Justin Bell, Rob Kauffman and Rui Aguas Persevere For Third-Place Finish at Petit Le Mans in the No. 61 eBay Motors and Mobile “World’s Fastest Car Show” AF Corse Ferrari 430 Italia
Team and Drivers Battle Through On-Track Incidents, Extended Pit Stops and Penalties for Podium Result
BRASELTON, Ga. (October 1, 2011) – Justin Bell, Rob Kauffman and Rui Aguas joined their AF Corse teammates in persevering through a challenging and hard-fought race in the 14th annual Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta Saturday where they brought the No. 61 eBay Motors and Mobile “World’s Fastest Car Show” Ferrari 430 Italia home to a third-place podium finish in the GTE-AM class.
Bell, Kauffman and Aguas, who started the No. 61 Ferrari from the class pole position, all drove at least two stints in the grueling event that delivered more than its fair share of typical endurance race challenges. The 1,000 mile marathon on the 2.54-mile Road Atlanta road course took just over nine-and-a-half hours to complete.
“Literally, we spent a lot of time either dealing with penalties or damage but we had the most amazing car to drive,” Bell said. “The 430 was fantastic and AF Corse, I have never run with them before, but you would give your right arm to drive with them again.”
Aguas led the opening race laps only to be given a 60-second stop-and-go penalty for returning to the track under “red” conditions after the team’s first pit stop just short of the 40 minute mark. AF Corse is a top championship winning team from Italy but joined several other world-class competitors from Europe in getting caught out by IMSA’s unfamiliar pit stop rules and procedures. Like so many others, the No. 61 team was assessed additional pit-stop-related penalties later in the race.
“We are not very familiar with the racing here," Aguas said. “They have different rules here, but to come here the first time, the first race in America and to be on the podium and get the pole position, we are very happy.”
The No. 61 Ferrari also suffered its fair share of on-track contact incidents. After each driver turned in a solid first shift, Aguas settled in for his second stint early in the race’s fifth hour. He was running in fourth place, and within a few laps of the leaders, only to be hit by another competitor in Turn 6, puncturing the Ferrari’s right rear tire. Aguas made it back to the pits where some quick work by the AF Corse crew kept the team from losing no more than a couple of additional laps to the leader.
The team climbed back to third place over the next 90 minutes only to have Kauffman get caught up in a multi-car contact incident in the race’s seventh hour. The No. 61 spun and then was struck by an LMP car, ripping off the Ferrari’s front body work. The AF Corse team repaired the No. 61 over the course of the next few pit stops in a determined and successful bid to keep the Ferrari in contention for the final podium spot.
“I am not sure how you say ‘never give up in Italian’ but that’s definitely how they do it,” Kauffman said. “After I ‘customized’ the front end, they did a terrific job getting it back on track. It was a little unwieldy for Rui and Justin to get it going, but they managed a great job. The key to success in endurance racing is to have some really good teammates and a great team, and that’s what we managed to do. It’s a fantastic experience and I love Road Atlanta, it was really a lot of fun.”
The day’s drama, and eventual visit to the victory lane, was filmed for an upcoming episode of the new “World’s Fastest Car Show” on eBay Motors and the eBay Mobile application. Bell hosts the fast-paced series that is designed to engage automotive enthusiasts through both the web and mobile platforms. The “World’s Fastest Car Show” is the first originally produced media content for eBay Motors and the first to be featured in any of eBay’s mobile applications. The No. 61 AF Corse Ferrari 430 Italia displayed eBay Mobile and “World’s Fastest Car Show” logos throughout the week-long Petit Le Mans event in addition to custom QR codes that were scanable by any fan with a smart phone.
“For eBay Mobile this was a big thing to get a podium finish on our debut race so soon after the show premiered,” Bell said. “The show is going to be, I hope, number one in America, so for next year we need nothing short of a victory. I hope the viewers of our upcoming episode from this race enjoy the behind-the-scenes shots, see what we go through to get to the finish, almost heartache and then the jubilation. To see a bunch of Italians jumping up and down, I don’t think there is anything finer than the way they celebrate. I am an honorary Italian for the night. It was great, and to everyone at eBay Mobile who got behind us, we want to make the show number one, and being on the podium here is a good launch party.”
Aguas started the celebration by driving the third-place Ferrari across the finish line as fireworks were shooting into the evening sky.
“It’s great, I just took it slowly at the end, we had five laps or so of an advantage,” Aguas said. “With the car in not such good condition it was important just to bring it to the checkered flag. I am very happy because the way things started and then the way it finished, I was not expecting to be on the podium. It was a great, great result.”
- Bell was quick to thank a group that rarely gets praised for a thankless job well done on race weekends. “I do want to say, and give a huge thank you, to the course marshals who were on it every single second,” Bell said. “They gave us those blue flags non stop and it was an amazing help.”
- AF Corse not only put the No. 61 Ferrari on the podium in GTE-AM but also won the GT class with their No. 51 AF Corse Ferrari F458 Italia driven by Gimmi Bruni, Giancarlo Fisichella and Pierre Kaffer. “They have just proven that they are one of the best GT teams in the world,” Bell said.
- Bell was impressed by both of his teamates. “Rob did a great job, I can’t say enough,” Bell said. “It is not easy out there. I drew on all 20 years of my racing experience just to survive that. Rob doesn’t have that sort of DNA or background to draw on but he did an amazing job. And Rui is blindingly quick, it’s just spectacular.”
- Petit wasn’t Kauffman’s first podium with AF Corse in a Ferrari 430. “We were third at Spa two years ago and third here was equally as difficult,” said Kauffman, in comparing Road Atlanta to the legendary Belgian circuit. “There we had four guys and here we had three so it was just as tough.”
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