Grand AM » 25 September 2005
Groundhog day as SunTrust duo extend Grand-Am gap.
For the third time in the last four races, the #77 Crown Royal Special Reserve Doran-Ford found its way to the head of the field, this time in the hands of Matteo Bobbi. The Italian led laps twelve to 30 before handing the car over to co-driver and countryman Fabrizio Gollin on a lap 40 pit stop. Gollin, however, was one of five drivers involved in the lap 44 incident in turn four. Although all of the drivers involved escaped injury, Gollin and Bobbi wound up 19th in the Daytona Prototype class and 32nd overall.
Brian Tuttle and co-driver Bas Leinders brought the #7 Tuttle Team Racing/SAMAX Riley-Pontiac home to its best-ever Rolex Series result. The team's previous best showing was a ninth-place run by Tuttle and Jonathan Cochet in the EMCO Gears Classic at Mid-Ohio last year.
After watching their TRG team-mates take #64 Pontiac GTO.R to victory last time out at Watkins Glen in August - and again at the last race in Phoenix - Andy Lally and Marc Bunting knew it was only a matter of time before their brand-new #65 GTO.R crossed the finish line first in class. Fittingly, Lally crossed the stripe just ahead of Jan Magnussen's #64 machine to take the GT victory in the Crown Royal 250 at The Glen.
In a race that saw six full-course cautions, Bunting and Lally avoided major trouble to log their second GT victory of the season - and a ninth top-ten finish - but their first win in the GTO.R they debuted at Daytona International Speedway in July. However, it wasn't completely smooth sailing for the #65 duo, as Bunting slid off-course in turn nine and scraped the tyre wall on the first lap.
“It was a busy start, there was a lot of traffic, and there were a lot of people trying to get by,” Bunting explained, “I got forced off-line by someone and they got me into the marbles. We had some contact with the tyre wall but, fortunately, the Pontiac is built strong. When I hit that wall, I didn't expect to be here at the end of the race. but the car was good for Andy and it was good for me.”
Bunting spent the remainder of his stint making up positions before handing the car over to Lally on lap 15 for what would be an eventful double stint. Just after making his final pit-stop of the afternoon under full-course caution on lap 41, Lally found his way past a slowing Magnussen for second place at almost the same time as the five cars tangled in turn four.
It would become the decisive pass in the race, as a late pit-stop by leader Spencer Pumpelly in the #36 TPC Porsche GT3 Cup handed the lead to Lally. Despite Magnussen's best efforts in the closing laps, he would come no closer than three-tenths of a second at the finish, and Bunting and Lally made it three wins in the last four races for the Pontiac GTO.R. Even more importantly, however, the victory moved Lally and Bunting to within just five points of GT championship leader Craig Stanton with two races remaining on the schedule.
"We had it set up where Magnussen wasn't going to take too many chances,” Lally said, “I saw Spencer Pumpelly coming and he was coming fast, so we just held it on. Jan watched my back a little bit, and they knew where we were in the points. I have to say thanks to them, it was a whole team effort and these guys did really good job. It was a solid effort by all. It has turned our points championship around.”
For Magnussen and Edwards, it was a third top-two finish in their past four starts, and was their fourth top-five showing in the five Rolex Series races they've run this season. A late-race caution was the only thing that slowed TRG's two GTO.Rs from cruising to the line, and to the cars' third GT win in six weeks of Rolex Series competition.
“I was in the car for an hour and 40 minutes and I think I did ten green laps,” said Magnussen, “It was actually a pretty easy race. Paul and the guys did a good job testing last week and it showed right from the first session, and the car was noticeably better.”
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