Laguna Seca: Race report

Angelelli & Magnussen Score Victory in Road & Track 250 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca MONTEREY, Calif. (May 7, 2006) -- After struggling in the early rounds of the 2006 Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special...

Angelelli & Magnussen Score Victory in Road & Track 250 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca

MONTEREY, Calif. (May 7, 2006) -- After struggling in the early rounds of the 2006 Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve season, defending Daytona Prototype co-champion Max Angelelli and the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley team returned to their winning ways in Sunday's Road & Track 250 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

Co-driving with Jan Magnussen--who led 18 laps during his stint in the cockpit--Angelelli claimed the lead from David Donohue in the No. 58 Red Bull Brumos Racing Porsche Fabcar with 21 laps remaining. The Italian then held off several late charges from Alex Gurney in the No. 99 GAINSCO/Blackhawk Racing Pontiac Riley to win by 2.798 seconds.

It was Angelelli's first victory since the Crown Royal 250 at The Glen last September, and was Magnussen's first overall triumph in Rolex Series competition since a 200-mile race at Watkins Glen in 2004. It was also the first overall victory of the season for Pontiac, which has won the last two Daytona Prototype engine manufacturer championships.

"Obviously, I'm very happy," Angelelli said. "I thought this team had everything in place to be a top-three team, and to win here is good. The team did a good job in the pits and in the race strategy."

For Magnussen, the victory comes in just his second Daytona Prototype start of the season and his third Daytona Prototype appearance since the 2004 season. As he did for the Crown Royal Grand American Challenge of Long Beach last month, Magnussen drove in place of car owner and Angelelli's 2005 Daytona Prototype co-champion, Wayne Taylor.

"I'm so happy," Magnussen said. "The car was great from the beginning. The race strategy worked out well for us. I had a good time out there. It was fun. Our car was great and we were able to push hard the whole time. Obviously, I've got to thank Wayne and the SunTrust team for the opportunity. Everybody did a great job."

Gurney and co-driver Jon Fogarty came home second in the No. 99 machine. The performance was a Rolex Series career-best for Fogarty, coming in just his second start with GAINSCO/Blackhawk Racing. The runner-up result tied Gurney's best performance in the Rolex Series, matching a second-place run in the CompUSA 200 at The Glen last August for the second-generation racer. The performance was all the more impressive given the fact that Fogarty and Gurney had to overcome damaged bodywork from an incident with a GT car early in the race.

"Obviously we would have liked to have won, but this feels great," Gurney said. "Everything worked well today. We were able to get through traffic and overcame the incident with the GT car. Overall, it was a good day."

"This feels great," added Fogarty, a native of nearby Portola Valley, Calif. "It's a home track for me; I had a lot of family and friends here. Unfortunately, a GT car got in the back of us and it kind of messed up the balance but it didn't disrupt it too bad. It's great to be on the podium here."

Completing the podium were Jorg Bergmeister and Colin Braun in the No. 76 Krohn Racing Ford Riley. It was the duo's second podium result of the season and their best run since a second-place outing in March's Mexico City 250. More importantly, the performance moved Bergmeister back atop the Daytona Prototype point standings. The German leads No. 23 Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team Porsche Crawford co-drivers Patrick Long and Mike Rockenfeller by just two points, 208-206, after six of 14 races.

"It feels really good to back in the points lead," Bergmeister said. "We made some changes to the car in the warm-up which helped us during the race. The guys also did a fantastic job in the pits and that made a big difference today."

"We struggled a bit in qualifying but gained a bunch of time and cars in the pits," Braun added. "That's why we're on the podium. We've finished second, third and fifth this season so hopefully we can get a win before too long. This is a fantastic feeling."

Michael McDowell and Guy Cosmo came home fourth in the No. 19 Playboy/Uniden Racing Ford Crawford. It was the duo's second-consecutive fourth-place performance, and moved McDowell into fourth place in the Daytona Prototype championship chase. He trails Long and Rockenfeller by just one point and is three in arrears of Bergmeister.

Donohue--who led for four laps--and co-driver Darren Law charged from 22nd on the starting grid to earn a fifth-place result. The performance, which was their best since a fourth-place outing in the Rolex 24 At Daytona to open the 2006 season, earned the No. 58 co-drivers the Daytona Prototype SunTrust Improve Your Position Award.

It was a tough race for Long and Rockefeller, who entered the Road & Track 250 with a 21-point lead in the Daytona Prototype driver standings. Rockenfeller started from the pole position owing to Long's victory in Saturday's qualifying race, and the German led the opening 21 laps.

However, the day began to turn on the No. 23 team when Rockenfeller had a mishap on pit road in his pit stop to hand the controls to Long under full-course caution on Lap 22. The problem dropped the No. 23 machine well down the running order, but Long made up several positions before encountering problems with the car's shifter. The difficulties cost the team several laps and Long and Rockenfeller wound up 23rd in the Daytona Prototype class.

TAFEL RACING SCORES FIRST-EVER ROLEX SERIES GT FEATURE RACE VICTORY

Wolf Henzler and Robin Liddell have had the car to compete at the front of the GT class pack throughout the season, but in the Road & Track 250 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, the duo brought Tafel Racing its first-ever feature race victory in the No. 72 NEC Porsche GT3.

Henzler started the machine fourth on the GT class grid, but didn't waste any time moving up in the running order. The German passed two machines in Turn 2 on the opening lap to settle into second place and ran in that position throughout the opening stint. Claiming the lead during a series of pit stops during the race's first caution period, the No. 72 Porsche never trailed again.

"It is very special when a team wins for the first time in a series," said Henzler. "You can actually see it on the faces of the whole team. The team did a good job, the strategy was good and the pit stops were good. I am just so happy right now."

Liddell took control of the No. 72 machine during a late caution period, and kept hard-charging Andy Lally--in the No. 65 TRG/F1 Air Pontiac GTO.R--behind him the rest of the way. The previous best finish for Liddell and Henzler was a third-place class result in Round 3 at Homestead-Miami Speedway

"It was a pretty nail-biting finish," said Liddell. "Today was the first time we did a good job as an entire team. Andy and myself were driving as hard as we could. He was clearly closing on me, and we had a clean fight. It was hard to hang on. For me, it is the most special win I've ever had. For us as a team it was important. When you win, you prove yourself as the very best on that day."

With the runner-up finish, Lally and co-driver Marc Bunting maintain their lead in the driver standings, now holding a four-point edge over Liddell and Henzler (215-211). It is the fourth podium finish of the season for the No. 65 machine, and 11th straight podium finish for TRG, dating back to the CompUSA 200 at The Glen last August.

"We gained little by little, and both Robin and I were driving on the edge," said Lally. "On the last lap I made a run from a little further back than I should have. We went side-by-side in Turn 2, but he was able to power down and hold the lead. It is good to come away in the points lead."

Bunting fell to fourth in the opening moments of the race, but moved up to third before the race's first caution period. Pit strategy late by the No. 65 machine shuffled the car just behind the No. 72 Porsche for the last sprint to the finish.

"I'm happy to be on the podium again and maintain our position in the points," added Bunting. "It went good for us today. I turned the car over to Andy in third place, and he brought it home in second. All in all, a pretty good day."

Ian James and Ryan Hunter-Reay finished third in the No. 17 SAMAX Porsche GT3. It was the Rolex Series debut for Hunter-Reay, who finished fourth in the qualifying race, and the best finish of the season for James. Kelly Collins and Paul Edwards finished fourth in the No. 64 TRG Pontiac GTO.R, and with 203 points, the duo is still in the championship hunt. Bill Auberlen and Matt Alhadeff rounded out the top five in the No. 05 Motul/GRW.com.mx/enVista BMW M3 for Sigalsport. It is the best finish for the No. 05 machine since a fourth-place class result at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

NOTEBOOK

It was a tough day for Oswaldo Negri Jr. and co-driver Mark Patterson in the No. 60 Flight Options Lexus Riley for Michael Shank Racing. After starting from the outside of the front row, Patterson was shuffled back in the running order early in the race, before giving way to Negri. The Brazilian put together a strong charge toward the front of the field, and took the lead at the start of a full-course caution period on Lap 60.

Unfortunately for Negri, he was penalized for failing to fall-in behind the pace car just after taking the lead, and was also penalized for speeding on pit lane on his subsequent pit stop. He was also involved in a late-race dustup with teammate Mike Borkowski in the No. 6 Michael Shank Racing/Mears Motor Coach Lexus Riley and Michael Valiante in the No. 5 Make A Wish/Z-Line Designs/Finlay Motorsports Ford Crawford, but soldiered home with an 11th-place result... A pair of highly-touted teams that were new to the 2006 Rolex Series found their way to the head of the field for the first time ever in the Road & Track 250.

Brazil's Mario Haberfeld led 19 laps in the No. 12 Lowe's Fernandez Racing Pontiac Riley, while Alex Figge led one lap in the No. 89 Playboy/Vonage/Palms Casino Pontiac Riley for Pacific Coast Motorsports. Haberfeld and co-driver Adrian Fernandez wound up finishing 15th, with Figge and co-driver Ryan Dalziel just behind in 16th...Just 24 points separate the top four manufacturers in the Daytona Prototype engine manufacturer championship. Porsche leads with 250 points, followed by Lexus with 243, Ford with 231 and Pontiac with 226. In the chassis constructor battle, Riley used the Road & Track 250 victory to take a six-point lead over Crawford. Pontiac leads Porsche, 236-227, in the GT manufacturer standings.

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Alex Gurney , Ryan Dalziel , Paul Edwards , Mario Haberfeld , Jan Magnussen , Adrian Fernandez , Jon Fogarty , Wayne Taylor , Colin Braun , Robin Liddell , Bill Auberlen , Michael Valiante , Guy Cosmo , Kelly Collins , Ian James , Andy Lally , Darren Law , David Donohue , Jörg Bergmeister , Michael McDowell , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Patrick Long , Alex Figge , Mike Borkowski , Oswaldo Negri Jr. , Marc Bunting , Mike Rockenfeller , Mark Patterson , Wolf Henzler , Michael Shank
Teams Krohn Racing , Michael Shank Racing