Birmingham: SFoW race report

SFoW MAseratis Impress at Barber Motorsports Park BIRMINGHAM, AL (October 10): The Porsche 250 at Barber Motorsports Park looked like it would be one of the best races yet for the SFoW Maserati team. Initially the changing weather and threats...

SFoW MAseratis Impress at Barber Motorsports Park

BIRMINGHAM, AL (October 10): The Porsche 250 at Barber Motorsports Park looked like it would be one of the best races yet for the SFoW Maserati team. Initially the changing weather and threats or more rain had made setup choices difficult for the start, and the team finally decided to start driver Joao Barbosa on slicks even though the track surface was still damp. The wisdom of that decision, the right pit strategies, and Barbosa's outstanding drive combined to see the #33 Maserati Trofeo Light take the GT class lead.

At about half-distance the #33 Maserati was still leading the class, and the new #34 Trofeo Light had run as high as high as third. Then a broken half-shaft lost eight laps for the #33, but the #34 finished a strong fifth, and overall the race demonstrated just how successful the team's development program has been.

Barbosa qualified the #33 third in GT, and quickly moved up to second. He took the class lead when the leading BMW pitted, and then easily held off the factory-assisted BMWs for 23 laps until the halfshaft failure. "Initially I didn't push too much because the track conditions were tricky," Barbosa explained. "Then I was able to get ahead of Auberlen (Bill Auberlen, driving one of the BMWs) and I started to push, and the car was holding up really, really well. It's just a shame because the team had done such an awesome job preparing the car."

The Maserati crew replaced the broken halfshaft in record time, but driver Emil Assentato returned to the track several laps down, and as a light rain began to fall. "At first I thought it wouldn't be so bad, with semi-wet, semi-dry conditions" he said, "but as the stint wore on the rain started coming down hard and starting puddling up, and it was pretty dicey on slicks. I'm just sorry we had the problem, because I think we would have been a very strong finisher today.".

The #33 Maserati pitted one more time. Steve Earle replaced Assentato at the wheel, and heavily grooved rain tires replaced the slicks. "My stint was a lot of fun if you like driving in the rain, which I do," Earle said after the checker. "I was making up positions in the rain; maybe another couple of laps and I could have advanced a couple of positions, but we just didn't have the time. We lost too much time with the halfshaft, but we'll be ready for Fontana."

The Porsche 250 was only the second race for the team's new #34 Maserati Trofeo Light. Drivers Jeff Segal and Rusty West ran as high as third place at one point, and finished fifth in the deteriorating weather. Segal had qualified the Maserati sixth, and made a strong start. "I was comfortable in the car and the crew was telling me that I was picking up positions," he explained. "We pitted right, the strategy was right, the car was excellent, and Rusty did a great job in the car in the rain. I couldn't believe how he passed one of the BMWs on the outside in Turn One, in the rain. Finishing fifth was a real credit to him for his first GrandAm race."

Team Manager Glenn Marquis summed up the weekend: "It was great to run up front with the #33 and give the PTG (BMW) guys a run for their money, but in the end the car broke and we finished 11th. Still, I think we're proving what we can do, and we're looking to the future. We've won two GT championships in GrandAm, and I'd like to add 2005 to that list."

The next race for both the SFoW Maseratis will be the Lexus GrandAm 400, at the California Speedway (Fontana) on October 31. That race will be presented live on the SPEED Channel at 4PM ET.

Primary sponsorship for the SFoW Maserati team comes from Maserati of Washington. Additional support for the #33 Maserati is provided by Simply Wireless, Inc., one of the nation's premiere wireless retailers; TubiStyle, the leading after-market supplier of exhaust systems for exotic cars; Putnam Leasing, one of the oldest specialty vehicle leasing companies in the United States; Tradition, a world leader in the brokerage of financial and non-financial products; and J.L. Earle, M.D., P.A. Orthopaedic Surgery. The #34 Maserati has additional sponsorship from Algar Maserati, the authorized Ferrari and Maserati dealer for the Philadelphia area, Putnam Leasing, and Market Scan, a leading supplier of financial software to the automotive industry..

Further information on the Maserati Coupe and Spyder, the Maserati Trofeo Light GT, and the SFoW may be found at www.MaseratiGT.com on the Internet.

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Bill Auberlen , Emil Assentato , Joao Barbosa , Jeff Segal , Rusty West