In front of a raucous Mexico City crowd, hometown favourite Luis Diaz and his Chip Ganassi Racing co-driver Scott Pruett turned in a dominating performance en route to victory in Saturday's Grand Am Rolex Series Mexico City 250 at the historic Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez circuit.
Driving the pole winning #01 Telmex backed Riley-Lexus, Pruett moved immediately into the lead after starting from the pole position and never put a wheel wrong during his driving stint, building an advantage of more than 20 seconds at one point.
The 2004 Daytona Prototype co-champion brought the #01 machine onto pit lane under the race's first full-course caution on lap 47, caused when the #60 Michael Shank entry of Oswaldo Negri and Mark Patterson slid into the turn six gravel, and turned the car over to Diaz without giving up the race lead.
Diaz picked up right where Pruett left off and maintained a comfortable lead. With each passing lap, the Mexico City fans grew louder and louder, cheering their countryman to a 2.84-second victory over the #76 Krohn Racing Riley-Ford of rising star Colin Braun and German ace Jörg Bergmeister.
Diaz became the first Mexican driver in more than 30 years to earn a victory in a major international motor race in Mexico. It was just the third time that a Mexican driver has won an international event in Mexico City, following a victory by Hector Rebaque, Memo Rojas and Freddy Van Buren in the 1974 IMSA 1000km of Mexico and Moises Soloma, who won a 1968 USRRC event.
“It's a total team effort first,” Diaz said. “I have to thank everyone involved from Telmex to (team owner) Chip (Ganassi) to Carlos Slim to the whole Ganassi team. We owed this win to the Mexican people after what happened last year. I have to thank Lexus as well, as they came a long way for us from last year in terms of fuel mileage.
“Scott did an awesome job for the team today too. It was a flawless performance. This is the biggest win of my career and I couldn't be happier knowing it came with Chip Ganassi Racing in front of my family and friends.”
Pruett and Diaz's flag-to-flag victory was the first in Rolex Series competition since James Weaver and Butch Leitzinger led every lap in a pair of sprint races at Lime Rock Park in May 2001. It was also the first time that the pole-sitting car went on to win the same race since Pruett and Max Papis clinched their 2004 Daytona Prototype title with a win after starting from the pole in the 2004 season finale at California Speedway.
“This win is so exciting to be a part of,” Pruett said. “With all the team's ties to Mexico, this is just on another scale in terms of a big win. The car was perfect all day, and for this team it's very, very special to win here. I couldn't be happier for Luis. It's one thing to win big races, but another to win big races in your backyard, and he did that today. I couldn't be more proud of him.”