Pontiac's Year Of Success With GTO.R Continues In Daytona ...
Pontiac's Year Of Success With GTO.R Continues In Daytona
#65 TRG/F1 Air Pontiac GTO.R of Andy Lally and Marc Bunting Win in GT Class of Rolex Series, Exactly One Year Later After Car's Debut
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Well-thought out fuel strategy or stroke of luck, a win here at Daytona International Speedway by Andy Lally and Marc Bunting of the #65 TRG/F1 Air Pontiac GTO.R was more poetic justice than anything else. Lally crossed the finish line with roughly three liters of fuel left but it was enough to finish the race ahead of the car of Wolf Henzler and Robin Liddell, which had to pit for fuel and therefore relinquish its lead. It was an arguably deserved victory, however, as it was here at Daytona a year ago where the GTO.R made its debut with Lally and Bunting behind the wheel. What was looking like a podium finish for the pair was cut short by an errant Daytona Prototype (DP) that took Lally out late in the race. This time, it was the fuel strategy by TRG and the production-based Pontiac engine's fuel economy that put the pair at the top of the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series' GT-class podium.
"We moved up to third from fifth and then I set my sights on the lead," said Lally. "We had to pit early for some reason and that made them pit late, but we were able to do it on just one stop. Our guys caught the right strategy, stuffed it full of fuel and it was just hammer down from there. It's probably the first race we've won on fuel strategy and at the end I was getting worried but we were able to pull it off, and it feels especially good to do it here."
The closest either the #65 or #64 TRG/iRise GTO.R (of Paul Edwards and Kelly Collins) have come to a victory at Daytona is a second-place finish by the #65 team at this year's Rolex 24 At Daytona. Then, the two cars ran with 62mm inlet restrictors. Now, due to a change in Grand American rules, the two cars must use a 58mm restrictor but were still able to manage this win despite the induction restriction.
The #64 Pontiac GTO.R of Collins and Edwards, which started the race from the third spot on the grid (since qualifying was cancelled, grid spots were again awarded by team points allowing the #64 car to start third and the #65 machine to start from the pole position) was unable to finish the race due to mechanical problems. Shortly after Paul Edwards got behind the wheel, the car suffered a broken belt that led to the overheating of the engine, signaling the end of the race for the pair.
"I went through the kink and when I got out, I felt a little twitch and the steering felt weird," said Edwards. "It didn't feel like I lost it, but then the steering hardened up and I couldn't keep it on the track. I hit the grass and then the steering was gone. It threw the belt and I guess that drives the water pump too."
Pontiac's DP effort was not without merit; the highest-finishing Pontiac DP - the #10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley of Max Angelelli and Wayne Taylor - came in fourth place. However, the team had less success with the fuel strategy and to play it safe and keep from running out of fuel, they relinquished second place and pitted for a splash. This allowed eventual DP winner Jorg Bergmeister of the #76 Ford Riley to pull ahead, passing Scott Pruett (#01 Lexus Riley) and Patrick Long (#23 Porsche Crawford), both of whom led considerable amounts but also had to pit late in the race for fuel. Angelelli, who placed seventh in the immediately-following International Race of Champions (IROC) event, was disappointed in the fourth-place finish but acknowledged the fuel stop was necessary to retain the team's high spot in the points standings.
"I'm a little disappointed," said Max Angelelli, "There was not much I could do with our fuel situation. I drove the whole race like having one hand tied behind my back because we needed to save fuel. There just wasn't anything I could do in the end."
Angelelli and Taylor rank third in DP team and driver points, and Pontiac is now within four points of Lexus' lead. In the GT class, however, Pontiac has a firm lead in manufacturers points and Lally and Bunting sit atop team and driver points.
The Rolex Series now heads to Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama (after a month hiatus) and will resume racing again on July 30 at 3:00 p.m. EDT. The race will be televised live on SPEED TV.