Krohn goes back-to-back at Barber
31 July 2006
Jorg Bergmeister and the #76 Krohn Racing team tightened their grasp on the Grand-Am Rolex Series title with a second-consecutive victory, this time with Bergmeister and 17-year old co-driver Colin Braun leading the way home at Barber Motorsports Park.
Braun, who started the Porsche 250 presented by Bradley Arant from the pole position, led throughout his 35-lap opening stint before pitting to turn the car over to his German team-mate on lap 36. However, with threatening clouds overhead and four full-course caution periods before the halfway point in the race, teams used various pit strategies that prevented Bergmeister from getting back to the front of the pack until lap 78 of the scheduled 97, when Alex Gurney finally pitted the #99 GAINSCO/Blackhawk Riley to hand over to co-driver Jon Fogarty.
As the day's fifth full-course caution came out on lap 83, Bergmeister managed to get on and off pit-road for a splash of fuel without surrendering the lead. However, on the ensuing restart, defending Daytona Prototype co-champion Max Angelelli closed right up behind the Krohn car to set up a battle to the finish. Bergmeister continued to lead through a final full-course caution, which lasted from laps 89-92, but Angelelli again pressured the German for the first few laps after the restart, before Bergmeister was able to pull away to win by 1.327secs.
It was Bergmeister's third victory of the season, following his triumph alongside Braun in the Brumos Porsche 250 at Daytona and the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen with co-driver Boris Said last month. It was also his fourth-consecutive top-two finish and his sixth podium in eleven races this season, allowing him to open up a 39-point lead over Angelelli in the DP driver standings with three races remaining on the schedule.
"The whole team has really picked it up lately," Bergmeister said, "I got a little lucky in traffic during my stint, using the GT cars to my advantage. We thought we could make it on just one stop, so I was conserving my tyres early. It turned out for the best because even though I had to come back to the pits for a splash of fuel later in the race, I had enough rubber to hold Max off."
Braun, meanwhile, celebrated his second victory, third straight top-two finish and his fifth podium in nine starts this season. Despite sitting out the Sahlen's Six Hours and the Grand Prix of Miami in March, the teenager has moved into a tie with Playboy/Uniden Racing's Michael McDowell for fifth in the championship.
"It was just a really good weekend for all the guys at Krohn Racing," Braun said, "Our engineer, Steve Newey, put a nice set-up on the car, and the crew has been working so hard lately. The win was a testament to the Ford engine and Riley chassis. Hopefully, we'll keep this streak going."
Angelelli and co-driver Jan Magnussen came home second in the #10 machine, their best performance together since taking victory in May's Road & Track 250 at Laguna Seca, and the second-place performance - coupled with a tenth-place outing by #01 CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley co-drivers Scott Pruett and Luis Diaz - catapulted Angelelli into second in the driver standings.
In the final turn of the race, the #75 Krohn Racing entry of Nic Jonsson made contact with the rear of Pruett's Riley-Lexus, dropping the #01 machine from fifth to tenth. Jonsson and the #75 team were subsequently docked one minute following the race for avoidable contact.
"As usual, Jan did a fantastic job and helped me a lot," Angelelli said, "Wayne did too, but it's difficult, because you need to perform and try to win but, at the same time, you have to finish the race to pick up points. This championship has raised the game so much. It has been a pleasure to race here in this championship, and even to finish second, fourth or top five, it's already a good result."
Mike Rockenfeller and Patrick Long picked up their second-straight podium with third place to put the #23 Ruby Tuesday team back in the frame. It was their sixth podium in ten starts in what has been a streaky season for the Alex Job Racing team.
Fogarty and Gurney, who led for 18 laps, came home fourth for their fourth-straight top-five result, while Adrian Fernandez and Mario Haberfeld completed the top five in the #12 Lowe's Fernandez Racing Riley-Pontiac.
TRG Pontiac co-drivers Marc Bunting and Andy Lally extended their lead in the GT class with a fourth victory of the season, and now hold an eleven-point advantage with only two races remaining on their schedule.
Bunting started the #65 machine third on the grid, and ran consistently in the top five throughout his opening stint. He handed control to Lally on lap 22, during the race's second full-course caution, and left his co-driver to drive the event's final 75 laps to claim a second-consecutive victory. Closest rivals Robin Liddell and Wolf Henzler finished second.
"We came into the race with only one goal," Bunting noted, "We wanted to make sure that we finished ahead of the #72 car. They've been real tough all season and, with only two races to go, it's going to be a tight battle to the end, so we want to make sure we have as big of a cushion as we can heading into the last race. The whole team did a great job this weekend."
Lally passed Liddell for the lead shortly after a restart, the two battling nose-to-tail for an extended portion of the race's mid-point. Later cautions shuffled the #72 machine further behind the #65, allowing Lally and Bunting to score their 16th top-four GT finish in just 18 races with the Pontiac.
"There wasn't a lot of room for error for us this weekend," Lally pointed out, "I have to thank all the TRG guys and [team owner] Kevin [Buckler] for their excellent calls with strategy today. We stretched our fuel a little bit, hoping a caution would come out and, fortunately, we were just at the edge when the yellow came. The #72 was stronger in some parts than us, and we had the advantage in others. This is a good win towards the championship but, with two races left, anything can happen."
Liddell and Henzler hasn't finished lower than sixth in any of the eleven races this season and, with just eleven points separating them from the leaders, the championship picture is still unclear.
"We lost a little bit of practice time and couldn't qualify," said Henzler, who was forced to start at the rear of the grid due to an engine change on Saturday, "but we made some adjustments during the race, and the car really came to us. However, it's hard to start from the rear and make up time getting through the traffic."
Paul Edwards and Kelly Collins finished third in the #64 TRG Pontiac, ahead of the #74 Rembrandt Charms Porsche of Eric Lux and Ian James, and brothers Burt and Brian Frisselle's #98 Ironclad-backed Pacific Coast Motorsports Pontiac GTO.R.