Grand AM » 26 March 2006
AJR duo secure maiden victory.
Patrick Long and Mike Rockenfeller have secured their first victory in the Grand Am Rolex Series – and the first overall win for Porsche in two and a half years – after finishing on top of the podium in the Grand Prix of Homestead.
Despite starting from pole position in the #23 Crawford Porsche, Rockenfeller didn't lead for the first time until lap 16. The German turned the car over to Long for the race's middle stint and the American also found his way to the head of the field for 24 laps before handing the car back to Rockenfeller on lap 70 of the 107-lap event.
Despite a different pit strategy than the rest of the front runners, Rockenfeller managed to carve his way back toward the front, with the race's decisive moment coming on lap 89, when he passed Scott Pruett in the #01 CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley in heavy traffic entering the oval portion of the 2.3-mile Homestead-Miami Speedway road course.
Rockenfeller - who led a race-high 40 laps - would not be challenged for the remainder of the event, going on to win by 4.883 seconds.
“At the beginning I thought that the #39 car had jumped the start, but the series officials did not see it that way,” he said. “I was able to catch him and pass a few laps later and we really never looked back. The strategy calls were great today. The pit stops were timed just right and we had the fresh car when we needed it, especially at the end. The team worked hard in the preseason to get the car to Daytona where we had a good run but could not finish it, today we did finish.”
The victory marked the Porsche's return to the top step of the overall Rolex Series podium for the first time since David Donohue and Mike Borkowski won a six-hour race at Le Circuit Mont-Tremblant on September 21, 2003. It was also the first Rolex Series overall victory for Alex Job Racing/Emory Motorsports and was Alex Job Racing's first overall win in 18 years of sports car racing.
The victory follows a third-place finish by Long, Rockenfeller and Lucas Luhr in the season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona, as the team did not compete in the Mexico City 250 earlier this month.
“We had a great car, surrounded by a great team, with great strategy on top,” Long said. “I had to be a little foxy on the restarts because I new that the #39 car was coming. I was the team player today. In the end, Mike did an awesome job in qualifying and we were able to complete what we started at Daytona. We worked hard all week on race setup and it paid off in the race with a consistent car. We knew exactly the kind of performance we would get on long runs. It's a great win for the team and for Mike and me.”
Luhr and Christian Fittipaldi came home second in the #39 Crown Royal Special Reserve/Cheever Racing Porsche Crawford for the team's best-ever Rolex Series result. Fittipaldi charged from the outside of the front row into the lead at the start of the race, and remained at the head of the field for the first 15 laps. He turned the car over to Luhr to finish the race, and the German boldly charged past Pruett for second just as the white flag waved.
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