Farnbacher Loles Racing earned a top-five GT finish in the inaugural Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series race at Thunderbolt Raceway in Millville, N.J., on Sunday. The pace was slowed by five caution periods that consumed 68 minutes of the two-hour 45-minute race, a result of difficult conditions on the narrow, dusty 2.25-mile road course.
Leh Keen of Charleston, S.C., and Eric Lux of Jacksonville, Fla., led the team's five-car contingent, starting 10th and finishing fifth in class in the No. 86 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car.
Bryce Miller of Summit, N.J., and Dirk Werner of Kissenbrück, Germany, raced from ninth to third in the No. 87 Porsche, but Werner's charge for the class lead was stopped when he was knocked off track by a Daytona Prototype car. The pair finished sixth.
Steve Johnson of Bristol, Va., and Dave Lacey of Toronto, Ont., followed a different strategy that took Johnson from his 11th-place GT start to lead the class. They finished 15th.
Farnbacher Loles also prepared cars for JLowe Racing. Johannes van Overbeek of San Francisco charged from last on the 24-car GT grid to sixth in the No. 64 Porsche, but was forced to pit for new tires after a hit from a rival Pontiac cut the left-rear tire. He and Tim Sugden of Leeds, England, finished 12th.
Jim Lowe of Bryn Mawr, Pa., and Jim Pace of Ridgeland, Miss., saw the checkered flag from pit lane after their No. 63 Porsche also suffered a cut tire. They had to settle for 18th place.
car time driver action
63 start Lowe
7m Lowe pit – fuel
37m Lowe pit – four tires, fuel
1h29 change pit – Pace in, four tires, fuel
1h55 Pace pit – fuel
64 start van Overbeek
9m van Overbeek pit – fuel
35m van Overbeek pit – four tires, fuel
1h29 change pit – Sugden in, four tires, fuel
1h55 Sugden pit – four tires, fuel
86 start Lux
35m Lux pit – fuel, right rear bodywork repair
1h27 change pit – Keen in, four tires, fuel
87 start Miller
35m Miller pit – four tires, fuel, left front bodywork repair
1h27 change pit – Werner in, four tires, fuel
88 start Johnson
7m Johnson pit – fuel
1h20 change pit – Lacey in, four tires, fuel
Gregory Loles, team owner: "It's always good to see a Porsche win, so congratulations to [GT class winners] Andy Lally, Tim George and TRG. I'm very disappointed that we were subjected to these conditions in a professional racing series. It's not the race track that is supposed to decide who will win and lose, it's supposed to be the drivers and the cars. It was a disservice to the series, the teams and the track to prematurely bring us here for this very unfortunate event. Clearly, once the track is completed, it will be a first-class facility. By next year, it should be a good event."
Jim Lowe, No. 63: "It was a great weekend all around, a good start to a good team. Working with the support of Farnbacher Loles was a very nice thing to have for a tough time. The cars had a lot of promise, but for various reasons, things didn't go our way, including some contact and some mechanical stuff that was out of our control. But we finished both cars. Johannes van Overbeek started last and moved up as far as sixth before his race was ended by a Pontiac that got a little too over-eager. It was a nice weekend for the Porsche Mainline guys and a nice weekend to start the whole JLowe experience for us."
Johannes van Overbeek, No. 64: "The car was really easy and effortless to drive. We were instantly quick in the warmup and very quick in the race, but unfortunately, one of the Pontiacs turned in and hit the left rear and gave us a flat. I went off the road and lost a couple of laps. It's a shame because the team performed perfectly, Thomas Blam's strategy was great, Horst Farnbacher's setup was great and Tim's co-driving was great. I really want to thank Jim Lowe for the opportunity to be here at Thunderbolt."
Leh Keen, No. 86: "We ended up being the first Farnbacher Loles car, which is really good because the team is so good, there are so many good cars just within the team. And top-five is what we shoot for, so we're happy with that. The race was pretty crazy, I guess what everybody was expecting. This place is not ready to be raced on, so any time you go off line or try to make a pass, you pick up so much debris on your tires, it's just over. But everything worked out through the chaos for us and we finished fifth."
Eric Lux, No. 86: "It was difficult having two classes on track with it being so narrow. But I think it's quite nice racing here and with two classes, it makes it exciting. It would help if they had grass instead of all this dust, but otherwise, it's a nice track. I'm glad Farnbacher Loles had a top-five, but I wish we were on the podium. Maybe next time ..."
Bryce Miller, No. 87: "It's an unfortunate situation for us because we were poised for another podium, but there wasn't a lot of racing today. With the the track conditions the way they were and the dust everywhere, it made for a very difficult race. We also had contact a couple of times that disrupted the progress and, unfortunately, we had an unnecessary maneuver from a prototype car when Dirk was making a charge for the top spot. So it's disappointing, but the speed is still there, and all the momentum. Hopefully, we can get the win at Salt Lake that the team deserves."
Dirk Werner, No. 87: "It was a very disappointing end for Bryce's home race. I think we ran strong the whole weekend and in the end, we got bad luck with very aggressive DPs on the track. It was a very hard race, with a lot of bouncing and bumping going on. A podium was in the cards for sure – the car was great all weekend. Thanks to the guys for putting a lot of effort in it. It's just sad that we couldn't get more out of it."
Steve Johnson, No. 88: "The team once again did a phenomenal job on the car all weekend. The track for the race was quite different than in practice and within 30 minutes was a one-groove track. Unfortunately, the track's width combined with DP [Daytona Prototype] traffic caused you to drive off-line in areas where the 'marbles' were and it made for a tough day. With some fine-tuning here and there, it will be a fun place to race. Congrats to my friend Andy Lally for his win. He, without a doubt, is America's best current road racer in the GT category. We look forward to a strong finish in Salt Lake!"