Farnbacher Loles Racing earned a second-consecutive Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series GT podium finish on Saturday, with third place in the series race at Virginia International Raceway in Alton, Va. Leh Keen of Charleston, S.C., and Eric Lux of Jacksonville, Fla., overcame two setbacks to earn their first podium together.
Lux started the No. 86 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car from seventh on the GT grid and moved up to second in the first hour of the two-hour 45-minute race. Keen took over just past the hour mark, but was slowed by a problem with a lug nut on the left-rear wheel. He returned to the track 11th in class, then raced through the field to second, despite a spin after contact with the class leader. He dropped back one position to finish third.
Their teammates weren't as lucky. Dominik Farnbacher of Ansbach, Germany, started the No. 87 Porsche from the GT pole position he earned with a record qualifying lap on Friday. He stopped for fuel during an early caution and returned to the track second in class. His charge back to the lead was stopped when he encountered a lapped car and was forced off track, damaging the car's middle radiator. The crew quickly replaced the radiator, but then had to return to the garage to replace a leaking water pump. After a 42-minute repair, Dirk Werner of Kissenbrück, Germany, took the wheel and was back on track in 25th place, 24 laps behind the class leader. He regained one position and one lap to finish 24th.
Steve Johnson of Bristol, Va., also had contact with another car while driving the No. 88 Porsche. He started from the back of the 26-car grid because the car was found to be one pound underweight in post-qualifying technical inspection. He moved up to 17th, then tangled with another GT car just 13 minutes into the race. The contact caused extensive damage to the car's left-rear suspension, chassis and bodywork, taking it out of the race.
car time driver action
86 start Lux
21m Lux pit – fuel
1h07 change pit – Keen in, four tires, fuel; left-rear lug nut stuck
2h01 Keen pit – four tires, fuel
87 start Farnbacher
21m Farnbacher pit – fuel
58m Farnbacher contact with lapped car
1h01 change pit – Werner in, four tires, fuel, radiator replaced
1h07 Werner garage – water pump replaced
1h49 Werner back on track
88 start Johnson
13m Johnson contact; extensive left-rear suspension, chassis
and bodywork damage; out of race
Gregory Loles, team owner: "We had two podium cars this weekend. We knew this would be a good track for us. We can't be happier with the 86 – both guys drove really well and I think it will be the first of several podiums for them this year. Unfortunately, a lapped car made contact with the 87 and it was enough to knock it out of contention. What makes it bad is it was a very big field, the wrong time for this to happen, so there's a pretty big gap in points now. But it's early in the season, so we'll gather points and hope the lead will come back to us. Unfortunately, there was contact early in the race for the 88 and took it out."
Leh Keen, No. 86: "We finished on the podium, but it feels as good as a win. The team did such an awesome job, the car was awesome and everything ran so smoothly. Eric did a great job – he was hauling! I'm just ecstatic! I got spun out by the car that won and I was 'way back, then we got a caution and I got some tires, but I ran them off in about 10 laps, so it was everything I could do to hold on. I gave it everything I've got and we were just able to stay in front."
Eric Lux, No. 86: "The car was pretty good right out of the box. Luckily, I managed to stay out of trouble and just picked them off one by one as they made mistakes or had some kind of issues. I came in and gave the car to Leh in second, but we had an issue with a lug nut getting stuck in the gun. But Leh did an awesome job. One of the other cars turned him around out there, but he just fought the whole way back. He was second at one point, but we'll settle for third."
Dominik Farnbacher, No. 87: "I had an issue with another driver who was already lapped two times. I think he didn't see me, but he closed the door going into the fast esses and I had to brake. He was braking in a zone where you usually don't brake and I had to go around him on the grass and I damaged my radiator. I was at the wrong spot at the wrong time. The crew did an awesome job – they definitely earned a win."
Dirk Werner, No. 87: "It looked like we had a good chance to fight for the win – the car was really good. I can't blame anyone; it was one of these race incidents that can happen. It's a bad day for the team, but we still have some races to go. I think we should be optimistic for the next races. I'll go on, keep my motivation high and do the best I can."
Steve Johnson, No. 88: "We started at the back where we shouldn't have been. Things happen when you're in the back and trying to get to the front. We tangled up with a few guys going into [turn] one. Everybody's probably got a little bit of fault – everybody wants the corner and you can't always get what you want. Too bad we're not still running; I think we would have had a pretty good day."