Upset Special: Zonta, Jonsson Win Wet, Wild Verizon Wireless 250, In Round 3 Of Rolex Sports Car Series
GT Class Win Goes To Werner And Keen
MILLVILLE, N.J. (May 3, 2009) - Wet and wild from the outset, Sunday's Verizon Wireless 250 was a water-marked battle at New Jersey Motorsports Park, won in a stunning upset by Ricardo Zonta and Nic Jonsson in the No. 76 Krohn Racing Ford Lola.
They then quickly went to work on re-acclimating themselves to Victory Lane post-race protocol. For Zonta, this was his first win in the Rolex Sports Car Series. Jonsson's only previous victory in the series came in 2005 at Waktins Glen International.
The win may have been surprising but it also was commanding; the margin of victory was 44.752 seconds, over the runner-up No. 10 SunTrust Racing Ford Dallara co-driven by Max Angelelli and Brian Frisselle.
Afterward, Zonta - from Curicuba, Brazil - revealed that the team had an additional challenge besides the weather.
"We did not have radio [communication]," he said. "So, I had no information during the race. We were last on the restart (on Lap 44) so I had to catch everybody. I tried to push as hard as I could.
"The car was excellent. The conditions, they were changing a lot out there."
Krohn Racing is learning on the fly about their potential. Jonsson - a native of Sweden now living in Buford, Ga. - pointed out that this is only the second year for the team using the Lola chassis, and this season marks a return to Ford engines for the first time since 2006.
"We're starting to be competitive everywhere we go," Jonsson said.
Sunday's race, Round 3 of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16, started amid a steady rain - on an increasingly challenging 2.25-mile, 14-turn road course. Conditions got the upper hand on competitors immediately, in the form of a two-car Daytona Prototype mishap on the very first turn of the opening lap of the two-hour, 45-minute event. The wreck involved two cars - and ruined the chances of the race's defending champions repeating.
Mark Patterson, sharing the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley with Ozz Negri - they won here last autumn - rammed the back of the No. 13 Beyer Racing Pontiac Riley, being driven by Ricky Taylor. The impact sheared off the No. 60's front cowling and sent the car to the garage, its day done as far as contending was concerned.
"It's not Ricky's fault," Patterson said. "We got a good start and went up the middle ... it was very dark and hard to see. I tried to get off the gas in time and the next thing I knew, there was a gap way too small to get my car through it. Ricky braked up ahead and I clipped him on the right rear. Our left front is shot."
And that was just the start.
The rain continued to worsen. How wet was it? On Lap 32 - just over an hour into the race - a caution flag came out solely because of standing water at various points on the course. The caution lasted until the 44th lap, approximately a half-hour later.
After that, the 31-car field raced the rest of the way, as huge rooster-tails of water belied the fact the rain actually did let up slightly as the afternoon wore on.
Reigning Daytona Prototype series co-champions Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas, who started their No. 01 TELMEX Lexus Riley on the outside front row, were never a factor due to a series of mechanical issues. The first was a faulty windshield wiper - wrong day for that, to be sure - that forced a costly green flag pit stop on Lap 18.
After the Zonta-Jonsson and Angelelli-Frisselle 1-2 result, rounding out the Daytona Prototype top five:
- Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas, No. 12 Verizon Wireless Porsche Riley
- David Donohue and Darren Law, No. 58 Brumos Racing Porsche Riley by Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas.
- Mark Wilkins and Burt Frisselle, No. 61 AIM Autosport Ford Riley.
The production-based GT class was won by Dirk Werner and Leh Keen, in the No. 87 Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche GT3. They ended with a margin of victory of one lap over the runner-up No. 66 AXA/Mitchell Rubber/Wealth Management Strategies Porsche GT3 of Spencer Pumpelly and Ted Ballou.
The No. 87 and No. 66 finished an impressive eighth and ninth, respectively, overall.
The rest of the GT top five:
- Bryan Sellers and Eric Lux, No. 86 Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche GT3 (10th overall);
- Andy Lally and Justin Marks, No. 67 Construct/Corp/No Fear Energy Drinks/Voodoo Ride/K1 Speed Porsche GT3 (12th overall);
- Robin Liddell and Andrew Davis, No. 57 Bryan Mark/Stevenson Automotive Group/VIN Solutions Pontiac GXP.R (13th overall).
After a week off, the Rolex Sports Car Series resume on May 17 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterrey, Calif., for the Verizon Festival of Speed presented by SPEEDCOM Communications.
POST-RACE QUOTES TO NOTE:
David Donohue, after a fourth-place finish allowed him to retain the Daytona Prototype points lead: "I didn't know we were on a podium position. I came up on the 13 car coming up into Turn 12. Visibility for us was really horrible, the way the windshield wiper was depositing its rubber onto the windshield. I didn't trust that he knew I would be coming through, and I backed out of it. The 12 car (Bernhard) took total advantage, and that was it, there was nothing that I could do. They were really fast. We were off all weekend long, so for Brumos Racing, this was really a great result after how badly we were running in practice and qualifying."
Patrick Dempsey, after earning a career-best GT class finish of seventh, driving with Joe Foster: "I love this track. I had a great time here, I had a great finish, and I really enjoyed myself the whole time. I was really relaxed and confident, and I had a blast all weekend. I was second this morning in practice and I felt really comfortable. I really like the rain. I feel really comfortable in the rain. I just tried to have fun. I didn't feel any pressure, I just want to go out and have fun. I think the improvements on the track made a big difference - it's nice to have grass! The chicane is very nice. It made for good racing, because we could stay close to the DPs. I have to credit all the DP drivers, they were really respectful today. Everybody drove really smart, which is a great thing about this series. All the drivers realized how difficult the conditions were, and they really took care of each other. It's a great series to be part of, I'm happy for the result, and I'm happy for Mazda and having a great result for El Grado. It's been a great weekend. Conditions were bad, but that's racing. I had a blast."