By Pat Jennings, Sportscar series reporter
- Ganassi Racing wins again
- Pruett and Angelelli battle for the win
- Auberlen and Dalla Lana take GT class win
Ganassi wins again in the Grand-Am Rolex Series
Scott Pruett slid past Max Angelelli with just over five minutes remaining in Saturday's Grand Prix of Miami to hand Chip Ganassi Racing its second Rolex Sports Car Series win in as many races in 2011.
The race-winning move came at the end of the infield portion of the 11-turn Homestead-Miami Speedway road course, just as the tires on Angelelli's SunTrust Racing Chevrolet Dallara were starting to degrade. With his car wiggling under braking and hard acceleration, Angelelli could not keep Pruett's BMW Riley at bay as the latter sailed by en route to the win.
"I just had to patient behind (Angelelli)," said Pruett, who bided his time behind Angelelli during the final 15 minutes. "You could start to see him slip a little bit and that was the only way that I was ever going to make that move on him. So it was all about tires and tire management for a distance."
Angelelli seemed to be faster than Pruett on the oval portion of the track for most of the race, blowing by Pruett with ease at one point. But Pruett was quicker in the twisty infield and used that to his advantage as Angelelli's tires started to wear out due to the track's rough texture. The jagged nature of the pavement at Homestead has always been an issue for Rolex Series teams, but it was made worse this year on account of the series' new Continental tires.
I just had to patient behind (Angelelli).
Ganassi Racing has won its share of Rolex Series races, but today's win was remarkable in that Pruett's co-driver, Memo Rojas, was assessed a drive- through penalty for contact with Mark Blundell's Ford Riley about an hour into the race. The penalty dropped Rojas from first to 11th, but he needed just 24 laps to retake the lead.
"I was disappointed (with the penalty)," said Rojas in the post-race press conference. "We could have lost the chance to win the race at that point. I don't feel honestly that I deserved a penalty."
Darren Law passed Angelelli a few minutes from the end of the race to finish second in the Action Express Porsche Riley. "I think we were pretty equal with everybody today," explained Law. "I could see Max slipping more and more. He ran out (of tires) and I saw an opportunity to get by."
Angelelli and his teammate, Ricky Taylor, hung on for third. "(Pruett) passed me like I was in second gear," said Angelelli. "This race was all about managing the tires. I thought I timed the tire management right, but actually I came up short and I ran out of tires too early."
The AIM Autosport BMW Riley and the second Action Express entry rounded out the top-five in the headlining Daytona Prototypes class. The pole sitting Gainsco Bob Stallings Chevrolet Riley finished eighth thanks to a suspension setup that did not match up well with the team's tires.
Bill Auberlen and Paul Dalla Lana won the GT class in the Turner Motorsport BMW M3, finishing 5.639 seconds ahead of the No. 69 SpeedSource Mazda RX-8 shared by Emil Assentato and Jeff Segal. Craig Stanton and John Potter survived a broken clutch and managed to come home third in the Magnus Racing Porsche GT3 Cup.
"The car was awesome," said Auberlen after his 100th Rolex Series race. "Last year we were here and we had a very fast car, but it would only go 15 or 20 laps before it shredded the tires. Coming with that knowledge, we worked purely on a set up that would get us a long way into a stint. It wasn't the fastest car in the race, but it was the fastest over a long run it looked like. It would run pretty hard when we wanted to."
Auberlen's car started smoking and losing gear oil with about 10 laps to go, but he managed to nurse it to the finish.
Last year, the Turner team raced a BMW M6, but it switched to the M3 for 2011. The M3 sports new bodywork, revised suspension and aerodynamics, and a taller windshield that creates more downforce. Auberlen also said the team has worked on making the car more reliable.
The next Rolex Series race is Saturday, April 9 at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama.