Close finishes continue to be a common occurrence in the 2008 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series as Friday's Montreal 200 at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve produced the narrowest margin yet in series history.
Canadian Mark Wilkins, a native of Toronto, passed another Toronto-born driver, Darren Law, and Spaniard Antonio Garcia on the last of 69 laps when Law ran out of fuel on the main straightaway. It was a first career victory for Wilkins and co-driver Brian Frisselle, as the former beat Garcia to the line by just 0.064secs.
Frisselle had started the AIM machine and jumped from third to first on the opening lap, but contact between him and points leader Scott Pruett sent the #61 Ford Riley spinning to the rear of the field. Undeterred however, Frisselle marched the car quickly back into the top ten, before handing off to Wilkins on lap 23.
“It started off a little bit rough," Frisselle said later, "Scott got into the back of me at the start and spun me around, which pretty much put me dead-last. We came from the back of the pack though and the car was great. I think we had the fastest lap of the race during my stint, and I think I passed all the way to seventh.”
Pruett, meanwhile, kept the #01 Ganassi car out front until his driver change, but Law took the lead from the American's co-driver Memo Rojas on lap 57 and held off Joey Hand – who led a strong charge before retiring after running out of fuel on the final lap – then Garcia and Wilkins. Later on the lap, however, the #58 Brumos Racing Porsche Riley slowed as it approached the chequered flag.
Garcia, co-driving for the first time this season with Christian Fittipaldi, tried to go left and then right when he saw Law slow, but Wilkins was already making the pass. Wilkins shot past both drivers, taking the flag first - the only lap the AIM Autosport team led all race. The victory was the first for a Ford engine in the Daytona Prototype class since Barber Motorsports Park in July 2006, and preserved the series' jinx on polewinners, who also have not won a race since late last season.
“It was so close at the finish, and I feel for the #16 and the #58 cars," Wilkins said, "Those guys drove a heck of a race, but I thought we had pretty good tyres at the end, so I have to thank Pirelli for that. We also need to thank Ford for getting us a great engine.
"Brian did a great job with recovering from the earlier contact and to get the car back up front, but our engineer came on and said 'you've got to save fuel, we're low', so this feels great for AIM Autosport. I can't say enough for the guys we've been working with and it feels really great.”
Garcia, in turn, kept the Cheever Racing Coyote in second - the car's best ever result and a best for the Cheever team since Homestead '06 - over Law, as the race became the third straight where the margin of victory was less than a second.