Lakeville, Connecticut. Saturday, 18th July, 2009 - ALMS Round 5: Lime Rock Park If anyone ever had any doubts after the tell-tale signs exactly ten weeks ago in Salt Lake City when the ...
Lakeville, Connecticut. Saturday, 18th July, 2009 - ALMS Round 5: Lime Rock Park
If anyone ever had any doubts after the tell-tale signs exactly ten weeks ago in Salt Lake City when the #20 Dyson Racing LMP2 Mazda finished 2nd in class just 0.6 seconds behind the Lowes LMP2 Acura, then those doubts were dispelled here today when the #20 Dyson Mazda driven by Marino Franchitti and Butch Leitzinger topped the LMP2 podium in front of their home crowd with their first win for Dyson Racing, Mazda and BP in the Mazda Lola B0986.
The little 1.5 mile circuit of Lime Rock Park nestled in the heart of the Connecticut countryside, played host to a truly exciting race as the ALMS reached the half-way point in its 2009 calendar. Sporadic rain over the 2 days and through last night had played its part too having washed away the grip level that had been laid down over the previous day. Some turbo issues lost the #20 car track time during the first practice session here yesterday morning, but, mechanical problems over, the second session went well, and Marino was happy with the car when he went out to qualify later yesterday afternoon. "We could have done without the red, but I just got on with the job in hand. My fastest lap wasn't perfect, so I know I could have been closer to the Acura, but then the rain came and that was that, but I just know we can get them in the race tomorrow" said Marino after setting a qualifying lap of 48.477 seconds, 4th overall, and 2nd in class, just a fraction less than 0.2 seconds behind the Fernandez LMP2 Acura and 0.2 ahead of the #16 sister car of Guy Smith and Chris Dyson. The LMP1 Acura of de Ferran/Pagenaud was on pole only 1.5 seconds ahead of Marino's time. And how right Marino was in his prediction; qualifying was only a foretaste of what was to come in the race.
Marino was behind the wheel of the #20 Dyson Mazda at the start, and sitting on the tail pipes of the Lowes Acura from the minute the green flag fell. He was barely 6 minutes into the race when he overtook the Acura for the class lead on the outside of Turn 1, a manoeuvre that caused "Mr. Radio Le Mans" himself, John Hindhaugh, to raise his voice some 10 octaves in commentary and exclaim "that was big boys' stuff, only big boys do that there"! Marino pressed on and retained his lead in LMP2 through the whole of his stint, steadily picking his way through the constant traffic, and handed the car over to co-driver, Butch Leitzinger, on lap 64, but not before he set the fastest lap overall just 8 laps into the race with a 49.942 seconds, and then on lap 25 set the fastest race lap in LMP2 with a 49.727 seconds.
At the changeover there was a heart-stopping moment when Butch went to start the car and it stalled with a loss of clutch pressure. With a great show of ingenuity and a will to win and by using the starter button only with no clutch at all, Butch managed to overcome this issue which was also to occur at his second stop. Initially at the changeover valuable time was lost, but when Butch joined the race he still had a comfortable margin over the Lowes Acura and the #16 sister Dyson car which had succumbed to electrical problems and was retired from the race on lap 63. Butch took the chequered flag 4th overall and 1st in class, six laps ahead of the 2nd placed LMP2 Lowes Acura. This moves Marino and Butch up to 2 place in the Drivers' Championship points.
"It's hard to put into words what winning means not only to me today, but to the whole BP Dyson Racing Mazda team, it's the culmination of a lot of hard work from each and every person involved in the programme and I want to thank and congratulate them all for a job well done," said an elated Marino after the race. "We felt we had the pace to win and from very early on both cars showed we were in with a good shot. To overcome the issues we had and get the victory today is just so satisfying and I have to say my team mate Butch did a fantastic job under tough circumstances to bring the car home. I've dreamt of winning an ALMS race for so long, have come so close on many occasions that now that it's happened I'm going to savour the moment, but we'll certainly work hard as a team to make sure we keep moving forward and of course try to repeat it at Mid Ohio."
Round 6 is on Saturday 8th August, 2009 at the Mid Ohio road course in Lexington, Ohio.