AHR EPILOGUE TRANSITIONING Usually associated in racing with the change a car and driver undertake from a turn to straight or vice versa, "transition" can take on other meanings. Noun: in nuclear physics; a change in the energy level or...
Usually associated in racing with the change a car and driver undertake from a turn to straight or vice versa, "transition" can take on other meanings.
Noun: in nuclear physics; a change in the energy level or state of an atomic nucleus in which a single quantum of electromagnetic radiation is either lost or gained (note: an unstable nucleus might be big trouble, maybe something like "ka-boom!?").
Transitive verb: to undergo a change of status or condition, or cause somebody or something to undergo a change (note: like one Daytona Prototype "nudging" another, usually followed by "oops," unless it's "Max the Axe" Angelelli, who believes everyone should just move-the-heck-over when he's around).
Both seem a perfect description for the Rolex Series' as it heads from Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez (AHR) to this week's race at VIRginia International Raceway (VIR).
READY FOR SOME WRASSLIN?
After winning the Rolex 24 At Daytona and GAINSCO Auto Insurance Miami Grand Prix wins, Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas were beginning to look unstoppable.
Skating to a second-place finish at AHR and holding a near-20-point lead in the Rolex Series' Daytona Prototype driving championship, they might just be.
Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty, 2007 Rolex Series DP champions and prohibitive 2008 favorites to repeat, are lagging in the points (ever notice how such happens in most any sport?) but are working hard to jump to the top of the standings from their present third place - 17-points behind leaders Pruett and Rojas.
Between the two teams in second (16-pts. down) is the Mexican surprise: Marc Goossens and Jim Matthews, who won the race and, somehow, are in the thick of the points fight. (Actually, they got there due to consistency, with 8th, fourth and first place finishes in the 2008-season's three races, thus far.)
Rojas and Pruett, both finishing second in 2007 points and the latter finishing second far too many times since his 2004 championship run, really want this year's championship.
Defending champions Gurney and Fogarty, in their Bob Stallings-owned No. 99 Gainsco Pontiac-Riley, aren't ready to give it up.
After multiple door rubs between the Nos. 01 and 99 on AHR's front-straight, some have said at least one Bob Stallings driver is trying a little too hard.
However, for the sake of debate, others said it was Memo Rojas making like Lucha Libre's (wrestling, Mexico style) Mil Mascaras, one of Mexico's most legendary masked wrestlers, during his and Fogarty's front-stretch tilt.
In length, the AHR and VIR front straights are similar and both cause cars to brake hard at straights' end, at which is one of each track's best passing zones.
Expect some knocks, verbal and physical, as the battle heats up and remember that if for some reason the No. 01 Telmex should fall to 13th or worse and the No. 99 Gainsco finish first, the respective teams' drivers will suddenly be tied for first place in the points.
GENTLEMEN, START YOUR ENGINES
Marc Goossens and Jim Matthews co-drove the No. 91 Pontiac-Riley MkXX to victory in the Rolex Sports Car Series' Mexico City 250, Saturday - the team's second win in four races, dating back to the 2007 season's last race at Miller Motor Sports Park in Tooele, Utah.
By encompassing that 2007 year-end win and insofar as winning races is concerned, Goossens and Matthews are as dominant as Pruett and Rojas, who have scored two wins in three 2008 races riding their Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix (y Jose) Sabates No. 01 Telmex Lexus-Riley MkXIX DP (I had to come up with some way to distinguish a Gen-1 chassis, Gen-2 body combination; and, yes, my Roman Numeral usage doesn't make sense, but just exactly when - outside of a Charlton Heston flick - does Roman Numeral usage make sense?).
Goossens is a professional driver and Matthews is one of those "gentleman" driver types who like Mark Patterson (MSR No. 60 Westfield Insurance Ford-Riley; paired w/Oswaldo Negri Jr.) and others of their ilk aren't supposed to be as talented as a professional driver.
They're not, and they aren't supposed to win as a result (though they darn sure are better at the ol' turn-in, apex and track-out than yours truly).
Further, should one think someone like Matthews hasn't paid his dues, just have a conversation with him some time - on any subject under the sun (especially guitars) - and right about the time you see his tracheotomy scar, you'll understand why he sounds as though he's forever got a hoarse throat.
"Gentleman" John Pew (MSR No. 6 Ford-Riley; Ian James co-driving) a couple of years ago at Montreal watched as an open-wheeler's undercarriage landed on top of him, all but completely taking out his shoulder and darn sure unable to use it for months-on-end after the doctors did their slice and dice routine on him.
If a gentleman driver is crazy enough to get into a race-car cockpit with a certifiably crazy professional driver (who, instead of pooping oneself, often laughs like a mad-scientist after a 180-mph near-miss) then they also should be able to reap a reward others might wish to deny them just because they are "gentlemen."
These guys, in ways well beyond what most of us know, have paid their "dues."
Three cars, one GT and two DPs, of the 50 entered for VIR were seriously hurt at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, which is a long way from VIRginia - especially when one's transporter can't leave before late Monday.
Synergy's No. 80 Porsche GT3 was involved in an AHR practice incident that went beyond local repair capabilities and altogether missed the Mexico City race.
Synergy Racing chief Cole Scrogham at least calls VIRginia home, but admitted it'll be a heckuva thrash for his guys in getting the 80-car readied, which he nonetheless expected.
As for the two DPs, the No. 7 RumBum BMW-Riley and No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac-Dallara, hurt each other in the same tilt and after which Max Angelelli said, "He (RumBum driver Matt Plumb) should have moved over for me; I'm the better driver."
Most of what appeared hurt on the two DPs at AHR didn't appear to go much more than skin deep - though it was a lot of skin.
SunTrust team owner Wayne Taylor said he had no choice but to get the AHR-damaged car ready for VIR's Bosch 250, a track and event he considers as "home."
No word yet from the RumBum team, but team owner Sigalsport and sponsor RumBum at AHR announced a contract extension for the 2008 Rolex Series season's balance. Expect some sleepless nights on the part of that crew, too, along with them being at VIR.
The crowds watching VIRginia International Raceway's Rolex Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 race's live action have grown exponentially ever larger over the years but this year's Bosch 250 won't be televised until May 3.
The primary reason is that Grand-Am just won't pay to broadcast any race, unlike other sportscar racing series who pay networks for the time rights (in other words: cutting a check from the racing organization and handing it over to the network - and, yes, it's common practice in a lot of TV programming).
Still, if you aren't intending to visit the area then you can at least get a partial day-of-race fix at www.Grand-Am.com and find its live audio, video and scoring.
Further, you might just consider taking in the race in person.
Nearby Danville Va., where most of the teams stay, was the Confederate States of America's "second" capital after Richmond came under attack from Union forces, headed by none other than Gen. Ulysses S. Grant.
During "Evacuation Sunday" in April 1865, President Davis, his Cabinet and Confederate defenders abandoned "first" capital Richmond, Va., fleeing on the last open railroad line to Danville, south of Richmond.
Danville citizens daily pass the remnants of that railroad, including bridges, etc. With a beautiful river, museums and more, a visit to the relatively tranquil area is pretty enjoyable.
See you there, I hope.
DC Williams for motorsport.com