Sebring: Corsa/WLR Wednesday report

Corsa Motorsports/White Lightning Racing Ferrari Damaged in Sebring Practice, Will Race SEBRING, Fla., March 14, 2007 -- It has been a rollercoaster week for Corsa Motorsports/White Lightning Racing. The Steve Pruitt- owned team debuted in the...

Corsa Motorsports/White Lightning Racing Ferrari Damaged in Sebring Practice, Will Race

SEBRING, Fla., March 14, 2007 -- It has been a rollercoaster week for Corsa Motorsports/White Lightning Racing. The Steve Pruitt- owned team debuted in the American Le Mans Series with the second-quick time in testing for the 55th Annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring on Monday and followed that with the quickest time of the second session yesterday. Today was the opposite end of the spectrum for the No. 32 EquiWest/Michelin Ferrari F430 GT here at Sebring International Raceway. The car suffered heavy damage just moments into the second practice session with Rui Aguas (Porto, Portugal) behind the wheel. The Corsa Motorsports/White Lightning Racing crew has sent the car to an area shop for bodywork repair. It will arrive back at the track on Thursday afternoon. While it will miss qualifying, Team Manager Dale White (Bozeman, MT) expects the car to return for Aguas, Jose Maria Lopez (Cordoba, Argentina) and Maurizio Mediani (Reggio Emilia, Italy) to take part in Thursday's night practice.

The damage to the No. 32 occurred entering Turn 17, the 3.7-mile track's final corner, on the second lap of the session. Aguas went wide to allow multiple prototypes to pass him on the inside. As he watched them clear he started to move back onto the line for the corner. As he did this he saw yet another prototype making an aggressive move to the inside. Aguas immediately corrected his course to avoid hitting the prototype. However, as he quickly adjusted to the left in the right-hand corner, he found himself far out of the groove in the dirty part of the track. Now with no traction, the F430 GT spun coming to a rest against the tire barrier with heavy right-rear damage to the car. The damage included a heavily crumpled but repairable aluminum fender, a destroyed bumper and deck lid and damaged rear wing. Internally, several components of the car took the brunt of the heavy hit damaging the right side exhaust header for the V8 engine and several suspension components.

The car is repairable with the replacement pieces on hand. The body shop will remove, then straighten and re-weld the rear fender. It will be painted back to its Ferrari Rosso Scuderia Red before returning to the track at approximately 3 PM local time. Once back, the team will undertake the immediate mechanical needs of the car first. Cosmetic correction- including decaling the fender in the familiar white lightning bolt- will come before the race.

Earlier in the day, during the first official 55 minute practice of the 2007 American Le Mans Series season, Lopez, a rookie in sports car racing, set the fifth fastest time (two minutes, 3.904 seconds) to follow the team's success of the previous test days.

With the GT2 qualifying session scheduled for 3:20 PM (ET) tomorrow, the No. 32 Corsa Motorsports/White Lightning Racing entry will miss the 15-minute session. However, the Dennis Chizma-led team will work to roll the car out for night practice at 7:45 PM. The one and a half hour night practice is critical for several reasons. It will allow the team to determine if the repairs were made properly and if the setup remained fast. Also critical is giving the three drivers experience on the course in the dark. Those nighttime laps are also required by regulations for all drivers. Failure to run three laps at night would require special allowances by the International Motor Sports Association (IMSA, sanctioning body for the American Le Mans Series). It would also make driving at night more difficult for the drivers, none of who has ever raced at Sebring before.

Through all of this, the sister car to the No. 32, the No. 31 MMPIE/PAWS/Petersen Holdings/Michelin Ferrari F430 GT of Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing set the fastest time of the second session. Tomas Enge (Czech Republic now living in Monaco) turned a lap of 2:02.694 in the Michael Petersen- owned car that he shares with Tim Bergmeister (Langenfeld, Germany) and Memo Gidley (Novato, Calif.). The current track record, set in 2006, is 2:03.563. However, both the No 31 and the No. 32 have previously lapped in the 2:02 range. The race is scheduled to begin Saturday, March 17 at 10 AM.

Quotes:

Dale White, Entrant/Team Manager: "We've never missed a race before and I don't plan to start now. We have been in a lot worse shape than this and come away with wins and podiums. Steve and Teresa Pruitt really stepped-up and helped organize a shop to take the car for the bodywork while we focused on preparing the car for the work and planned our strategy to be ready for the night practice tomorrow. I don't think we'll make qualifying with the Corsa Ferrari but we will do everything we can to have the car ready for night practice. That is the goal right now. This is why it is good to have two cars."

Rui Aguas, Driver: "Going into the last corner on my second lap, five LMPs passed me by and there was a sixth one and I missed it. I turned in and I didn't see him and he put the car to the inside. I saw him then and I reacted. I put the steering wheel to the left and I got myself on the outside of the line. As soon as I touched the brake I lost it. I couldn't do anything about it. I tried to downshift but it was too fast and I could not control the car in the dirt and I crashed backwards in fourth gear. We hope to put everything together for tomorrow. It is not what we wanted. Physically I had a big bang on the wall but I am OK."

-credit: cm/wlr

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