Daytona 24: Apple Motorsports race report

York, Pa.-Based Team Finishes 11th in GT Class at Rolex 24 DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Jan. 29 - The York, Pa.-based Apple Motorsports team finished 11th in the GT class in the 44th running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway Sunday....

York, Pa.-Based Team Finishes 11th in GT Class at Rolex 24

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Jan. 29 - The York, Pa.-based Apple Motorsports team finished 11th in the GT class in the 44th running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway Sunday. Gary Stewart of York, Pa., and his three nephews, Rob and Dave Stewart and Bob Gilbert, all of York, Pa., along with Tony Ave of Mooresville, N.C., drove the team's No. 93 Apple Automotive Group/TPC Racing Porsche GT3, finishing 23rd overall.

The team completed 636 laps around the 3.56-mile road circuit at Daytona, covering 2,264.16 miles during the course of the 24-hour event.

After starting the grueling endurance event 17th in class and 47th overall, the team pressed forward early in the race, ending the second hour of competition 35th overall and 11th in class.

Stiff competition and fierce traffic dropped the car to 18th overall at the end of the third hour, but the team battled back to 11th place at the end of the 11-hour mark.

The team ran 11th in class four different times during the event, and it was no worse than 14th in class during the final 12 hours of competition.

"It went pretty well," said Rob Stewart. "We had a little bit of trouble last night. All in all, it was a good race and we managed a respectable finish. Without the problems with the engine during the night we could have finished in the top 10 very easily. We kept ourselves clean and we ran a good pace. We didn't overrun the car."

The No. 36 TPC Racing Porsche driven by Michael Levitas of Baltimore, Randy Pobst of Gainesville, Ga., Ian Baas of Noblesville, Ind. and Spencer Pumpelly of Mason Neck, Va. won the GT class, finishing ninth overall in a sister car to the Apple Motorsports team.

"Congratulations to Michael Levitas and all his guys," said Apple crew chief Mike Goss. "They were great teammates. They helped us out a bunch. I'm really happy for those guys. We spent two weeks with them at their shop and we helped each other. It's great to see them get the win. It's nice to finish first, but it's an honor just to start this race."

The Apple Porsche experienced a small setback during the wee hours of Sunday morning when the engine began to run rough. The team lost valuable time while the crew took the car to the garage area to correct the problem, returning to the track 14th in class. Nevertheless, the drivers continued to press on to produce a good result.

"We are really, really pleased," with our finish, said Gary Stewart. "We figured a top 10 would be great. We lost time with that spark plug at 3 o'clock in the morning when we lost 50 minutes, but otherwise we are really pleased. Except for that one thing, we didn't miss a beat. We wanted to finish in the top-10 in class, but 11th is still great."

Bob Gilbert had the honor of driving the last stint, taking the checkered flag 24 hours and 48 seconds after the green flag flew at noon on Saturday. "It was awesome; what a great feeling," Gilbert said. "Last year we only lasted abo ut three and a half hours, so this year was a dream come true. We had a lot of friends and family here so it was a big thrill."

Gilbert's times dropped off by two seconds a lap during the final hour, yet he was still able to nurse the car to the finish without losing a position. "About the last 15 to 20 laps the car had a really bad shimmy in it and my laps times were not that good," he said. "The car was all over the place and that can be kind of scary when you're doing 170 miles per hour."

Although the team has no present plans to return to competition in the Rolex 24, Goss said, "Gary had the opportunity to win this race. It would be nice to come back and give it another shot" for the drivers and the crew.

In a race that takes its toll on man and machine, Gary, who won the GTT class in 1999, offered a measured response on the possibility of returning to compete on the high banks of Daytona.

"I'll have to take a few days to think about it," he said.

After experiencing the exhilaration of taking the checkered flag, Gilbert's response was more definitive.

"We will be back," he said.

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Tony Ave , Spencer Pumpelly , Michael Levitas , Ian Baas , Gary Stewart , Dave Stewart , Rob Stewart