone what I lost down the straightaway."
The Ferrari of Washington entry won the Acxiom Grand Touring Challenge bonus of $4000 with its fifth-place finish overall and GT class victory. Drivers Brent Martini and Cort Wagner led the class for every lap of the race, sailing to a multi-lap lead over the second-place BMW M3 of Brian Cunningham and Hugh Plumb.
"The car was great, and I've no complaints," Wagner reported, "Unfortunately, we had a lot of yellows and, for a small field, it's disappointing that so many people were taking chances. At the end of the year, championship points mean more now than they did back then."
The #98 Porsche GT3 RS of Larry Schumacher and BJ Zacharias finished third in class after being involved in the late-race multi-car accident.
Two GTS teams celebrated in victory lane at VIR, as the ICY/SL Motorsports team scored its first-ever Rolex Series victory, winning the class with the #06 Corvette of Paul Alderman, Steve Lisa and David Rosenblum, while David Machavern and Tommy Riggins took home second-place honours and, with it, the GTS championship for the Heritage Motorsports Mustang.
"This is a payback for Watkins Glen [the car broke while leading the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen], but it wasn't the way we wanted to win," Rosenblum admitted, "I guess we'll take it any way we can get it. The car broke at the end, I was riding around in second gear just to coast across the finish line. It's satisfying to win, because you get a paycheque, but I'd rather win dicing it out."
Having tied up the teams' title, Riggins and Machavern will now try to secure a tie in the GTS driver championship at the Grand American Championship Weekend in Daytona next month.
"It's nice to wrap up the team championship," Riggins said, "We had a water pump belt come off early in the race, and it took a couple stops to get the car cooled off. I think we might have had something for the #40 car if they kept running. They were impressive. They really ran well. I would like to give our congratulations to the ICY
team. They deserve a little success."
The Derhaag Motorsports Corvette of Simon Gregg and Kenny Wilden finished third in the GTS class. The #40 machine had held a strong lead in the class until losing its engine late in the race.
The lone SRPII entry, the G&W Motorsports Nissan-Lola of Davy Jones, Robert Prilika and Danny Marshall, finished eighth overall.
"Physically, I haven't been in a race car in ages but, mentally, I'm racing every day," veteran Jones admitted, "It was good to be back out there. The track got greasy, and there wasn't as much grip, especially when we got light on fuel. You have to wait to get a set when you went going left to right. Once we topped it off with fuel, it settled down.
"I was mentally set to run to the finish, but the team decided to put Danny Marshall in. It's just a matter of seat time for me. I haven't felt this way in a long time. You can test and develop cars, but it's not like actually going out racing. I'm there. I'm ready to go fast. I'd like to be in a Daytona Prototype next year."