Battery Tender - MCM Racing Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca Preview The Battery Tender-MCM Racing team went into the New Jersey round of the Grand-Am Rolex Series looking to turn things around after a very disappointing...
Battery Tender - MCM Racing Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca Preview
The Battery Tender-MCM Racing team went into the New Jersey round of the Grand-Am Rolex Series looking to turn things around after a very disappointing Virginia race. With the inclement weather on the way, the team had mixed feelings. The combination of the rain, the car and driving lineup had the #21 Battery Tender/Baja Cantina Pontiac GTO-R of Romeo Kapudija and Ryan Phinny looking like early favorites and very excited. On the Porsche side, the #31 Battery Tender/South African Airways car wasn't as confident however. There was a lot of development taking place with the car as a byproduct of the team having more time with the new piece, new engineering staff, and would only be the second event in a Porsche for drivers Hennie Groenewald and Dion von Moltke.
Things quickly started on a positive note for the Pontiac with a top-5 in practice, and the Porsche was making up ground on the field as everyone worked to make the car drivable for a potential wet race. Having qualified 8th, Hennie would drive the car up to P2, with Romeo not far behind in P9. "For both Dion and I, the New Jersey event was a huge improvement over Virginia in the performance we were able to get out of the car due to the efforts of the whole team." Groenewald continues, "We really enjoyed the race in the very wet and treacherous conditions, even with the visibility problems, getting the car to the finish was certainly a challenge". After hydroplaning going into the braking zone, Kapudija would find himself in the tires and bringing out yellow caution flag. What was misfortune for the #21 entry was creating an excellent opportunity for the #31 Porsche 997 GT3 Cup car as the team was able to get Dion von Moltke out under caution while not loosing much ground on the rest of the GT field.
Ryan Phinny would meet up with the team at the garage and jump into the Pontiac to get the best result possible, but the team had to retire the car after a brief stint, and would finish in 17th position. Dion was able to bring the car Porsche back up through the field as his team mate did earlier, and settled into 2nd position in GT and an astounding 6th overall. Dion exudes; "What a fun race in New Jersey! Everyone was looking at the weather monitors all weekend trying to decide whether to put a rain or dry set up on the car. Luckily the team made the right decision and it paid off as we were able to run at the front and the car was very comfortable doing so."
In the end Dion would hold off much of the competition until the conditions and traffic began to play a role in the finishing order. Dion and Hennie would finish in 6th position in the Rolex GT class and a very impressive 14th overall. "The team showed how good they can be, and were flawless in the strategy and execution in the pits, they didn't miss a beat all race. Hennie had an amazing drive and handed over a perfect car at the front of the field, and I had a blast in the race where driving blind has a new meaning for me! It took a huge mental toll to be able to stay focused in those conditions and against that level of competition, and I was very fortunate to have had my Performance Drink before my time in the car" states von Moltke. A very excited Groenewald goes on to mention "Even though we were hoping as a team for an even better result, the 6th place achieved is a great start and everything is going in the right direction. It is a great experience to have the opportunity to race in a series like Grand-Am Rolex."
The sponsors are also taking notice of the efforts by both the team and drivers as Marc Cavalier, South African Airways Vice President for North America states, "South African Airways understands how both South Africans and Americans share a passion for auto racing, so we're pleased to play a role in the races and running of this team. We are looking forward to following the team as they continue to forge ahead in the sport and raise awareness of the races and also South Africa as a travel destination along the way."
The team now goes across the country to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for this weekends' round of the 2009 Grand-Am Rolex Season. This is the home track for team driver Ryan Phinny, and was his first track in the Pontiac GTO-R just a season ago when he opened the eyes of the Rolex GT field with what would play out as just the first of many impressive runs for the Battery Tender-MCM Racing team. An excited Romeo states; "The team is looking to turn things around a bit for the #21 car this weekend. We know we have the driving lineup, team and car to pull off an excellent result. After back to back difficult outings the team needs that positive injection a great result naturally brings." Of racing in front of the home crowd Phinny states, "I love racing here, I've had so much history on this track and the Pontiac is a great car for it. I love the camaraderie this series brings, and after a long day going wheel to wheel on track, we usually all meet up at the Baja Cantina and get ready for another battle the next day!"