SunTrust takes third win at Grand-Am Porsche 250
31 July 2005
Wayne Taylor and Max Angelelli kicked off the second half of the 2005 Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series season the same way they opened the first half, taking the #10 SunTrust Riley-Pontiac to its third victory of the season in the Porsche 250 at Barber Motorsports Park.
After running as low as 14th at one point in the race after adopting a different pit strategy, the Taylor and Angelelli patiently worked themselves back into position to challenge for victory. The Italian led 14 laps early in the race before handing the car over to Taylor, and the returned to drive the final stint on lap 51 of 95. Angelelli carved his way through the field to be lying in second place by lap 78, and then kept the pressure on race-leader Christian Fittipaldi's #66 Krohn Racing/TRG Riley-Pontiac.
The SunTrust car pulled alongside in turn five on lap 88, but was unable to close the deal and Fittipaldi began to re-establish his advantage, looking set to take the victory he was denied last season. However, with three laps remaining, the Brazilian had to pull onto pit-lane for a late splash of fuel, surrendering the race to Angelelli and Taylor. Angelelli was not challenged in the final three laps, beating Memo Gidley's #19 Finlay Riley-BMW to the line by 18.585secs.
“I had a feeling he was pulling away from me on the straights and going up on the corners, so there was either one of two things – more horsepower, which was not the case, or a lighter car,” Angelelli said of Fittipaldi, “I was expecting him to pit for fuel.
"I was worried because I know how difficult it is to overtake here - you really need to take huge risks every time. The car in front needs to understand that it is not the end of the world to lose a position, but some drivers really don't get it. They don't care and they don't want to lose a position - and that really ticked me off. I was more worried about myself.”
It was the first victory for Angelelli and Taylor since they opened the season with back-to-back wins in the Rolex 24 at Daytona and Grand Prix of Miami at Homestead, but enabled them to extend the lead they share in the Daytona Prototype driver standings, the crew now 14 points ahead of defending champion Scott Pruett and his #01 CompUSA Chip Ganassi co-driver Luis Diaz.
“We put a lot of stress on ourselves with this race, as it's really important for us to win the championship,” Taylor admitted, “You've just got to stick to your plan and wait until the end of the year. There's no point and resting on any laurels, because 99 times out of 100, you get caught out. We have to approach every race the same way, and we did that coming here.”
After three-consecutive fourth-place finishes, Gidley and co-driver Michael McDowell posted new best results with second place. Gidley led for eight laps in the middle of the race, as the #19 used a similar strategy to the #10. However, while Angelelli was unfettered in his drive to the chequered flag, Gidley had his hands full in keeping Kenny Wilden's #6 Mears Motor Coach Riley-Pontiac in his mirrors.
“The car was really good in the first part of the race, with fuel consumption and tyre wear all well within the plan,” Gidley said, “We knew that, if we could stay out of trouble and bring the car home, that we had the car to finish on the podium - and maybe even win.
"We had two of the top people from the Air Force Reserve here this weekend, and a lot more watching on TV, and, since they were the ones that had faith in me and gave me the chance to drive for the Finlay team, I'd like to thank them and dedicate this first podium finish to the whole Air Force Reserve. We'll be working to upgrade it to a win as soon as we can.”
The second place finish was vindication of sorts for McDowell, who crashed the #19 machine in Saturday's morning practice session. Compounding McDowell's Saturday problems was another crash in the team's #60 BMW M3 in the Grand-Am Cup Series Barber Park 200, while he was challenging for the race lead.
“After crashing twice on Saturday, I needed some redeeming, and this was it,” McDowell said, “Finlay Motorsports is a brand-new team, and to finish on the podium for the first time was something we've been working really hard to achieve.
"The guys on the crew did a tremendous job repairing the car before qualifying yesterday, and Memo pulled off a miracle to put it sixth on the grid, given how much was still wrong with it when he rolled out to qualify. He handed it over to me in first place, and I was hoping to be able to bring it home there, but the competition in this series is incredibly tough and we're satisfied with second place – this time.”
Wilden and co-driver Mike Borkowski came home third in the #6 Michael Shank Racing-run entry, after Borkowski led laps 49-52, but missed an opportunity to pit with the rest of the leaders when a full-course caution came out. He pulled onto pit-lane one lap later and, as a result, Wilden restarted from 16th place before putting together a spectacular charge to finish third.
Pruett and Diaz finished fourth in the #01 Riley-Lexus, taking their eighth straight top-seven finish to remain within sight of the championship leaders. Germany's Ralf Kelleners and 2003 Daytona Prototype champion Terry Borcheller took only their second top-five result of the season in the #54 Kodak EasyShare Bell Motorsports Doran-Pontiac.
David Donohue and Darren Law scored their best result of the season with sixth place in the #58 Red Bull Fabcar-Porsche for Brumos Racing, followed by Chip Ganassi Racing co-drivers Cort Wagner and Stefan Johansson in seventh.
Polesitter Alex Gurney - who became the 35th different driver to hold the overall lead in the 2005 Rolex Series season - led the first 20 laps and may have challenged for the victory in the #99 GAINSCO/Blackhawk Racing Riley-Pontiac had he not been forced to serve a one-minute penalty for avoidable contact while battling for position with Fabrizio Gollin's #77 Crown Royal Special Reserve Doran-Ford. The penalty relegated Gurney and Bob Stallings to an eighth-place finish.
Despite the late-race splash-and-go, Fittipaldi still ran out of fuel on the cool-down lap, and had to hitch a ride back to the pits with Pruett. The Brazilian, who led a race-high 39 laps, and co-driver Jorg Bergmeister wound up ninth in the final race standings, while Gollin and co-driver Matteo Bobbi completed the top ten on their first outing with Ford power.
Just as Angelelli and Fittipaldi were deciding the Daytona Prototype victory, Joey Hand motored his #16 F1 Air BMW M3 past GT points leader Craig Stanton's #80 Synergy Racing Porsche GT3 Cup to take a second-consecutive GT victory for himself and BMW Team PTG co-driver Justin Marks. It was Hand's fourth GT class victory of the season, allowing him to move into a second-place tie in the GT driver standings with Stanton's co-driver, David Murry.
Marks started from the GT class pole position in the #16 entry, and the duo became the first team to win from the class pole since Hand and Bill Auberlen won from the pole in the #21 BMW Financial Services M3 at California Speedway in April. As a result, Hand and Marks collected an extra $8000 through the Acxiom GT rollover bonus.
“I love having Justin start the car, as I have so much confidence in him,” Hand said, “I raced with Bill Auberlen a lot this year and last year, and he's one of those guys you can count on. Justin is also one of those guys. If I have to run a race with someone, he's on top of the list. He's great running through traffic, and did what he was supposed to.
"This PTG car was stellar. We worked hard on this car, and the team did a great job on set-up. We led our group of cars all weekend long, and we knew this was ours to lose. We were shooting for the Acxiom Pole Award – 8000 bucks. Justin and I race for dollars all the time.”
“I'm really happy to get this win,” Marks added, “If someone had told me at the beginning of the season that I'd have three wins by now, I'd have thought they were crazy.
"This team is really good and these cars are really good. This track is suited really well for our cars. Joey did a great job this weekend setting up the car, and the team did an awesome job. I was really surprised to get the pole, and the strategy was to keep the car in front and give it to Joey. He has been on fire all this weekend. I knew if we were able to be close to the front we'd be in a position to win this race, and Joey was able to pull it off in the end, so I'm really happy about that.”
Stanton and Murry came up just eight-tenths of a second short as they looked for their first Rolex Series GT victory of the season. Nevertheless, the second-place run was more than enough to keep Stanton in a comfortable lead in the GT point standings after eight of 14 races. Stanton leads Murry and Hand by 18 points.
Ian James and Chris Gleason finished third in the #22 BMW Financial Services M3, marking the fourth time this season that BMW Team PTG has two cars finish on the podium. The new TRG Pontiac GTO.Rs filled out the top five, as Marc Bunting and Andy Lally finished fourth in the No. 65 GTO.R, while Paul Edwards and Jan Magnussen finished fifth in the similar #64 entry.