25 March 2007
Sigalsport stars take back-to-front win.
In only their eighth Daytona Prototype start together, Team Sigalsport BMW Riley co-drivers Bill Auberlen and Matthew Alhadeff registered their maiden Grand-Am victory in the Grand Prix of Miami – after starting right towards the back of the grid.
With just 11 laps remaining, Auberlen swept to the inside of 2005 Daytona Prototype co-champion Max Angelelli in the SunTrust Pontiac Riley in Turn Six and emerged with a lead he would hold to the chequered flag, crossing the line with an advantage of a scant 1.759 seconds after 91 laps of racing and having begun the race down in 15th on the grid. What's more, the result marked the first success for BMW since the 2005 season finale in Mexico City.
“First of all, it feels unbelievable,” the two-time Rolex Series GT champion expressed afterwards. “It came earlier than I even expected. I knew we had a learning curve with the car – the team had a gelling curve, where everybody has to come together – but it's all coming together so fast. We've got a good motor programme now and everything is good, so to win this is one of the best wins I've ever had. It was one of the hardest-fought wins I've ever had too.
“As far as the pass on Angelelli goes, on the re-start before that I was much faster than him, but it was like he drove in his mirrors. Everywhere I went, that's where he wound up. I was like, 'I can't go by, so I have to make myself invisible'. If you put a Daytona Prototype right behind another one, they can't see you. I tucked right up behind him to where I knew he couldn't see me, waited for his brake lights to come on, and when he did that I went just a second longer. It was too much for him. For him to do it, we would have had to wreck. I passed him, went out and the car was strong.”
For Alhadeff, who drove the first 21 laps before turning the car over to Auberlen under the day's second of seven full-course cautions, the win signalled his maiden professional race victory in his eighth Daytona Prototype start and 26th overall Rolex Series start in a career that began only two years ago.
“This is one of the greatest days of my entire life,” the 25-year-old enthused. “I'm so happy for the whole team, for my family and for myself. We've been working so hard to do this. We've been there a couple of times and it's gotten taken away from us for whatever reason. Now, we finally did it. It was a well-deserved finish, because we struggled in the beginning with some of the things that happened on the track and a pit-stop that wasn't that great, but everybody just pulled through. Bill Auberlen, man, that guy is unbelievable.”
Angelelli and co-driver Jan Magnussen held on to claim second for their best result of the season to-date, after coming home third in each of the opening two races. Magnussen began from pole position and led the first 21 laps before handing the car over to his Italian team-mate. Interestingly, the No. 10 machine has never won a race in which it has started from pole position.
“Obviously, I'm very happy for the team,” Magnussen said. “It looked for a while there like we were going to win this race, but Bill was very strong at the end and got a run on Max after the re-start. From my point of view, I didn't do that many laps, but I got away cleanly at the start and got a big gap. Everybody else was fighting behind me. I had a clean run. My car today was just great. Then I gave it over to Max and it was a really exciting race until the finish.”
Angelelli led for 15 laps before surrendering the lead to Auberlen. It was the tenth consecutive race in which he and Magnussen have finished inside the top five, and the result enabled them to move to within one point of Daytona Prototype points leader Scott Pruett.
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