The #15 CB Motorsports/DLGL Software Pontiac-Riley Daytona Prototype, with drivers Chris Bingham and Hugo Guenette aboard, just completed another weekend of world class sports car racing at the highly competitive Mid Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington Ohio. The weekend could be summed up as both promising and frustrating.
Team Manager John Petherbridge: "Having tested at the same course just a month earlier, the team arrived with high hopes of landing a top ten finish as we were confident the car was set up to perform. Unfortunately we spent most of the Thursday test day trying to work out some handling problems caused when we found the car was balanced incorrectly. After correcting this issue, we found ourselves competing at the top of the tables and posted the 5th and 8th quickest test times at certain points of Friday's practice sessions. This demonstrated the team's ability to compete with the rest of the field and gave us much optimism for the race on Saturday."
There are typically more than enough uncontrollable variables inherent in the testing process. The team decided to try and eliminate at least one of those variables by going with a single test driver.
"We had Hugo Guenette in the car for the majority of Thursday and Friday, as opposed to switching the drivers in and out, to really allow consistent feedback from one driver. Hugo, apart from being one of the quickest drivers in the series, has the ability to give the team precise and accurate feedback on the car's set up. CB Motorsports has been lucky this year not just to participate with Jacques and Hugo Guenette as drivers in the series, but also by benefiting from their considerable racing experience and technical knowledge. While many participants turn up just ready to drive, we have appreciated and benefited from their continued dedication to improvement and technical suggestions that have allowed us to improve throughout the year."
On Friday, Bingham attempted to qualify the car in what turned out to be a very short session.
"Friday afternoon saw Chris Bingham take to the wheel to place the #15 Pontiac Riley DP as high on the grid as possible for qualifying. Unfortunately for Chris the window was limited to just three laps before the #10 SunTrust car burst into flames on the back stretch, bringing out the black flag.
Bingham: "In a typical practice session you may have 10 to 12 laps to post your fastest run. It usually takes a couple of laps to warm the tires and get into a rhythm and I followed the #2 car and was preparing for my hot lap on lap three. At this point I passed the burning SunTrust car on the back stretch and the session was black flagged. We qualified 16th out of 21 as a result, yet I feel confident I had a car capable of earning a grid position in the top ten."
While race day dawned with clear blue skies covering the beautiful grounds of the Mid-Ohio circuit, the #15 car found itself starting the day under the cloud of a mechanical gremlin. With that problem resolved just in time for the start of the race, the team thought sure they would be sharing the bright sunshine right along with the rest of the grid. But another cloud with their name on it soon rolled in.
Petherbridge: "Saturday morning saw a final practice session during which the #15 car suffered a power steering failure. With the session only half way completed we pulled back into the garage and had the car fixed within the hour."
But the sun was not done hiding behind the clouds for this determined group of racers.
Petherbridge: "With Chris back in 16th, and knowing we had a car much quicker than those ahead of us, it was crucial that we make some passes early on and move up the field. As Chris Bingham dived inside of another DP, the driver failed to yield and spun Chris around into the gravel. Unfortunately the cars two rear wheels were buried in the gravel and we had to be towed out resulting in the first yellow of the race and in our losing two laps to the rest of the field.
"But, rather than give up the cause, Chris put in an amazing performance over the next few laps. Passing over ten GT cars per lap for three laps before settling in behind the other Daytona Prototypes, he then began to pick off four DP competitors yet was still two laps down. We pushed our fuel out as low as possible to make just one pit stop. That strategy helped us gain a lap back on the field. At this stop, Chris handed the car over to Hugo.
"Hugo quickly got up to pace and looked to continue Chris's charge back into the race until he made contact with one of the Brumos Porsche Daytona Prototype's and was ordered back into the pits for a one minute penalty. Hugo had felt that the other car had left enough room for him to make the pass but came back over at the last minute giving him nowhere to go. But that is racing and sometimes you just have to accept what happens.
"It is a real testament to Hugo's ability that upon returning to the race he once again picked up the pace and set some of our quickest times despite missing a sizeable portion of the front hood. In the end, the CB Motorsports/DLGL Software Pontiac-Riley came home a distant 23rd overall and 18th in the Daytona Prototype class.
"It was a frustrating weekend yet only because expectations are building for this young team who are beginning to demonstrate they can run with the series leaders on a consistent basis. With a deserved run of good fortune, a few more days of hard work, and a fresh set of tires we will be ready for the fight in Phoenix where perhaps this time we will have a chance to demonstrate what we know we are capable of."
Despite the frustrations on the track, CB Motorsports was very pleased to hosts guests and clients of McDonald Financial Group and Key Bank at a corporate hospitality event on Saturday.
Petherbridge ' We were delighted when McDonald Financial Group and Key Bank accepted our invitation to showcase the exciting Rolex Grand Am Series to their clients. Mc Donald Financial Group is the private banking and investment arm of Key Bank, who in turn are one of the largest and fastest growing national banks in North America. The ability to take corporate guests so close to the action, in the garages and trailers, and to view pit lane up close, brings a real sense of involvement for all participants. This really can not be achieved in some other series that have become so large and impersonal.
"The Rolex Grand Am series is the perfect showcase and corporate hospitality event for us. CB Motorsports would also like to extend thanks to the Mid Ohio Sports Car Course staff who made this event possible.