Farnbacher Loles Racing earned its first victory of the 2008 season, topping the GT class in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio, on Saturday. Leh Keen of Charleston, S.C., and Eric Lux of Jacksonville, Fla., kept the No. 86 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car on track through treacherous conditions to take the win.
Lux started fourth on the 22-car GT grid and gained one position in the first 10 minutes of the two-hour 45-minute race. Heavy rain then turned the 2.258-mile road course into an obstacle course as multiple cars slid off-track. Lux pitted for rain tires and returned to the track sixth. He took the class lead just before the halfway mark, then turned the car over to Keen. Back on track ninth, Keen regained the class lead and held it to the checkered flag.
Steve Johnson of Bristol, Va., and Dave Lacey of Toronto, Ont., also had a strong race. Lacey started the No. 88 Porsche from eighth in class, but quickly moved to the GT lead as the rain started. He pitted for rain tires, then stopped again to clear the car's windshield, dropping back to 10th. He regained eight positions to second in class, fifth overall, before handing off to Johnson. Johnson returned to the track 11th and moved up to eighth, then was hit on the second-last lap, pushing him back to finish 10th.
Their teammates in the No. 87 Porsche weren't as lucky. Bryce Miller of Summit, N.J., started from fifth on the GT grid, but was caught in the mélée as the rain started and had contact with another car. After a long pitstop to replace the car's right-front suspension and shock absorber, he returned to the track 19th in class. He stopped for a driver change to Dirk Werner of Kissenbrück, Germany, but officials judged the pitstop to be one lap early, so Werner was assessed a penalty stop. He was unable to overcome a 10-lap deficit and finished 19th.
car time driver action
86 start Lux
21m Lux pit – changed rear wicker, four rain tires, fuel
1h18 Lux GT class lead
1h32 change pit – Keen in, four rain tires, fuel
2h25 Keen GT class lead
2h29 Keen GT class second
2h32 Keen GT class lead
87 start Miller
15m Miller pit – replaced right-front upright and shock, four
rain tires, fuel
43m Miller back on track
2h10 change pit – Werner in, fuel
2h14 Werner pit – 20-second penalty stop
88 start Lacey
15m Lacey GT class lead
20m Lacey pit – four rain tires, fuel
32m Lacey pit – clean inside windshield
1h56 change pit – Johnson in, four rain tires, fuel
2h41 Johnson hit by 72 Pontiac on front straight
Gregory Loles, team owner: "Our team today achieved a long-overdue result. Any time you win is special, but today we witnessed something beyond just the first win for Porsche and our team this year, we saw two young promising drivers deliver the goods in the most spectacular fashion. Eric and Leh displayed composure seen in few drivers, while under the most extreme conditions imaginable. I am grateful our team had the opportunity to give them the tools for such a performance. Congratulations, gentlemen!"
Dino Loles, team owner: "It was a very trying race that really tested the drivers' ability to adapt between wet and dry conditions. Obviously, when you test the driver, you also test the car and the car really came through for us. The team, in hectic conditions, was able to communicate well, get the job done and deliver what the drivers needed. Ultimately, this is the reward for putting all that together."
Leh Keen, No. 86: "This was incredible, the crew awesome, Eric incredible. When I first went out, the conditions were so bad. At the beginning of the race, everybody struggled so much, so Eric did an awesome, awesome job. He's awesome in the rain. I got in and just tried to keep everything together. At the end, it started to dry up and I was fighting with the 69 car and 57 car, but their tires started to fall off. Mine started to fall off a little bit, but the car just held together for me. I've got to thank the Farnbacher Loles team. I'm just so happy!"
Eric Lux, No. 86: "The car was excellent. Farnbacher Loles gave us a great car again. It rained and Leh and I both love the rain, so we were able to stay out of trouble. This track is really difficult because they just resealed some corners and it's tough to find a lot of grip. But the crew worked their butts off and the car was great."
Dirk Werner, No. 87: "When I came to Mid-Ohio, I really had a good feeling because Bryce was coming back, so I thought he would bring the luck back to the 87. The fact that we were able to lower the car made me feel comfortable because the car felt great during the practice sessions. We were fast every day. I thought this would be the changing point for us, but it was very difficult today on the track with the heavy rain. Another bad result for us, but I'm feeling optimistic because today was the first Porsche win [this season] and the first win for Farnbacher Loles this year."
Steve Johnson, No. 88: "Dave did an awesome job – he's a fish! It was a good time. Another top-10, that's our goal. I hate that we banged the car up at the end, but it was unavoidable. But we had a good time and we look forward to our next race at Barber [Motorsports Park]."
Dave Lacey, No. 88: "It was a great run for us. We had a great car all weekend and in the wet, we were on fire. The guys put a great car together. We were P1; we led the race. I had to come in – the wets [tires] were done – and I handed off to Steve. He was doing a great job. Unfortunately, second-last lap, the 72 car put him in the wall and he got collected by a couple of other cars. But another top-10 finish for the gentlemen driver pack – we'll take that and look forward to Barber."