Birmingham: Porsche race report

VICTORY ELUDES SNAKE-BIT PORSCHE TEAMS AT ROLEX GRAND-AM AT BARBER; KEEN/WERNER PROTECT GT POINTS LEAD AT PORSCHE 250 BIRMINGHAM -- July 19 - A series of bizarre problems struck Porsche teams starting on the first lap of the Porsche 250...

VICTORY ELUDES SNAKE-BIT PORSCHE TEAMS AT ROLEX GRAND-AM AT BARBER; KEEN/WERNER PROTECT GT POINTS LEAD AT PORSCHE 250

BIRMINGHAM -- July 19 - A series of bizarre problems struck Porsche teams starting on the first lap of the Porsche 250 presented by Legacy Credit Union at Barber Motorsports Park here on Sunday.

In the end, Porsche was shut out of any podium finishes, and points-leading Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup had its three-race GT win streak snapped in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Cask No. 16 event.

The good news is that Leh Keen (Charleston, SC) and Dirk Werner (Germany) lost only four points off their impressive Acxiom GT championship lead despite finishing fifth in their #87 Farnbacher Loles Porsche 911 GT3 Cup.

The #58 Brumos Porsche Riley team was the most disappointed, falling to 10th after an incident on lap 37 that sent overall race leader David Donohue (Malvern, PA) to the pits for a new tire and rear end repairs. Teammate Darren Law (Phoenix, AZ) took over the car, which finished in that same position.

Porsche works driver Romain Dumas (France) had an off-course excursion in the first turn of the first lap when another prototype moved over and forced him off the road. That caused a cut tire, sending him to the pits where repairs to the busted nose and front end of his #12 Verizon Wireless Penske Porsche Riley would cost him two laps. Dumas and teammate Timo Bernhard (Germany) wound up 15th and virtually ended any hopes of capturing the Daytona Prototype title in this, their rookie campaign.

"At the first corner, the car in front of me moved over a little bit," Dumas said. "It was no problem, and I dropped a wheel off the track to avoid him and it broke the splitter and the nose again. So I have to stop (under green) and we lose the laps in the pits. Then I have to pit again for more repairs and lose another lap. It was most unfortunate for the Penske team that works so hard to repair the car from Friday."

Dumas was driving despite a foot injury he suffered in an accident during Friday's practice. He went off at turn 13, hit a ditch, and severely damaged the front end and lost the undercarriage/floorboard. He suffered a severely bruised left foot and two cuts on his left ankle.

"This was a weekend to forget," Dumas said. "In motorsports you have races like this. The crew worked very hard to fix the car and we appreciate their hard work. We could not get a good result to repay them for their hard work. We scored points and hung in there and finished the race, so that is all good.

"In the end I was fighting for position with the #10 car. We were the only ones on the same lap, and it was important to be better than him, and we were. Sometimes you take what you can from a race."

Donohue and Law almost expected to duplicate their season-opening victory at the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

"Brumos put a really good car under us," Donohue said. "We've been struggling and it felt great to be in the lead. We're snake bit I guess. We had a great car again and we can't finish where we belong. This is a race we could have won."

After starting sixth, Donohue was strong early, and took the lead on lap 24. He led 13 laps - the second highest total to race winners Jon Fogarty (Bend, OR) and Alex Gurney (Irvine, GA) , who led 89 of the race's 109 laps in their #99 Pontiac Riley. The victory moved Fogarty and Gurney into a tie for the Daytona Prototype championship lead with 231 points, matched by Scott Pruett (Auburn, CA) and Memo Rojas (Mexico), runners-up in their Lexus Riley. The 15th place finish for the Penske drivers nearly doubled their deficit in the point standings, giving them 198 points and now 33 behind the leaders.

The race's downward turning point for the Brumos team came on lap 37.

"Unfortunately the 12 car, the Verizon Porsche Riley, cut a tire or something on the backstraight and the 70 GT car was behind him and he put his hand out the window and slowed, but we're not under yellow and I'm racing for position so I went around the 70 and then got hit hard in the rear by the 70," Donohue said. "It was a pretty hard hit and there was a lot of damage."

Law took over during the pit stop repairs, but even he couldn't avoid problems.

"I went off at turn 11 and it blew a tire and I had to complete a whole 'nother lap (before he could reach the pits). We had a top five car, and we were leading when David (Donohue) got hit from behind and punctured a tire.

"We just can't seem to get a break. We blew a tire four laps from the end. It's freaky. We just can't get a break."

The #59 Brumos Porsche Riley of JC France (Ormond Beach, FL) and Joao Barbosa (Portugal) wound up as the top finishing V6-powered Porsche prototype for the second straight race. They finished ninth.

"It was a tough week, but the car was better than the last two races," Barbosa said. "We just missed a few things on strategy and had some front grip problems, but we are pleased to make progress. I think we learned a lot during this race and it will pay off in the next race. "

A play-it-safe strategy was the order of the day for Keen and Werner in GT.

"We were a little conservative," Keen said. "We finished good and we're satisfied with that. We always like to win, but we didn't have the car to win this weekend. The Mazdas were good and both Pontiacs were very, very fast. And we had rear tire issues. After five laps, I'd have the sway bar fully deployed to improve grip.

"The way it all worked today, we only lost a few points (four) off our lead (now 25 points), so it was a good weekend. We had our spirits pretty high with qualifying (on the pole), but this (fifth) is probably where we belonged this weekend. We did good considering the conditions and we look forward to Watkins Glen."

Keen, who captured his first GT pole position Saturday, led the first 11 laps before falling back to a more conservative pace.

Eric Lux (Jacksonville, FL) and Wolf Henzler (Germany) had the second best GT Porsche, finishing seventh in their #86 Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup.

-credit: porsche motorsport

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Alex Gurney , Scott Pruett , Darren Law , JC France , Timo Bernhard , Memo Rojas , Romain Dumas , Wolf Henzler , Lehman Keen , Eric Lux , Dirk Werner