CHAMPIONS CROWNED AT LIME ROCK PARK…
While the setting for the Championship Weekend at Lime Rock Park may be bucolic, the hills today reverberated with the sounds of intense action from the 13th and final race of the 2012 GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series. The yellow flag was in regular use as, right out of pit row, the race started under a full course caution after the #70 SpeedSource Mazda RX-8 went off the course in turn one during the last parade lap. A stop and go pace followed for much of the first half of the race – a second full-course yellow for a multi-car accident was shortly followed by a wreck between Andrew Davis (Bogart, Ga.) in the #59 Brumos Racing Porsche and Paul Dalla Lana (Toronto, Canada) in the #94 Turner Motorsport BMW M3 at the entrance to the esses . And, just over an hour into the race, the #70 SpeedSource Mazda RX-8, driven by Jonathan Bomarito (Monterey, Calif.), was again off track. As the race neared its conclusion, it seemed the drivers were finally in their comfort zones.
In the DP class, with the championship title still on the line, the race win was taken by Ricky Taylor (Apopka, Fla.) and co-driver Max Angelelli (Monaco) in the #10 SunTrust Racing Corvette DP. It was their third victory of the season as well as their third victory in three races at Lime Rock Park.
“I was sitting there at the beginning of the race and I was hoping for a podium, to be honest,” said Taylor explaining that as soon as he saw Angelelli’s speed on the restart at the beginning, he knew they had a car that could possibly win the race. “When the yellow came out I was a bit nervous, but in hindsight I was lucky because it made us a bit safer on fuel and got us less laps on the tires.” The final yellow gave Taylor a chance to collect himself: “I’ve never been one to take a deep breath, and I needed it. I was shaking, I was a mess. It definitely helped me a lot. The car dropped off dramatically the last five laps and that yellow might have given me that extra buffer, especially since it’s a four-lap yellow here instead of a three-lap yellow and that gave me a little of a buffer as far as tire wear goes.”
Richard Westbrook (London, England) had turned three pole position starts in the #90 Spirit of Daytona Racing Corvette DP into wins earlier in the season – at Barber Motorsports Park, Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca – but was unable to make it happen for a fourth time. “It was a very tough race,” said Westbrook who shares the #90 driving with Antonio Garcia (Madrid, Spain). “A good advert for GRAND-AM again; it was a really good DP race. Everyone on a different strategy, but everyone had the same problem when they were on the end of the life of the tires. It was very difficult and there was a big drop off in lap times. It made for interesting racing. There was quite a bit of overtaking. Considering its Lime Rock, it’s very difficult to overtake. Congrats to the Sun Trust crew. I thought they drove really well today and deserved it. I’m really happy to just get podium. We’ve either won or not finished this year, so it’s nice to get a good solid haul of points.”
Finishing third with the 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Corvette DP was Jon Fogarty (Bend, Ore.) and Alex Gurney (Irvine, Calif.). “It was tough going without a win this season, but it wasn’t for lack of effort on the Gainsco guy’s part,” said Fogarty. “It was a quite a strong end to the year. We had good pace, and we did run up front, just never quite put everything together, which is exactly what you have to do. You’ve got to be perfect to win one of these; the competition is tough. It’s not like the wins are easy to come by.”
GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series points leaders Memo Rojas (Mexico City, Mexico) and Scott Pruett (Auburn, Calif.) driving the #01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates BMW Riley, finished seventh overall in DP to claim their third consecutive series title, and their fourth in five years (2008, ’10, ’11 and ’12). Pruett also marks another milestone with the finish – securing his fifth DP championship – and setting a new GRAND-AM record. GT teammates Emil Assentato and (Locust Valley, N.Y.) and Jeff Segal (Miami, Fla.), co-drivers of the #69 AIM Autosport Ferrari 458, who secured their GT class championship three weeks ago at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, will celebrate with Rojas and Pruett in Manhattan on Monday, October 1, when all four will be presented with Rolex Daytona Chronographs during the Rolex Champions Banquet presented by SunTrust at Gotham Hall.
In the GT class, after leading for close to two hours of the race, Andy Lally (Northport, N.Y.), at the wheel of the #44 Magnus Racing Porsche GT3 Cup car, was overtaken by the #57 Stevenson Motorsports Camaro GT.R driven by Robin Liddell (England) with three laps remaining. Building from the pole start of co-driver John Edwards (Cincinnati, Ohio), Liddell went on to win the class and earn the team it’s third victory of the year, having won previously at Watkins Glen and Montreal.
“I had limited dry running yesterday [during practice] and so to be honest I didn’t really feel in good control of the race and the car for most of the race,” said Liddell. “But towards the end it just turned into a big fight and we knew Lally was probably a bit short on fuel. We didn’t really know how much they could do so we just tried to keep the pressure on him and see if we could force him to run out of fuel or make a mistake. Fortunately that’s what happened at the end. It was a tough race. I felt mentally not really on top of the whole thing, but as the race progressed I got more into it. In the end we were able to get a good rhythm. We had a slow first pit stop which lost us a lot of track position, but as the race unfolded and we got back on sync with the strategy we were able to work our way back up. From second through sixth in the championship everyone was close on points and we really felt that pressure coming into this race, knowing that if we had a slip up we could easily end up sixth in the championship. The car performed very well all season and the guys have done a superb job, been absolutely faultless. I’ve been with these guys five years now and this year they’ve really excelled in their performance of preparing the car and executing in the pits.”
Finishing second in the #51 APR Motorsport Audi R8 was South African native Dion von Moltke (Coral Gables, Fla.) and co-driver Jim Norman (Tampa, Fla.), for their first podium finish of the season. Third was Alessandro Balzan (Rovigo, Italy), in his second series appearance, driving the #63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 with Johannes van Overbeek (San Francisco, Calif.). The podium finish also earned Ferrari the GT manufacturer’s championship.
Photo By: Rolex / Stephan Cooper