Grand-Am Rolex Series Finish for Toronto-Based AIM Autosport, Drivers Wilkins, Frisselle
Top three separated by only 0.654 seconds after Law runs dry; Stevenson team wins in GT class
Close finishes continue to be a common occurrence in the 2008 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 season, and Friday’s Montreal 200 at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve became the closest in series history.
Canadian Mark Wilkins, a native of Toronto, passed another Toronto-born driver Darren Law and Spanish driver Antonio Garcia on the final of 69 laps when Law ran out of fuel on the main straightaway. It was the first career victory for Wilkins and co-driver Brian Frisselle, whose margin of victory – 0.064 seconds – was the closest in series history. It also marked the third straight race where the top two drivers were separated by less than a second at the checkered flag.
Frisselle jumped from third to first on the opening lap but contact between him and point leader Scott Pruett sent the No. 61 AIM Autosport Ford Riley spinning and to the rear of the field. However, he marched the car quickly into the top 10, and Wilkins took over on Lap 23.
Law took the lead from Pruett’s co-driver and fellow point co-leader Memo Rojas on Lap 57 and held off first Joey Hand – who led a strong charge before retiring after running out of fuel on the final lap – then Garcia and Wilkins. Later in that lap, Law’s No. 58 Brumos Racing Porsche Riley slowed as it approached the checkered flag.
Garcia, co-driving for the first time this season with Christian Fittipaldi, tried to go left and then right when he saw Law slow, but Wilkins was already making the pass. Wilkins shot past both drivers, taking the checkered flag first, the only lap the AIM Autosport team led all race. Garcia, in turn, kept second over Law, who co-drove with David Donohue. Donohue also led four laps.
It marked the third straight race the margin of victory was less than a second. Only 0.654 seconds separated the top three drivers.
Joao Barbosa and JC France earned fourth in the No. 59 Brumos Racing Porsche Riley, while Pruett and Rojas took fifth in the No. 01 TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Lexus Riley. Pruett led the first 17 laps after earning the pole earlier in the afternoon with a time of 1:33.199 (104.641 mph), and Rojas led 10 laps before surrendering the point to Law.
Liddell, Davis earn last lap victory in GT class
Robin Liddell and Andrew Davis won the GT portion of the race, their third of the season in the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Pontiac GXP.R, after leader Dirk Werner ran out of fuel on the final lap. It marked the only lap either Liddell or Davis led all race.
Werner led a race-high 42 laps and was attempting to give himself and Bryce Miller their first victory of the season when the No. 87 Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche GT3 slowed on the main straightaway. They went on to finish fourth.
Montreal-born Sylvain Tremblay and co-driver Nick Ham finished second in the No. 70 SpeedSource Mazda RX-8, while Diego Alessi and Matt Connolly took third in the No. 21 Matt Connolly Motorsports Pontiac GTO.R.
Polesitter Eric Lux and co-driver Leh Keen finished fifth in the No. 86 Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche GT3. Lux posted a qualifying time of 1:42.362 as he and Miller broke the track record.
Two cautions for debris, lasting a total of six laps, slowed the race’s average to 92.368 mph.
Daytona Prototype competitors return to action in the Crown Royal 200 at The Glen on Aug. 8 at Watkins Glen International.
NEWS & NOTES
- The victory is the first-ever Daytona Prototype victory for Mark Wilkins and Brian Frisselle in the No. 61 AIM Autosport Ford Riley.
- The victory was the first for a Ford engine in Daytona Prototypes since Barber Motorsports Park in July 2006.
- Friday’s race marks the second race this season a race has been won from the third-place starting position.
- Riley Chassis has won every Daytona Prototype race this season and 20 dating back to last year’s Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen. The manufacturer also took four of the top five finishing positions.
- The race marks the third straight in Rolex Series competition the finish was decided by less than one second (0.081 seconds – Daytona; 0.341 seconds – Barber; 0.064 seconds – Montreal). The last three races, overall, have been decided by a total of 0.486 seconds.
- Their second-place finish was the highest finish for Cheever Racing and Christian Fittipaldi since Homestead-Miami Speedway in March 2006 and the best career finish for Antonio Garcia and the Coyote chassis.
- Their third-place finish was the sixth straight top-five finish for the No. 58 Brumos Racing Porsche Riley of Darren Law and David Donohue. The two finished outside the top 10 in each of their first four starts.
- Joao Barbosa and JC France improved a season-best 10 positions in their fourth-place finish aboard the No. 59 Brumos Racing Porsche Riley. It also marked the duo’s second fourth-place finish of 2008.
- The fifth-place finish by the No. 01 TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Lexus Riley drivers and point co-leaders Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas was the car’s and drivers’ ninth top-five finish of the season. Scott Pruett and the No. 01 TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Lexus Riley have now finished in the top 10 in a record-extending 29 consecutive races. Pruett has now led a season-high 280 laps.
- Fourteen of the 18 Daytona Prototypes finished all 69 laps of the race.
- Vancouver driver Michael Valiante and defending race co-winner Max Angelelli finished sixth after starting fourth in the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Dallara.
- St. Leonard, Quebec, Canada driver Marc-Antoine Camirand finished 16th in his home race with Guy Cosmo in the No. 09 Spirit of Daytona Racing Porsche Coyote.
- Eight drivers in seven Daytona Prototypes led laps in the race: Alex Gurney (19), Scott Pruett (17), Darren Law (12), Memo Rojas (10), Shane Lewis (4), David Donohue (4), Jon Fogarty (2), Mark Wilkins (1). Four engine manufacturers led the race.
- The GT victory by Stevenson Motorsports drivers Robin Liddell and Andrew Davis was the duo’s third Rolex Series victory of the season and the third for the team this season. It marks the third driver pairing to have three victories this season.
- Pontiacs now own six victories this season, while Mazdas own four and Porsche one.- All 11 Rolex Series GT races have been won from the front two rows, including five from the front row.
- Tremblay and Ham’s second-place finish was the duo’s sixth podium of the season in the No. 70 SpeedSource Mazdaspeed/Castrol Syntec Mazda RX-8. The team’s No. 69 FXDD Mazda RX-8 won the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen.
- Ham has now led a GT class high 236 laps this season.
- Diego Alessi and Matt Connolly earned the Matt Connolly Motorsports Pontiac GTO.R’s second podium finish of the season with third place. It was Alessi’s second third-place finish of the season and the first for Connolly, who was making his first Rolex Series start of the season.
- Fourth-place GT finishers Bryce Miller and Dirk Werner drove the No. 87 Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche GT3. It was their third straight top-five finish after the pair finished second at Daytona and Barber last month. In 16 career Rolex Series contests driving together in the Farnbacher Loles Racing stable, the pair has 12 podiums and 14 top fives.
- Kelly Collins and Paul Edwards finished seventh in the No. 07 Banner Racing Pontiac GXP.R. This was the fourth straight race the pair finished behind Ham and Tremblay, who cut the lead to six points. Four races ago, heading into the EMCO Gears Classic at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, the lead was 35 points.
- Defending race co-winners Andy Lally finished sixth and RJ Valentine 16th in TRG Porsche GT3s. Lally has finished in the top six in five of six Rolex Series GT starts this season.
- Four drivers in three cars led in GT competition: Dirk Werner (42), Eric Lux (22), Nick Ham (1), Robin Liddell (1).
POST-RACE QUOTES (TOP THREE IN EACH CLASS)
Mark Wilkins (No. 61 AIM Autosport Ford Riley): “It was so close at the finish. I feel for the No. 16 and the No. 58 cars. Those guys drove a heck of a race. Our engineer came on and said, ‘You’ve got to save fuel, we’re low.’ I thought we had pretty good tires at the end so I have to thank Pirelli for that. We need to thank Ford for getting us a great engine. Brian did a great job with recovering from the earlier contact and to get the car back up front. This feels great for AIM Autosport. I can’t say enough for the guys we’ve been working with and it feels really great.”
Brian Frisselle (No. 61 AIM Autosport Ford Riley): “It started off a little bit rough. Scott got into the back of me at the start and spun me around which pretty much put me dead-last. We came from the back of the pack and the car was great. I think we had the fastest lap of the race during my stint. I think I passed all the way to seventh. Then I passed it off to Mark and he did a great job. He kept us in contention. He did a great job of conserving fuel, short shifting and coasting into the braking zones. We also need to thank Ford, because I think we had the best fuel mileage today and we have great power every time. I feel for the No. 58 guys. They’ve been knocking on the door all year. Darren drove a beautiful race today. At the same time, we’ve had terrible luck all year. I had my heart ripped out at Barber. But that’s just racing. Sometimes it breaks you and sometimes it’s awesome. Today was just awesome.”
Christian Fittipaldi (No. 16 Cheever Racing Pontiac Coyote): “To be honest, I feel pretty bad because we lost the race! But that’s racing. Obviously, the No. 58 guys are feeling worse than I am. Those guys have been knocking at the door for a long time. That’s how it is. The No. 61 came up with a better package today. The way the whole race went, it suited their team a little bit better than everyone else. So hat’s off to them. We still had a very strong race. We finished second. I’m happy for the sponsor. I’m happy for Eddie because I know he’s had a pretty rough season. Hopefully, we have a good future ahead of us. We’ve got a pretty big revised car for the last three races. I feel sorry for the No. 58. That’s racing. They’re going to turn the page and try to win at The Glen.”
Antonio Garcia (No. 16 Cheever Racing Pontiac Coyote): “I think without that little drop (of fuel), I could have stayed at the front. It was also really scary. It was really tight between the No. 58 and us. There was a point where I even needed to lift. I think we deserved to finish second because they did a really good job. It’s very good for the team. Christian did a really good job on his stint. The team and the car did a really good job here.”
Darren Law (No. 58 Brumos Racing Porsche Riley): “It’s probably the most depressing podium that we’ve had and that I’ve had ever. We had a great car and the team did a great job. We had a car to win. David had a beautiful first stint, taking it from seventh to third on the first lap. He brought it into the pits in first. I had a great run and brought it up front. We had it up front all the way until the end. When it started stumbling and slowing down, and I saw these guys coming down the straightaway, I don’t know. I think the team really deserved to win. It’s depressing.”
Robin Liddell (No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Pontiac GXP.R): “I feel great now. I felt pretty crummy about 10 laps from the end because we started to wonder if we’d done the right thing. I’ve seen in races like this, when the time is a little different, a few oddities appear. When I drove through during the end lap, the number of cars that ran out of fuel was pretty amazing. People take gambles that perhaps they wouldn’t normally take. You try to come up with different strategies to win. For some people that plays out and for others it doesn’t. But at the same time, it gives you an opportunity to do a good job. I must say the team did an excellent job today. Mike did a great job with the strategy. The guys did a super job in the pit stops. Had it run yellow for long periods, we would have not had that position at the end. To win is outstanding. We’re over the moon. Hopefully we’ll keep fighting for the championship in the last couple of races.”
Andrew Davis (No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Pontiac GXP.R.) “I was quite happy with my stint in the car and with the progress the team has made, especially over yesterday with the time we had during practice. We came into qualifying pretty confident. I was happy with where I was. We didn’t really have anything for the Farnbacher Porsches at that time. I knew the car would be good until the end. The team just did great and the strategy played out in our favor. I thought for sure with the contact with the Daytona Prototypes that we’d see a yellow, but thankfully we didn’t. We say that the Rolex Series should race out of the States more often because it’s been really good for the Stevenson Motorsports team.”
Sylvain Tremblay (No. 70 SpeedSource Mazda RX-8): “We struggled this year with some races that we thought we could have done better at. We’ll take the good luck today, and take a look at our strategy. It was a really gutsy call by the engineers. We wondered if we should take tires, and we compromised. We just don’t have the speed of the Porsches. We were wondering what was going on in the last three or four laps – why they weren’t pitting. It was surprising that they lasted as long as they did. We just stayed really calm. We just tried to keep it clean on the track. For us to finish second is really a dream result with the points we made up on the No. 07 car. We’re proud to be here.”
Nick Ham (No. 70 SpeedSource Mazda RX-8): “It got down with like five minutes to go and nobody was running out of gas. I’ve never seen a group of guys so excited as our in the pit box at the end. That was a lot of fun. Sylvain and I just did our job. This race really was won by our crew. That was a great call. They made the right call. It’s a big win for them.”
Diego Alessi (No. 21 Matt Connolly Motorsports Pontiac GTO.R): “I feel very tired because I drove most of the two hours. At the end, my tongue was really on the floor. It was very enjoyable. We lost second place at the end, but did manage to gain points against the Banner car. I think without the radio problem, we might have had the win. I could not hear that we were going to green flag. We are happy with this place, and it was a very good race for us.”
Matt Connolly (No. 21 Matt Connolly Motorsports Pontiac GTO.R): “I’m feeling pretty good. I have been trying to get a replacement driver for myself since last year at Iowa. The last guy cancelled on the way up here on Wednesday, so I needed to reinstate my license. My job was to give Diego the car on the lead lap. This race is about Diego. He is the man. He is ‘The Diego’ as we call him. The crew did a great job. We have a new fuel guy who just started with us and he said he never pulls it out until he sees air come up the vent. He reminded me of that today, which was a pretty good thing. We’re thrilled. We’re getting the best results with what we have.”