Collins & Edwards finish Pontiac GXP.R 15th in rain swept Grand-Am race in New Jersey
Millville New Jersey (Sunday, May 3, 2009): Rain was the order of the day for Round 3 of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 race at Thunderbolt Raceway at the New Jersey Motorsports Park as Kelly Collins and Paul Edwards, stymied by a fog shrouded windshield, finished a disappointing 15th in the GT class.
The severe fogging conditions on the windshield, caused by the combination of cold rain and a hot engine, steamed up the windshield and reduced visibility to zero from the drivers' seat.
Sunday began as a wet and dreary day but the rain slackened as the fans braved the cool and wet climate in Millville New Jersey to take the traditional pre-race Grand-Am Fan Walk in the pits. Unfortunately just as the field formed up on the track to take the green flag start the rains intensified and Round 3 of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series was run under dreadful conditions for 2 hours and 45 minutes.
Actually for Kelly Collins and Paul Edwards the standing water and rain soaked track weren't as much of an issue as Kelly Collins and the #07 Banner Racing Pontiac GXP.R rowed, pun intended, out the storm and lead the race early on.
Kelly Collins, of Newport Beach California, started the race and led early as the rains pelted the Southern New Jersey track but he soon had problems seeing through the windshield eventually leading to a spin out of the lead when Kelly hit a large puddle he couldn't even see.
"Everything was fine early on but the windshield wiper only operated on the left hand side so it got to the point where I couldn't see out the right side," said Kelly Collins. "As it rained harder there it puddled up on the inside of the kink coming onto the main straightaway. I hit the puddle, the car aquaplaned and I spun the car.
"As I was working my way back up through the field I was passing around the outside in turn ten and three cars spun in front of me and I had to take to the grass again and I was back behind all of the cars I had just passed."
The problem for Collins and then Edwards worsened as there was almost zero visibility out the windshield of the #07 Pontiac due to heavy fogging and debris that caused the wiper to grind a swath into the windshield.
"As I was working my back up the order again the inside of the windshield started fogging and I literally couldn't make any more headway from that point on," said Collins. That was about an hour and fifteen minutes into the race. I then came in and Paul got in the car."
"When I got on the track I couldn't see anything, zero, and when I came into the pits the first time I was looking out the side window," said Paul Edwards. "You might as well have sprayed the windshield white."
Edwards made several stops under caution as the team tried many things to help cure the problem including replacing the windshield. During this time the #07 Pontiac GXP.R lost several laps.
"Unfortunately it wasn't wet enough in any of the practice sessions to get any spray or standing water on the track to create the steam and water we were getting on the windshield under these conditions," said Edwards. "I literally couldn't see anything. They made some changes but I still couldn't really see anything until the last 20 minutes when the rain slacked off. Then I could see left and see the puddles but that was about it."
"It was a disappointing deal because we work so hard to get ready for these races and the rain threw us a curveball," said team owner Leighton Reese. "We just got caught short. We practiced in the mist and light rain and while this was not a deluge this was the most rain we have had for a flag to flag race in three years of Grand-Am racing.
"It hurt us and I think we are tenth in points but we it is still early in the season and the points can tend to fluctuate wildly. We just cannot afford to have another bad result for the rest of the year so the pressure is on."
"At least the car is in one piece but we really have to look at this race as a DNF," concluded Collins. "But we have to put that behind us and look forward to Laguna although we do have to look at this fogging problem and correct that before we have another rain race like this one."
"Hopefully this will be the only bad finish of the year, but at least we finished, we got some points and our Pontiac GXP didn't get hurt," said Edwards.
The next race for LRPG Pontiac GXP.R and Paul Edwards and Kelly Collins will be Round 4 of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16, the Verizon Festival of Speed Presented by Speedcom at Mazda Speedway at Laguna Seca in Monterey California scheduled for May 17th 1009.