Luna-C Clothing Duo Co-Drives with Mark Sandridge; Ron Rashinski and Ron Barnaba Take Sportsman Class Win On Saturday at the Palm Beach Grand Prix, Lee Davis and Mark Sandridge raced against each other. On Sunday the two drivers – along with usual Davis teammate and co-driver Ryan Eversley – joined together to win the featured Pirelli Cayman Interseries Endurance Cup Championship two-hour enduro at Palm Beach International Raceway (PBIR).
After Sandridge edged Davis for the win in Saturday’s opening sprint race, the top two drivers in the Pirelli Cayman Interseries were again battling for the lead in Sunday morning’s enduro. Sandridge, driving a white and red-and-yellow striped No. 49 Cayman S that is themed after his 1994 IMSA Champion Team Salad Porsche 911 RSR, was pressuring early leader Davis in the opening minutes of the two-hour race only to suddenly come to a stop on the front straight with fuel pump failure.
Before Sandridge’s stricken Cayman was even towed off the track, however, Davis and Eversley made a quick and selfless decision. After a brief radio conversation, the reigning series champions invited Sandridge, their close rival and even closer friend, to join them in the enduro as a co-driver in the black and red No. 33 Cayman S that carries the colors of a Brun Motorsport Porsche 956 and Luna-C Clothing.
“Ryan and I talked about it when we were on the radio,” Davis said. “Coming around that last turn, I saw Mark parked there so early in the race and I was just thinking, ‘Wow, I would hate it if that was me.’ We are really competitive. We are all about getting out there and winning, but we are ultimately here to have fun, but it is no fun watching from the sidelines, or winning just because Mark had a mechanical failure. So, it was just a good opportunity to make a nice gesture and I am sure Mark would have done the same thing. Mark did an awesome job and it was good times for everybody.”
Sandridge took over from Davis and later handed off to Eversley, who drove the No. 33 to the winning finish. Davis, co-driving with Eversley, is the two-time reigning Pirelli Cayman Interseries Endurance Champion and also won last year’s Sprint class championship. He moved his bid to garner yet another title in 2012 off to a great start on Sunday.
“It is always important to get a win, whether it is starting the season, the middle of the season or at the end of a season,” Davis said. “I definitely wanted that win bad, I love the endurance races when we get up to a couple of hours like that, even the longer ones, so it was great to get that win today.”
Sandridge was touched and impressed by incredible act of sportsmanship.“Obviously it is pretty neat when you have such upstanding guys to run against,” Sandridge said. “Lee could have taken a big championship leap ahead of me, but he proved his sportsmanship when he didn’t do it. My hat is off to him, he’s a cool guy, a nice guy to hang out with. We have dinners together anyway all of the time so it was nice to race the same car with Lee and Ryan when we had the chance. It was just a nice gesture on their part.”
Sunday marked the first time Davis and Eversley used a third driver in a Pirelli Cayman Interseries race, but they were in some fast company with another trio. Experienced road racer Chris Gleason made his Cayman Interseries debut this weekend, with his sons Kevin Gleason and Chris Gleason Jr., and all three got in on the action in Sunday morning’s enduro. The Gleasons shared the yellow No. 55 Cayman S, which is themed after a David Piper Racing/Sandeman Porsche 917K. The elder Gleason drove the opening shift in Sunday’s enduro before handing off to Gleason Jr. Kevin Gleason drove the final stint to the finish.
“I asked the mechanic to turn off the radio so it wouldn’t bother me,” Gleason Sr. said. “I decided I was going to stay in there for a while, and I did, for about an hour. It was wonderful, just trying to get back in your rhythm. They were frantically waving flags and everything from the pits to get me to come in and I finally noticed them. I came in after about an hour and it was a lot of fun.”
In addition to Sunday’s runner-up placing, the Gleasons co-drove to victory in a 13-hour spec-Miata endurance race last year at New Jersey Motorsports Park.
“It’s wonderful to be on the podium with your sons,” Gleason Sr. said. “It’s all about them and it is just great to be able share the experience and share the success with them.”
Third-place overall went to Ed Napleton and his coach and co-driver Jack Baldwin in the No. 1 Cayman S that features a special gray and carbon fiber “prototype” livery. After Napleton’s solid and hour-long opening stint, Baldwin drove the No. 1 Cayman S to the finish line for the duos first Pirelli Cayman Interseries podium result.
Sportsman division honors went to Ron Rashinski who scored his second class win at PBIR in as many days. In Sunday’s enduro, Rashinski co-drove with Napleton Porsche of Westmont General Manager Ron Barnaba in the blue and yellow No. 6 Cayman S that pays tribute to the mighty Sunoco/Penske Racing Porsche 917-30. Barnaba drove the final 45-minutes of the race.
“It was surprising but fun,” Rashinski said. “I was just really thrilled with my progress and got back in the car after our first mandatory pit stop. The car ran really good for me, I got back into the one minute and 25-second lap range, and I was thrilled with that. It is always a little confusing with who is where, but I just work on driving the car in these endurance races.”
Runner-up honors in the Sportsman class went to Bill Dennis who drove the entire two hours solo in his red No. 5 Akin/Coca-Cola-themed Cayman S.
The Pirelli Cayman Interseries schedule at the Grand Prix of Palm Beach wraps up late Sunday afternoon with the weekend’s sprint race finale.
Noteworthy: Rashinski, who rebounded from a contact incident in Saturday morning qualifying, was among the drivers praising the new, series-standard Pirelli P Zero racing slicks that debuted this weekend. “The new Pirellis give you great grip when you are on the track,” Rashinski said. “They just don’t do as well when you are sliding along the green grass though!”… Pirelli is posting P Zero bonuses this year which will see a full set of tires awarded at each race. Dennis earned two tires in recognition of his solo run in the enduro while Davis was awarded a pair of P Zeros as the lead driver in Sunday’s enduro-winning effort… The JRZ Suspension Engineering “Fine Tuning Award” returns in 2012 and the Gleasons earned the first honor of the season for showing the most set-up based improvement throughout the weekend… An all-new Pirelli Cayman Interseries award this year is being posted by WeatherTech Floor Liners with the “Ultimate Protection Move of the Race Award.” Davis was the inaugural recipient and won a complete set of WeatherTech Floor Liners in recognition of his decision to add Sandridge to his team in the enduro… The winning No. 33 Luna-C Clothing Cayman also set the fastest race lap in the enduro with a time of 1:23.467 mph.