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Grand-Am: I felt like piñata, claims Gurney


Such was the battering the #99 car took during its fraught attempt to convert pole position into Rolex 24 victory, Alex Gurney insisted that he was beginning to know how a piñata felt under assault from stick-wielding children.

The polesitter took the GAINSCO-backed Riley-Pontiac into an early lead, but a series of accidents and mechanical failures conspired to defeat the Bob Stallings Racing team. The frustration began in freak circumstances just seven laps into the race, when Gurney clipped a GT car which slowed suddenly when its bonnet had flipped over the windscreen. That incident was followed by an axle failure, more contact, a gearbox malfunction, another axle failure and, finally, a broken rear wing - with the team making lengthy and repeated repairs in an effort to keep the #99 running to the finish and using two spare noses, a spare tail clip, the spare gearbox and spare drivetrain along the way.

However, the effort proved to be in vain as, despite climbing slowly back up the order, a second gearbox failure with less than two hours to go sealed the team's fate. The car was officially retired with 493 laps to its credit, being listed in 46th place overall and 22nd in the Daytona Prototype class. The result was a bitter pill to swallow for Gurney, team-mates Jon Fogarty and Jimmy Vasser, and team owner Stallings, who had come into the race as one of the favourites after Gurney set a track record in qualifying.

“It was a really rough day and we're pretty disappointed with the result,” Gurney admitted, “I'm really proud of all the guys on the team who just worked their butts off to keep our car on track – we threw everything we possibly could at them - but we just didn't have any luck today and tore up a lot of equipment along the way. There's a lot of racing left this season, though, and we believe we can contend for the title. We've just got to lick our wounds and move on.”

Fogarty was equally sanguine about the team's struggles.

“These 24-hour races are difficult to win and we just had so many unfortunate incidents that took us out of the running,” he said, “A lot of things happened tonight and it seems to me like they all happened to us."

Stallings agreed that, while this year's season-opener had had a similarly disappointing result, the 2007 edition had little to do with mistakes on the #99 team's behalf. Their efforts, he said, were simply negated by a surplus of bad luck and mechanical misfortune.

“Last year, we created a lot of problems for ourselves - either the drivers or the crew made mistakes - but that didn't happen today,” he said, “Everyone on our team did their job, but we got caught up in an unfortunate sequence of problems.

"We had some gearbox problems and we need to get to the bottom of those issues before Mexico City, but it's a long season and this is just one race out of 14. That's why we kept running as long as we could, to get some points.”


Related Pictures

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Max Angelelli / Jordan Taylor. GRAND-AM Championship Weekend Presented by BMW at Lime Rock Park. 2013 Grand AM Rolex Sports Car Series
Max Angelelli / Jordan Taylor. Continental Tire Sports Car Festival. Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. 2013 Grand AM Rolex Sports Car Series
Action. VisitFlorida.com Sports Car 250 at Road America. Grand AM Rolex Sports Car Series [Pic credit: Grand AM]
Starworks Motorsport BMW/Riley duo Brendon Hartley and Scott Mayer celebrate their first Grand AM Rolex Sports Car Series victory at Road America [Pic credit: Grand AM]
Max Angelelli and Jordan Taylor drive the #10 Velocity Worldwide Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette Daytona Prototype to victory Saturday, April 6, 2013 in the third race of the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama. (Photo by Brian Cleary for Chevrolet)
Max Angelelli and Jordan Taylor drive the #10 Velocity Worldwide Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette Daytona Prototype (left) to victory Saturday, April 6, 2013 in the third race of the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama. Alex Gurney and Jo Fogarty, drivers of the #99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Corvette DP (right) finish in second place. (Photo by Brian Cleary for Chevrolet)
John Edwards and Robin Liddell, drivers of the # 57 Stevenson Motorsports Camaro GT.R., race to victory Saturday, April 6, 2013 in the Grand Touring (GT) class of the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama. (Photo by Brian Cleary for Chevrolet)
Juan Pablo Montoya, Memo Rojas, Scott Pruett and Charlie Kimball, co-drivers of the #01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates TELMEX/Target Ford BMW Riley celebrate their win in victory lane at the Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway on January 27, 2013 in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images)
Rolex Series action [Pic credit: Grand-Am]
Alex Popow and Sebastian Bourdais, drivers of the #2 Ford Riley, celebrate in Victory Lane after wininng the Grand-AM Rolex Sports Car Series Inaugural Brickyard Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 27, 2012, in Indianapolis, Ind. (Photo Credit: Tyler Barrick/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Alex Popow and Sebastien Bourdais, drivers of the #2 Soloson Ford Riley, celebrate after winning the Grand-AM Rolex Sports Car Series inaugural Brickyard Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 27, 2012, in Indianapolis, Ind. (Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images for NASCAR)
The winning #60 Michael Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Ford Riley car is brought into victory lane after a gruelling 50th anniversary Rolex 24 at Daytona. [Picture Credit: Daytona International Speedway]
Action Express win the Rolex 24 [Pic credit: Grand Am]
Derek Johnston [Pic credit: Grand Am]
Vic Elford, the 2010 Rolex 24 At Daytona Grand Marshal (Photo credit: Motorsports Images and Archives)
The No. 09 Spirit of Daytona Porsche Coyote that will be tested by 2009 Radical European Masters Champion Derek Johnston at Virginia International Raceway
Fogarty/Gurney - GAINSCO Racing [Pic credit: Grand Am]
Max Angelelli and Brian Friselle win at Daytona [Pic credit: Grand Am Media]

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