Sebring: Corsa/WLR Thursday night practice report

Corsa Motorsports/White Lightning Racing Ferrari Repaired and Quick Lopez Runs Second Quick GT2 Time in Wet Nighttime Conditions at Sebring SEBRING, Fla., March 15, 2007 -- For the veterans at White Lightning Racing, the saga that the Corsa ...

Corsa Motorsports/White Lightning Racing Ferrari Repaired and Quick
Lopez Runs Second Quick GT2 Time in Wet Nighttime Conditions at Sebring

SEBRING, Fla., March 15, 2007 -- For the veterans at White Lightning Racing, the saga that the Corsa Motorsports' No. 32 EquiWest/Michelin Ferrari F430 GT is currently going through sends them back to Le Mans, 2005. Then, an accident two days before the start of the event forced a late night repair session, a trip to a body shop and another late night thrash to get the car ready to race. The Dale White- managed and Dennis Chizma-led team again pulled- off the impossible here today at the 55th Annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. Not only did they return the Ferrari owned by Steve Pruitt (Sandy, Utah) to the track in time for night practice, they gave Jose Maria Lopez (Cordoba, Argentina) a car strong enough to finish second in the GT2 class practice. Night practice, which was run after a torrential downpour soaked the track with several inches of rain postponing the session 45 minutes, was essential for the drivers, all new to Sebring, as each needed to complete three laps to qualify for the race. Rui Aguas (Porto, Portugal), Lopez and Maurizio Mediani (Reggio Emilia, Italy) each completed the required laps.

During Wednesday's second practice session, Aguas was forced into the marbles in Turn 17 and backed into the tire wall. The damage was extensive requiring the V8-powered exotic to be sent to the 64 West Collision body shop in West Avon Park, Fla., approximately an hour away by tow truck. The 32 car left the track at approximately 4 PM, Wednesday afternoon. 64 West removed the panel, straightened it, re-welded it to the body, filled the gaps and then primed it. Meanwhile, Teresa Pruitt had organized the matching and making of the Ferrari Rosso Scuderia red paint, not a common color at any body shop outside of Maranello, Italy. The paint was delivered and sprayed quickly, then baked to ensure that it would be dry for the trip back to the track. The car arrived in Sebring at 3 PM, just 20 minutes before the crew was scheduled to take the No. 31 Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Ferrari, the sister car to the Corsa entry, on-track for qualifying. With part of the crew on pit lane to help Tomas Enge (Monaco) turn the second-fastest lap in class qualifying, the remainder stayed in the paddock, removing the damaged components and hardware that had not been finished when the car left the track.

Teamwork all around the No. 32 paid-off to get the Italian machine back into contention for the 12 Hour. Once qualifying was over, the whole team descended upon the No. 32, removing and replacing major parts including the rear bumper, headers on the engine and countless brackets and mounts that surround the engine, rear suspension, gearbox and other major systems. Michael Petersen (Las Vegas), who owns the No. 31, donated the engine cover and rear wing from his car- once it had completed its required night laps- to ensure that the EquiWest car could put in its required three laps per driver.

The rain storm struck shortly before the night practice was scheduled making the work even less comfortable for the technicians. However, work never slowed and the No. 32 was sitting on pit lane waiting for the green flag to fall with the No. 31. Once the 31 was complete, the engine cover and rear wing were removed from the car and placed on the 32. Aguas turned the first laps on the still wet track before turning the wheel over to Lopez. On a drying track, Lopez blistered the time charts with a lap of two minutes, 21.465 seconds. It would stand as the second-fastest lap of the session. Lopez handed the car over to Mediani who completed his required laps and parked the car for the night.

Corsa Motorsports/White Lightning Racing will finish the repairs and prepare the car for Saturday's 12 hour classic on Friday. The remaining pieces required to race the 32 car will arrive at the track tomorrow. The car is not scheduled to turn a lap in the final practice choosing to wait until the morning warm-up on race day. The race is scheduled to begin Saturday, March 17 at 10 AM.

Quotes:

Steve Pruitt, Owner: "First we had to find a shop. Once we were able to find a shop that would take the car, we had to find out if they could work with aluminum. We got the car there last night and then got a call this morning at 5 AM wanting to know where the parts were. So, I grabbed the stuff I thought we needed and drove about an hour north of Sebring to get to the body shop. My wife Teresa got the paint color matched and delivered it to the shop. Then it was a rush to get everything done. The car got back in at 3 o'clock. We were still concerned about some of the mechanical issues we had with the car. The crew did a phenomenal job of getting on the car. It was well orchestrated by Dennis and all of the crew. We got the car out here and, even though we were sans the wing, thanks to Mike Petersen we had the parts we needed to even participate tonight. We have at least passed the low hurdle of being able to get in by running the laps tonight. Everybody is back safe-and-sound. We are extremely excited. Tomorrow we get to do a little bit of work on the car and really check some things we didn't have a chance to do today. Hopefully parts will be through customs and we will get some things we need. We'll be ready to go on Saturday."

Dale White, Entrant/Team Manager: "I said yesterday that we had never missed a race yet and we weren't going to start here. I am so proud of the entire crew. This is what teamwork is all about! Everyone stepped- up and made this happen. There was no 31 team and no 32 team, there was just a team. I'm proud to be a part of this."

-credit: cm/wlr

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About this article
Series ALMS
Drivers Tomas Enge , Michael Petersen , Jose Maria Lopez , Rui Aguas , Steve Pruitt