AIM Autosport - A Complete Season
Team ends the Grand-Am Rolex Spots Car Series sixth overall
Woodbridge, Ontario (2009.10.14) The Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series season came to a dramatic close for AIM Autosport this past weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In a tight battle for fifth place in the championship, the No 61 Ford Riley needed a solid finish in the race to secure the position. In the end, Burt brought the car to the checkered flag in ninth position - well ahead of the No 6 car that it had to beat. The 58 and 59 cars however, had a better day and would appear to have vaulted ahead of AIM in the championship.
The No 61 Ford Riley started on the second row and was sitting top five for a good deal of the race but Homestead-Mimi Speedway is a track that places a premium on putting the power down and therefore as the rear tires wear lap times drop significantly. The high temperatures experienced during the race (91F ambient with humidity that made it feel like 103F) combined with the wear factor would also make tire management a key factor in strategy and performance. The late race cautions mixed up the field and while the car setup was good for the longer runs, the team was unable to capitalize and regain track position following pit stops. Adding to the problem, contact on the second to last restart caused body damage that hurt the performance of the car. On the final restart with seven minutes to go, Burt was passed for position. At that moment, a big wreck happened behind the lead group bringing out another full course caution with the No 61 Ford Riley in ninth. With a lot of debris on track and the minutes winding down, the race would end under caution, the No 61 Ford Riley crossing the checkered in ninth place. This would leave AIM in seventh spot in the championship.
There had been several jump-start penalties handed out throughout the race and on what turned out to be the final green flag, the car ahead of the No 61 Ford Riley was judged to have jumped the restart. That car was to be assessed a drive-through penalty but as the race had ended, the penalty was not served. Officials then assessed a time penalty moving the No 61 Ford Riley into eighth position giving the team just enough points to finish equal on points with the race-winning No 59 and move AIM Autsport to sixth overall in the series championship.
"AIM Autosport came into the final race of the season feeling pretty good about our chances of repeating fifth in the championship this season" commented team principal Ian Willis. "We had some very strong practice sessions and had one of our best qualifying runs to put the car on the second row for the Grand Prix of Miami. Mark and Burt both had the car in contention at the front but with so many yellows in the latter half of the race, it was difficult to make up position after pit stops." He continued, "In the end we did not finish where we should have but put in a strong enough performance to tie for fifth in the championship and we can look back on this season with a sense of accomplishment."
Despite not reaching the podium in 2009, AIM Autosport had a consistent season as far as results with the distinction of having only one DNF compared to four last year.
"We had a good season in that regard" offered crew chief Jeff Pomfret. "We had some personnel changes and a different driver combination to work through but everyone stepped up and we were able to complete all but one race this year. Even that race, the Rolex 24 when it was something beyond our control, the entire crew did everything possible to try and get us back on track." Pomfret continued, "Each member of the crew fought hard for every position and every point. They take all the ups and downs personally and that showed this year with the reliability of the car."
The No 61 Ford Riley is on its way back to AIM's race shop in Woodbridge, Ontario and the work will begin in earnest to prepare for the 2010 racing season. Grand Am announced the schedule for next season and it begins in just six weeks with open testing at Daytona International Speedway so the teams can get ready for the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January.
"Our primary focus at this point is securing sponsorship for 2010" noted Willis. "With a schedule in hand and some improved demographics for race attendance and television this year, we are confident we can put together an effective package for sponsors. We are also confident we can build on our success these past two seasons, demonstrating how strong we have run against some of the established, big name teams, to bring added value to sponsors and our partners."
The 2010 Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No 16 gets underway with the Rolex 24 at Daytona, January 29-31.