Krohn creates upset in soaking New Jersey
4 May 2009
Wet and wild from the outset, the Verizon Wireless 250 at New Jersey Motorsports Park was eventually won in dominant - but surprising - back-to-front fashion by Ricardo Zonta and Nic Jonsson's #76 Krohn Racing Ford Lola.
Round three of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series started amid steady rain on the increasingly challenging 2.25-mile, 14-turn Thunderbolt Raceway road course, and conditions got the upper hand immediately, with a two-car Daytona Prototype mishap at the very first turn involving the race's defending champions, Michael Shank Racing.
Mark Patterson, sharing the #60 Ford Riley that won at NJMP last autumn with Oswaldo Negri, rammed the back of the #13 Beyer Racing Pontiac Riley piloted by young Ricky Taylor. The impact sheared off the #60's front cowling and sent the car to the garage, its day done as far as attempting a repeat victory was concerned.
"It's not Ricky's fault," Patterson insisted, "We got a good start and went up the middle - but it was very dark and hard to see. I tried to get off the gas in time, but the next thing I knew, there was a gap way too small to get my car through it. Ricky braked up ahead and I clipped him on the right rear. Our left front [corner] was shot."
And that was just the start of an incident-filled two hours and 45 minutes as the rain continued to worsen. By lap 32 - just over an hour into the race - a caution flag came out solely because of the amount of standing water at various points around the course, and lasted until lap 44, approximately a half-hour later.
After that, the 31-car field raced the rest of the way to the chequer, as huge rooster-tails belied the fact the rain did actually let up slightly as the afternoon wore on.
Reigning Daytona Prototype champions Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas - who had started their #01 Telmex/Chip Ganassi Lexus Riley on the outside front row - were never a factor, thanks to a series of mechanical issues which started with a faulty windscreen wiper that forced a costly green flag pit stop on lap 18.
That left the race for honours open to some of the Rolex Series' lesser lights to shine, with Zonta and Jonsson emerging from the gloom - and last in class - to claim a commanding 44.752secs victory over the #10 SunTrust Racing Ford Dallara co-driven by Max Angelelli and Brian Frisselle. While the Krohn team is no stranger to success in Grand-Am, having taken the DP title with Jorg Bergmeister in the past, victory at NJMP was a first in the series for Zonta and only the second for team stalwart Jonsson, whose only previous win came in 2005 at Watkins Glen International.
It was not straightforward for the pair, however, as Zonta later revealed that the team had an additional challenge besides the weather.
"We did not have radio [communication]," the Brazilian said, "so I had no information during the race. We were last on the restart (on Lap 44) so I had to catch everybody. I tried to push as hard as I could. The car was excellent but the conditions, they were changing a lot out there."
Krohn Racing continues to learn about its potential on the fly, with Jonsson reminding that this is only the second year for the team using the Lola chassis, and the first of its return to Ford engines since 2006.
Behind the top two, polewinners Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas completed the podium in the #12 Penske Porsche Riley bearing the logos of event sponsor Verizon Wireless, with Daytona 24 Hours winners David Donohue and Darren Law (Brumos Racing) heading home Mark Wilkins and Burt Frisselle (AIM Autosport) to round out the top five.
"I didn't know we were on a podium position," Donohue admitted, "I came up on the #13 car coming up into turn twelve, but visibility for us was really horrible, the way the windshield wiper was depositing its rubber onto the windshield. I didn't trust that he knew I would be coming through, and I backed out of it. The #12 car took total advantage, and that was it, there was nothing that I could do. They were really fast and we were off all weekend long so, for Brumos Racing, this was really a great result after how badly we were running in practice and qualifying."
The result allowed Donohue and Law to retain a slim advantage at the head of the DP point standings, now four clear of GAINSCO's Jon Fogarty and Alex Gurney, who had to make do with sixth in the race. Bernhard and Dumas sit third on 79 points, nine off the pace.
Doran Racing occupied seventh on the road at NJMP, ahead of the leading production-based GT class runner, the Dirk Werner/Leh Keen #87 Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche. They ended the race with a margin of victory of one lap over the #66 TRG Porsche of Spencer Pumpelly and Ted Ballou, which also managed a top ten overall spot in the results, along with third in class Bryan Sellers and Eric Lux (# 86 Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche).
The rest of the GT top five was filled out by Andy Lally and Justin Marks (#67 TRG Porsche) and Robin Liddell and Andrew Davis in the best of the various Pontiacs, claiming 13th overall in the #57 Stevenson Automotive GXP.R.