Phoenix: Race report

Haywood, France make it two-in-a-row in Phoenix Ferrari of Washington wins Acxiom bonus in thriller PHOENIX, Ariz. (May 3, 2003) -- For the third round of the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series the 37 cars on the starting grid put together...

Haywood, France make it two-in-a-row in Phoenix
Ferrari of Washington wins Acxiom bonus in thriller

PHOENIX, Ariz. (May 3, 2003) -- For the third round of the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series the 37 cars on the starting grid put together the most exciting race of the season for fans on hand an Phoenix International Raceway and watching live on SPEED Channel. After plenty of door banging and nail biting action, Hurley Haywood and JC France walked away with their second win of the season at the AJ's Fine Foods 250.

The opening hour of racing was filled with all four Daytona Prototypes battling it out for the lead, with passing taking place among the four on nearly every lap. Just after a pass by Terry Borcheller in the Bell Motorsports #54 Chevy-powered Doran JE4 to take the lead away from David Donohue in the Brumos Racing #58 Porsche-engined FABCAR the two got into each other.

"I threaded the needle on that deal. I was lucky I didn't get hit, because they both were pretty much out of control," said Haywood, who was able to dodge both of the spinning Daytona Prototypes in front of him, diving between the two to take the lead for the first time during the race on lap 67. The #59 Porsche maintained the lead until it came into the pits, nearly out of gas, to take on fuel and fresh tires while France took over at the helm.

The pit stop gave the lead over to Darren Law in the G&W Motorsports #8 BMW-powered Picchio Daytona Prototype. However, the #8 Daytona Prototype lost its headlights and eventually was forced into the pits by race officials on lap 90. The team remedied the problem by taping a flashlight to the hood of the car, but by the time it returned to the track, the #8 machine, now with Andy Lally at the wheel, had dropped out of the top three.

Once on top of the leaderboard, France was there for the long haul. The rookie driver knew that he would be tight on fuel and began to slow his lap times to conserve, but when the Ferrari of Washington #33 Ferrari 360GT pulled within 20 seconds of the leader, France kicked up the pace and dismissed any threat from other competitors but not from the fuel gauge.

"We realized our fuel light was on the last couple of laps, but we stayed out there," admitted France. "We were out of gas at the finish. We wouldn't have made the finish if not for that last caution. I don't think we could have done another lap under green."

The second-place #33 Ferrari held a steady lead in the GT class over the Bell Motorsports #5 BMW M3, in third place overall, until the Ferrari was spun out by the GTS leading #48 Mustang of Heritage Motorsports. The spin allowed Mike Fitzgerald in the #5 BMW to move into the GT lead and second place overall, and put Brent Martini in the #33 Ferrari in hot pursuit as the clock ticked closer to the 2 3/4-hour time limit.

Martini made several attempts to pass Fitzgerald in the BMW, but could never quite work his way back to the front of the GT field until the final lap of the race. As the Ferrari and BMW hit the banking on NASCAR turns three and four, Martini made his move and passed for the GT lead and second-place position overall only moments for taking the checkered flag.

"I was worried about holding Mike off and then when Riggins bumped me and spun me out, all of a sudden we were in a different position. When I caught up to Mike he was losing his tires, but that car has a little more power than the Ferrari so it was just a matter of where I could get around him," explained Martini. "I tried a bunch of places. I thought maybe one last time I could get under him on the banking a little bit better. If I could get side by side with him going into the banking I might have a chance. And that's how it played out."

"The real mistake was not taking new tires during the yellow. We were in the back of the line and it wouldn't have cost us track position, so I should have done that," said Fitzgerald. "Even though I didn't (take tires), I felt like I could have held the Ferrari off and I did until the last corner. I had been braking in the middle of the road because I knew the Ferrari would probably be able to outbrake me. I tightened it up a lot more than normal on the last lap because I figured that's where he would get me. I didn't get a very good run on the banking because of it. He got underneath me and out dragged me into the banking."

The GT win by Ferrari of Washington, which posted the quickest time in the class in qualifying on Friday, earned the team an Acxiom Grand Touring Challenge bonus of $7,000.

Heritage Motorsports was forced to give up its position at the front of the GTS field for the start of tonight's race due to an engine change in the team's #48 Mustang after qualifying. However, it took Tommy Riggins no time at all to work his way back up through the field and into not only the GTS lead, but the top-three overall during the race.

An extended pit stop for the Mustang caused by jack trouble cost the team precious laps that they were unable to make back up in the overall standings, but that did not damage their bid for the GTS victory. Riggins and co-driver Machavern picked up their first GTS win of the season while finishing fourth overall.

"We had a good run," said Riggins. "We had an air jack failure on a pit stop and spotted the field a lap, but we finished on the lead lap, so we are happy about that."

Additional information on the Rolex Series and Grand-Am Cup is available online at www.grandamerican.com.

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Andy Lally , Terry Borcheller , Hurley Haywood , Darren Law , JC France , Tommy Riggins , Brent Martini