Mexico City: Race report

Gidley and McDowell Victorious in Mexico City Taylor, Angelelli and SunTrust Take Daytona Prototype Crowns MEXICO CITY (November 5, 2005) -- In the inaugural trip south of the border for the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series, a large ...

Gidley and McDowell Victorious in Mexico City
Taylor, Angelelli and SunTrust Take Daytona Prototype Crowns

MEXICO CITY (November 5, 2005) -- In the inaugural trip south of the border for the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series, a large and enthusiastic crowd saw Michael McDowell and Memo Gidley co-drive the No. 19 Finlay Motorsports BMW Riley to victory in La Gran Final de la Serie Rolex Sports Car at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City. The first-time Rolex Series winners crossed the finish line ahead of Max Angelelli, who joined teammate Wayne Taylor in clinching the 2005 Daytona Prototype team and driver championships in the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley.

Fans were treated to close competition and great racing at Mexico City's famed 2.786-mile, 17-turn circuit, and with five lead changes and no caution periods, it took a late-race pit stop for fuel by hometown favorite Luis Diaz in the No. 01 Telmex CompUSA Lexus Riley to determine the outcome of the 90-lap sprint. Gidley, driving the No. 19 BMW that McDowell qualified on the pole, took advantage of the No. 01 machine's stop to take the lead and later held off Angelelli to score the maiden-win for the first-year Finlay Motorsports team and the first Daytona Prototype win for BMW. The winners averaged 92.859 mph and crossed the finish line 1.484 seconds ahead of the No. 10 Pontiac. Diaz and co-driver Scott Pruett, who both led the race, finished third.

"It's awesome to be in Mexico, I just love the people down here," Gidley said. "I lived in La Paz, Mexico for 13 years, my sisters went to school down here, and I consider all the Mexican people my second family. It's great to get our first win down here. The Finlay team has done a great job all year. We really earned this one, we were fast in qualifying, we were fast in the warm up, and we won it in the race. It's a tribute to Finlay Motorsports."

McDowell--also competing in tomorrow's Champ Car World Series finale while in Mexico City--logged his first career Rolex Series pole just one day before, and led seven laps during his opening stint.

"The start was really busy, (Jorg) Bergmeister went under both Scott and I before the start finish line, and made it very difficult down there, but it was great all weekend," McDowell said. "Finlay Motorsports did a great job, and we really want to attribute this win to the whole crew. They did an unbelievable job all season, and this is a brand new team that started from scratch in December. To get a win in our first season is unbelievable, I just can't thank the whole team enough."

Coming into the race with a 32-point lead in both the team and driver championship chases, Angelelli and Taylor were virtual locks with SunTrust to clinch both titles in Grand American's first ever trip to Mexico. Taylor, who started the race, clinched his share of the driver championship--along with the No. 10 SunTrust team--the moment the green flag dropped.

"Coming into this race obviously Max and I just needed to do a single lap to clinch the championship but that's not the way we go racing, so we decided to come here with the same strategy that we've had all year," Taylor said. "There was a certain amount of caution in the beginning to make sure Max got in the car, but we wanted to make it a real race. It's great to win this championship."

Angelelli and Taylor only needed to drive under green flag conditions to share the title, so when the Italian jumped in the cockpit on Lap 46, he and Taylor were co-champions.

"It's just great to win the championship here in Mexico," Angelelli said. "I feel really at home, and the language is pretty close to Italian. I can't wait to come back next year, and I want to thank everyone for coming over to look at our race. This year couldn't have been any better, we achieved everything that we wanted and it will be very hard next year to repeat it. It's been a really tough year, even if it looked easy from the outside."

The SunTrust duo combined to win a series-leading five races in 2005 and won the title by 34 points (439-405) over the Diaz and Pruett duo. They were victorious in the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona, Round 2 at Homestead-Miami, Barber Motorsports Park in July, and at both the CompUSA 200 and Crown Royal 250 at Watkins Glen International. Last season, SunTrust and Taylor finished second in the Daytona Prototype team and driver category to Pruett and then teammate Max Papis.

"It was just a great year, and a great team effort," Bill Riley, SunTrust Team Director and Owner of Riley Technologies said. "I can't say enough for how Max and Wayne drove this year. We completed every lap available in competition which just means the drivers did their jobs by keeping it on the track, and the crew did their job by prepping a great car. It was really pretty much the perfect year."

The second place for the SunTrust tandem gave them their 10th podium finish of the season, and by staying on the lead lap, were the only team to complete all 2050 race laps run in 2005.

While the SunTrust team steadily moved to the front after starting sixth, the No. 19 and No. 01 race cars battled for the lead for most of the race. After both McDowell and Pruett led during their opening stints, Gidley took the lead from Diaz on Lap 55, passing the Mexican at the entrance into the "stadium" portion of the course. Diaz returned the favor four laps later, pulling an inside move in Turn 4, but without enough fuel to finish the race, was forced to pit with just 16 laps to go.

"We gave everything and we had a good battle with Memo," Diaz said. "The team did a great job, but unfortunately our engine consumed more gasoline than we wanted to and we did that stop that I feel cost us the race. We could have won. Scott did a great job, although he was hurt. I am happy because we did all we could, unfortunately we didn't win."

Pruett--racing with a broken toe he suffered in IROC Series action last weekend--brought the crowd to its feet when he led the first lap and stayed up front for a race-high 39 laps before handing the No. 01 machine over to Diaz.

"Fortunately or unfortunately we had the 'Little Engine That Could,'" Pruett said. "We have a 4.3 liter engine and we have to run it pretty hard. The penalty for that is that we just don't get as good of fuel mileage. Even though we wished we could have done it on one stop, we couldn't so we just had to run hard the whole time. Luis did a great job and it's great to come down here. I really feel a part of Mexico because of my good friend here. Second in the championship, we wished we could have done better, but next year we have another chance at the championship, and we can go out and get a hold of it. It's been a great race, a great time, and thanks so much to all the fans."

McDowell took the overall lead after the No. 01 machine switched drivers, and led the next seven laps. On Lap 46, when the lead group pitted for fuel and switched pilots, Diaz found himself in clean air at the front of the pack. Diaz led a total of 23 laps and was the undisputed hero of the day in front of his countrymen.

"I want to thank Chip Ganassi, Scott Pruett, Telmex, all of the media, my family and the people on the grandstands," Diaz said. "They were fantastic, and I would like to have been in the top of the podium. We will be here again in March next year, fighting."

Cort Wagner and Stefan Johansson powered the No. 02 Telmex New Century Mortgage Lexus Riley to a fourth-place finish, putting both Chip Ganassi Racing Daytona Prototypes in the top four. It was the fifth top-five finish of the season for the duo. Elliott Forbes-Robinson and Butch Leitzinger brought home the No. 4 Howard-Boss Motorsports fifth, cementing a successful 2005 campaign that saw two wins, eight top-five finishes, and third place in the Daytona Prototype team and driver standings.

MAGNUSSEN & EDWARDS WIN IN MEXICO; STANTON, TRG & PORSCHE CLAIM GT CHAMPIONSHIPS

Putting an exclamation point on a breakout season for the brand-new Pontiac GTO.Rs, Jan Magnussen and Paul Edwards took the GT class victory in their No. 64 TRG Pontiac GTO.R machine in convincing fashion, finishing in time to watch their teammates, the No. 65 TRG Pontiac GTO.R, clinch the 2005 GT team title.

Taking the lead when the No. 05 Sigalsport changed drivers late in the race, the No. 64 machine never looked back in claiming its third class victory in just seven races.

"Starting from the back was not that big of a deal," Edwards said. "The car was really good from turn four to turn 14, and then we would lose ground on the long straight. I turned the car over to Jan in second and he did the rest."

Both Pontiac GTO.Rs were forced to start at the back of the grid after a post-qualifying inspection revealed a technical infraction.

"Paul did a great job to make up the places from back of the grid," Magnussen said. "When I got the car we were in second, and I set out do consistent laps and make up as much room in the twisty parts as possible. The car was really good through the esses and I was able to drive away."

Although co-drivers Andy Lally and Marc Bunting helped bring the title to the No. 65 TRG team, they fell one position short of repeating as Rolex Series driver champions.

In a pressure-packed, bumper-to-bumper battle for third place, Lally tried everything possible in the No. 65 machine to pass David Murry's No. 80 Synergy Racing Porsche GT3 Cup throughout the race's final 15 laps. The nose-to-tail chase turned into a side-by-side battle on the final lap when Lally and Murry swapped several blows and the lead once. The nearly lap-long skirmish ended in the "stadium" portion of the track with Murry airborne and Lally sideways on the track. Murry continued on to take third place and clinch the GT driver title for his co-driver Craig Stanton. Lally eventually continued and finished fourth.

Stanton completed double-duty this weekend, starting the race in the No. 80 machine and finishing in the No. 81 Synergy Racing Porsche GT3 Cup, which he shared with Will Nonnamaker. Stanton qualified the No. 80 Porsche second, and after handing controls to Murry on Lap 52 and taking control from Nonnamaker on Lap 61, he saw his championship hopes literally right in front of him.

"This was exactly like last year when I won the Grand-Am Cup championship last year, and it came down to the last race and the last lap," Stanton said. "I think it was by 150 yards. This was one even closer. David is my hero, he did an unbelievable job. I started out my stint driving the No. 80 car and I drove my heart out. David carried on and he drove as hard as he could against the BMW and GTOs. And I hopped back in the No. 81 car and finished out the race right behind. I was literally third in line, right behind them. I had the best seat in the house to see David do an unbelievable job."

This is the second-consecutive championship season for Stanton, who last season won the Grand-Am Cup Series Grand Sport class crown in a Porsche 996.

For their excessive contact, Grand American Director of Competition Mark Raffauf fined both Lally and Murry $3,500. The money, which is equivalent to sending four children to Camp Boggy Creek, will be donated to the Eustis, Florida-based camp that is supported by Grand American.

"For some reason Craig Stanton ends up in these situations every year, I'm not sure how many more of these my heart can take," Murry said. "It's pretty stressful in a good way. The last two years it's come down to the last 100 yards of the last race. Andy Lally is such a great competitor, we got out and hugged after we got done. I knew it was going to be like that, and I knew he did too, it's just one of those things, we both wanted to win the championship."

Lally came into the weekend with a one-point lead over Stanton in the driver standings, but his fourth-place finish--combined with Stanton and Murry's third-place result--left Lally one point shy of back-to-back Rolex Series titles. He was the SGS class champion last season.

"I went in, and we had contact and I put the pass on him," Lally said. "I had about five car lengths on him going into the stadium turn, and then he hit me from behind, it was a silly move. It is tough that it went that way at the end. We were battling hard for the last 20 laps and then the ugly finish. Marc did a great job to keep us up there at the beginning, but it turned out all wrong."

BMW factory driver Bill Auberlen joined Gene Sigal and Matthew Alhadeff in the No. 05 BMW M3 for the weekend, and ran at the front of the GT pack throughout his stint. Two driver changes slowed the car, but the trio brought the car home second.

With the third-place finish, Porsche wrapped up the 2005 GT class manufacturer title, in a season that saw the German-based engine claim three class victories and climb on the podium 10 times.

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Paul Edwards , Stefan Johansson , Jan Magnussen , Memo Gidley , Max Papis , Scott Pruett , Wayne Taylor , Bill Auberlen , Elliott Forbes-Robinson , Luis Diaz , Will Nonnamaker , Andy Lally , Michael McDowell , Craig Stanton , Marc Bunting , Chip Ganassi , Gene Sigal , Matthew Alhadeff , Cort Wagner