Lewis and Reese Take First Rolex Series GT Victory in Grand-Am GT LClassic at ime Rock Park LAKEVILLE, Conn. (May 28, 2007) -- No. 06 Banner Engineering Pontiac GXP.R co-drivers Leighton Reese and Tim Lewis Jr. picked up the first Grand-Am Rolex...
Lewis and Reese Take First Rolex Series GT Victory in Grand-Am GT LClassic at ime Rock Park
LAKEVILLE, Conn. (May 28, 2007) -- No. 06 Banner Engineering Pontiac GXP.R co-drivers Leighton Reese and Tim Lewis Jr. picked up the first Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve GT victory for themselves, the Banner Racing team and the new Pontiac GXP.R in Monday's Grand-Am GT Classic at Lime Rock Park.
Lewis claimed the lead from Patrick Long in Synergy Racing's No. 81 EMC Mechanical/Gamewell Mechanical Porsche GT3 on Lap 94 of the 139-lap race and pulled away from the field following restarts on Laps 100 and 111 to win by 6.507 seconds. The victory capped a strong weekend for the Pontiac GXP.R, as three of the cars that are competing for the first time in the 2007 Rolex Series season qualified and finished inside the top five positions. Pontiac GXP.Rs led 86 laps in the race, including the final 46 circuits with Lewis at the head of the field.
"The guys at Banner did a great job today," Lewis said. "The car was as good in the race as it was in practice. Leighton kept it at the front the whole the beginning of the race and that put the pressure on me. On the restart I was able to maintain the lead and run consistent lap times. The engineers and the crew really worked to get us a good race car all through practice and it paid off. The weather conditions were the same as we practiced under and the car was right there the whole race. Great to get my first win in the series and thanks to Leighton and the crew for giving me the opportunity."
Lewis' 46 laps out front were a race-high. After starting fourth, owner/driver Reese led 24 laps during his stint on the way to his first Rolex Series GT class victory. Both Reese and Lewis are competing full-time in the Rolex Series for the first time this season.
"First, I have to say I really love coming to Lime Rock," Reese said. "My sister lives in Connecticut here, so I kind of feel like this is half my home track. Plus, you always enjoy a track that you are fast at, and I'm kind of at the twilight of my driving career here. Whenever you can win one, it's great. We've really had to raise our game here. We've got some great help from Pontiac. The race, we actually qualified in a pretty good position, and I think I made a pretty good pass on Wolf there on a restart. I can't say how proud I am of Tim. We had driver tryouts at Sebring last year, and we picked the team well. He keeps sneaking up on the lap times and never puts a wheel wrong, and when the race comes he's even faster than me."
Finishing second were Bryce Miller and Dirk Werner in the No. 87 Marquis Jet/IPC/Recaro Porsche GT3 for the Danbury, Conn.-based Farnbacher Loles Motorsports. It was the fourth consecutive podium result for Miller and Werner and the fifth straight top-four performance. The second-place result combined with an 11th-place run for No. 70 Mazdaspeed/Mazda RX-8 co-drivers Nick Ham and Sylvain Tremblay has catapulted Werner into a tie with Ham and Tremblay for the Rolex Series GT points lead after six of 13 races. Werner, Tremblay and Ham all have 172 points.
"As I said at the last race, our goal is to win the championship for Farnbacher Loles," Werner said. "We drove fairly conservative at the beginning of the race, and Bryce was setting very fast times, some even faster than the leading car. In the end, we were a little lucky because we got to pick up the end of the field because of the wave-by. Still, the car was good at the end, and that was our biggest advantage. I'm happy because there were so many guests this weekend that have supported us. We gave back to them what all they've given to us so far."
"Farnbacher Loles keeps giving us good cars," Miller added. "It's been a real pleasure to drive with him (Miller). We gave it everything we had out there today. It felt really good to come home to the Northeast and run in front of our sponsors. We had a lot of friends and family here this weekend too. And it felt good to finish on the podium again."
Eric Lux and Wolf Henzler filled out the podium with a third-place showing in the No. 74 Rembrandt Charms/Tafel Racing Porsche GT3. It was the team's first podium result of the season and matched the career-best Rolex Series result for 19-year-old Lux, who also finished third in the GT class last year in the Brumos Porsche 250 at Daytona International Speedway. For Henzler, who started from the pole position and led 33 laps, it was his first podium result in the Rolex Series since a second-place GT performance in the 2006 season finale at Miller Motorsports Park.
"I had a good car," Henzler said. "We started on pole and I was able to lead a lot of laps early before I turned over to Eric. We really had to focus on managing our rear tires and we ended the day on the podium in third. The Tafel guys did a great job on the car and Eric had a strong stint behind the wheel and kept us up there. Our best finish of the year."
"It feels really good," Lux contributed. "We are qualifying in the top three every race, so we're starting good, and to finish there makes it all the more better. The race was good. I took the middle stint, and left Wolf to do what he's out there to do. It's just a good result for us."
After starting third, Kelly Collins and No. 07 Banner Engineering Pontiac GXP.R co-driver Paul Edwards came home fourth. Collins led seven laps during his stint before turning the car over to Edwards, who overcame a penalty for avoidable contact to preserve the team's third top-four result of the season. Collins and Edwards are now within nine points of the GT points leaders with seven races remaining on the schedule.
Drew Staveley and Mark Pavan rounded out the Pontiac GXP.Rs banner day with a fifth-place run in the No. 30 Racers Edge Motorsports Pontiac GXP.R. It was the second consecutive top-five run for Staveley--who also finished fifth last weekend at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca with James Gue as his co-driver--and was a personal best for Pavan, topping a previous career-best Rolex Series run of 15th in the VIR 400 last month. Staveley led nine laps.
Dominik Farnbacher and Leh Keen made it two Farnbacher Loles Motorsports Porsches in the top-six positions with a sixth-place run in the No. 85 Shoes for Crews/Recaro Porsche GT3. Joe Sahlen and Will Nonnamaker picked up their best result of the season with a seventh-place performance in the No. 42 Team Sahlen Chevrolet Corvette and earned the SunTrust "Improve Your Position" Award for their run from 21st on the starting grid. The 42 machine was the last car to finish on the lead lap.
Long--who led two laps--and 2005 Rolex Series GT champion finished one lap down in eighth in the No. 81 Porsche. Marc Bunting and Dominic Cicero II finished ninth in the No. 57 Stevenson Automotive Chevrolet Corvette, and Braintree, Mass. resident RJ Valentine combined with Andy Lally to finish 10th in the No. 66 TRG Porsche GT3. Last year, Lally and Bunting co-drove to the victory at Lime Rock Park en route to the 2006 Rolex Series GT championship.
Despite starting from the front row and leading 17 laps, Ham and co-driver Tremblay endured a season-worst 11th-place result, snapping a streak of five straight top-seven results. Tom Nastasi also led one lap in the No. 15 Blackforest Motorsports Ford Mustang Cobra GT but wound up 17th with co-driver Alex Tagliani, who retired after 87 laps due to damage from a few different incidents.