Following the accident in Road America, the PR1/Mathesian Motorsports team worked hard to rebuild the #52 car. Unfortunately the team missed the race in Baltimore, but they were raring to go when they arrived at the VIR track where the ALMS was making its debut appearance.
Testing on Thursday and the two Practice sessions around the 3.27miles of the VIR track on Friday went well for Marino and his co-driver in the #52 car, Rudy Junco. With LMPC being a spec category it is extremely competitive, so it was not surprising that all seven cars were consistently very close and none more so than in qualifying, when posting the fifth quickest time in the class with a 1:41.475, Marino was just 0.4 seconds off the pole time!
But he was not happy with his performance, “On my best lap I had a slower car in front of me that had pulled a lot of dirt across the track and I hit it at the last corner! I don’t think we had the pace for pole, but third was definitely on”.
The green flag got the 4-hour race underway this afternoon with Rudy at the wheel of the #52 car, but at turn 1, the LMP1 Lola/Mazda of Mark Patterson spun forcing several cars off the track.
Rudy found himself almost at the back of the grid having been hit in the resulting mayhem, but once the cautionary period was over, he gradually worked his way back through the field and at the one hour mark was leading the class, a position he maintained until shortly before handing over to Marino at the half-way point when the car dropped to fourth in class.
Marino climbed aboard on lap 57 and immediately realised the damage caused from the initial accident had resulted in some handling difficulties; the steering was out of line and the front end pieces, which provide the down force, had completely disappeared!
But ever ready to take on a challenge he set about scything his was through the traffic and making up the deficit; by lap 61 he had progressed to 3 and by lap 64 he was 2 in class, a position he maintained, although losing it briefly at his 2 pit stops, until the end of the race.
It was a happy Marino who stepped from the car, “For me to get to race the car for just over two hours was great, it’s the longest I’ve been in a prototype since Petit last year”, he said smiling.
“It was a hard race, not only losing track position in the first corner and being pushed to the back, but also managing the damage. Between Rudy, myself and the PR1/Mathiasen team I think we maximised what we had; we never gave up and it is a very satisfying result”.
Marino now looks to Europe where next weekend he will return to his GT roots to drive a McLaren MP4-12C GT3 in the Blancpain Endurance Series at the Nurburgring.
Source: Marino Franchitti Racing