Mexico City: Race report

Gurney and Fogarty Pick Up First Rolex Series Victory in Thriller at Mexico City MEXICO CITY, Mexico (March 3, 2007) -- In a thrilling battle over the last 12 laps of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Mexico City 400k, Alex Gurney claimed the...

Gurney and Fogarty Pick Up First Rolex Series Victory in Thriller at Mexico City

MEXICO CITY, Mexico (March 3, 2007) -- In a thrilling battle over the last 12 laps of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Mexico City 400k, Alex Gurney claimed the lead from Max Papis for the final time with slightly more than two laps to go to claim a hard-earned first Rolex Series victory for himself, co-driver Jon Fogarty and the No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley team.

After taking over the No. 99 machine from Fogarty during a Lap 60 pit stop, Gurney found himself trailing Papis in the No. 75 Krohn Racing Pontiac Riley by as many as 12 seconds. Without the benefit of a full-course caution, Gurney managed to chip away at Papis' lead over his stint and finally caught up to the Italian within 15 laps of the checkered flag.

Taking advantage of slower traffic that bottled up Papis, Gurney took the lead with a door-banging pass in Turn 6 on Lap 88 of the 100-lap event. However, the 2004 Daytona Prototype co-champion quickly took up the chase and would not go away quietly. When Gurney was slowed by lapped traffic coming onto the front straight with five laps remaining, Papis pounced on the opportunity and won a drag race with Gurney to retake the lead.

Just as Papis had done, however, Gurney also kept the pressure on for a fight to the finish. On Lap 97, Papis spun off course in Turn 5, handing the lead to Gurney, who went on to win by 7.359 seconds. The maiden Rolex Series victory for Gurney came in his 22nd start on the same circuit where his father, legendary racer Dan Gurney, won a Formula 1 race in 1964. Gurney led a total of 11 laps.

"Jon handed the car to me in second so we knew we had a chance," said Gurney. "The track was working well at the beginning of my stint, but after I got by Max, I though I was going to pull away. Max was super-quick after that, and when we caught the GT car in Turn 8 and he got by, it was like a dagger in my heart. Unfortunately for him but lucky for us, he had a little problem a few laps later, and we were able to get back by. I couldn't be happier for (team owner) Bob Stallings, GAINSCO and the whole team for how hard they work."

It was also the first Rolex Series victory for Fogarty, who made 13 previous Rolex Series starts before the Mexico City 400k. Fogarty ran the bulk of his stint in second position, but took over the lead for three laps when polesitter Colin Braun pitted before him.

"On the start, Colin and I got away pretty good," said Fogarty. "I wasn't able to close the gap with him, so we decided to conserve the fuel a bit. With that, we could give Alex the car with fresher tires. The track is tough, but the race was very enjoyable. It was a wild race and I let Alex do all the dirty work. Hopefully, wins will come more frequently from now on."

Braun and Papis combined to lead a race-high 86 laps. After starting from the pole position, Braun led throughout his 56-lap stint before turning the car over to Papis. It was Braun's second consecutive second-place result in Mexico City, as the 18-year-old claimed his first-ever Rolex Series podium last year.

"It's great to get another podium here," Braun said. "The Krohn car was great all day. I think Max did a wonderful job. Everything was pretty smooth and the team had the car setup pretty good. I wish we could've won, but that's racing."

Papis led 30 laps en route to his first Rolex Series podium result since a third-place performance in the 2005 Brumos Porsche 250 at Daytona International Speedway. The Italian is in his first full season of Rolex Series competition since he shared the 2004 Daytona Prototype championship with Scott Pruett.

"The Krohn Racing car was hitting the mark every time," said Papis. "The problem we ran into was that we hit traffic at the wrong time. I saw Alex coming and couldn't do anything. When I saw the three-wide in Turn 8, I thought it was my opportunity and was able to get by him. I feel bad for Colin and the Krohn team for my mistake, but I want to congratulate the (No.) 99 guys for a job well done."

Finishing third were Jan Magnussen and Max Angelelli in the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley. Magnussen ran inside the top five throughout the first 31 laps before making contact with the rear of Bill Auberlen's No. 05 Luggage Express Sigalsport BMW Riley. Magnussen was subsequently given a drive-through penalty for what officials determined to be avoidable contact.

While the No. 10 machine only lost one position as a result of the penalty, Magnussen lost considerable track position. He turned the car over to Angelelli on Lap 48, and the Italian brought the car home third. It was the 10th consecutive race that Angelelli and Magnussen finished inside the top 10 as co-drivers, and also completed a top-three sweep for Pontiac.

"We had a very good start," Magnussen said. "I was just trying to maintain the pace of the (No.) 05 car as the leaders were pulling away a little bit. I had an issue coming out of Turn 4 and unfortunately made contact with him. It didn't really help our cause today, but Max did a really good job in the car and the race was good for the points."

"It was a difficult race for me without power steering," added Angelelli. "Grand-Am is a very tough series. You have to be flat-out the whole time to keep up with the top guys. For us, it was a good finish for the championship and the SunTrust team did another good job today."

With a fourth-place finish in the Mexico City 400k, Pruett retained the Daytona Prototype points lead by just three points, 63-60, over Magnussen and Angelelli. Pruett shared the No. 01 TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley for the first time at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez with Mexico City native Memo Rojas, who started third.

Rojas dropped back a few positions in the running order during the early stages of the race but gradually battled his way back toward the front before handing the controls to Pruett on Lap 52. Pruett assumed fourth place following the round of pit stops and maintained that position through the finish.

Patrick Long and Jorg Bergmeister completed the top five in the No. 23 Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team Porsche Crawford, finishing one lap behind the race winners. The result came on a weekend in which the Ruby Tuesday team had to make substantial repairs on the car's front suspension after a crash in Thursday practice by Bergmeister.

TREMBLAY, HAM GIVE SPEEDSOURCE TEAM FIRST ROLEX SERIES GT CLASS WIN

SpeedSource team owner Sylvain Tremblay and co-driver Nick Ham scored their first-career Rolex Series GT victory in the Mexico City 400k driving the No. 70 Mazda/Mazdaspeed RX-8, giving Mazda its first-ever Rolex Series win.

Tremblay took over for Ham on Lap 55 of the 92-lap event and led a class-high 42 laps to beat Dominik Farnbacher in the No. 85 Shoes for Crews/Recaro Porsche GT3 by 22.284 seconds to score the first-career Rolex Series win for both drivers. The race ran without a full-course caution, putting extra pressure on the SpeedSource crew during the driver change and pit stop. The Florida-based team worked flawlessly, sending Tremblay--the winningest driver in Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series history--back on track with a comfortable lead.

"Taking on this Rolex Series program was a big challenge," said Tremblay. "All of the people at SpeedSource that put in all these hours to get this program to where it is. To come here and win for Mazda is a great achievement. The crowds here were very enthusiastic and very knowledgeable, and I can't wait to come back here next year. This was a great weekend."

Ham started the No. 70 machine from the class pole position, but quickly fell to fourth in the opening laps. The Englishman gradually moved back up the class leader board, taking back the point position on Lap 13 and leading 37 laps himself. Ham's victory comes in just his fifth-career Rolex Series start.

"The main concern at the start was not to get into any racing battles," said Ham. "We knew we had a really good car here, and we knew that once we got heat in the tires, we'd be fine. I just wanted to run clean laps during my stint and hand Tremblay the car with a chance to win. This Mazda RX-8 is a great car here and it really loves this track. (Engineer) David Haskell did a great job setting up this car, and the whole team did an awesome job all weekend."

For SpeedSource, the Mexico City win marks its first Rolex Series class triumph in just its sixth start. The team made just four GT starts in 2006 with an eye towards a full schedule in 2007, and is already seeing the reward of extra preparation. The No. 70 co-drivers carry a seven-point lead over their SpeedSource teammates Emil Assentato and Nick Longhi in the No. 69 FXDD Mazda RX-8 in the GT standings (61-54) heading into Round 3 at Homestead-Miami Speedway March 24. The No. 70 Mazda finished second at the event in 2006.

"With the effort by the SpeedSource team and the support of Mazda, this is truly a full team operation," continued Tremblay. "Last year, we agreed that we needed to take a step back and we decided to focus a lot on testing. When we came to Daytona this year, we thought we had a great shot to win. We're continuing to improve every day."

Farnbacher and co-driver Leh Keen--who held the GT class lead for the first 11 laps--finished second in the No. 85 Porsche GT3 for Farnbacher Loles Motorsports. Assentato and Longhi gave SpeedSource a second podium finish, coming home third in the No. 69 Mazda RX-8.

Bryce Miller and Dirk Werner made it two Farnbacher Loles Porsches in the class top-four with a fourth-place outing in the No. 87 MarquisJet/Recaro Porsche GT3. Werner also led two laps. Nathan Swartzbaugh and Andrew Davis completed the GT top five in the No. 72 Tafel Racing Porsche GT3.

NOTEBOOK

No. 61 Exchange Traded Gold/AIM Autosport Lexus Riley co-drivers Brian Frisselle and Mark Wilkins earned the SunTrust Improve Your Position Award in the Daytona Prototype class for their sixth-place result after starting 18th. Andy Lally and RJ Valentine took the GT award after improving from 14th to eighth from start to finish...

The Mexico City 400k was the first Rolex Series event to run without a full-course caution since the 2005 season finale, which was also run at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez. A total of four Rolex Series races have been caution-free...

Pontiac's sweep of the top-three positions was the first time one manufacturer claimed all three overall positions since the Rolex Series event at Phoenix International Raceway on September 10, 2005, which was also the last podium sweep for Pontiac.

-credit: garra

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Alex Gurney , Jan Magnussen , Max Papis , Jon Fogarty , Scott Pruett , Colin Braun , Emil Assentato , Dan Gurney , David Haskell , Andy Lally , Jörg Bergmeister , Max Angelelli , Sylvain Tremblay , Memo Rojas , Patrick Long , Chip Ganassi , Mark Wilkins , Nick Ham , Lehman Keen , Dominik Farnbacher , Bob Stallings , Dirk Werner , Nathan Swartzbaugh , Bryce Miller
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing , Krohn Racing , SpeedSource