Porsche factory driver Mike Rockenfeller will not soon forget this first trip to the Virginia International Raceway. On Saturday, dismal wet weather conditions combined with a broken windshield wiper caused him to mistake the white flag for the ...
Porsche factory driver Mike Rockenfeller will not soon forget this first trip to the Virginia International Raceway. On Saturday, dismal wet weather conditions combined with a broken windshield wiper caused him to mistake the white flag for the checkered flag and accidentally slow his Alex Job Racing/Emory Motorsports Porsche Crawford one lap prematurely, handing the win to Michael McDowell. On Sunday, however, Rockenfeller redeemed himself, diving underneath Scott Pruett and Max Angelelli three turns from the end of the 77-lap Rolex Sports Car Series VIR 400 to complete a chaotic, three-way scramble to the finish that left second-place finisher Angelelli questioning the German's tactics.
With one lap to go, Angelelli held a narrow lead over Pruett and Rockenfeller. As the three cars entered Turn 14 of the 17-turn road course, an errant GT car forced Angelelli to momentarily let off the gas. This allowed Pruett to close within inches of the Italian's SunTrust Racing Pontiac Riley. As the two drivers jostled for position, Rockenfeller forced his way past both of them; briefly making contact with Angelelli before pulling away for his second win and fourth podium finish of the year.
"It's great to win this one," said Rockenfeller. "I was struggling to catch (Angelelli and Pruett). Without the moves they made at the end, I would have had no chance to overtake them. I was just following them and watching them fight with each other. Then I saw a gap and I had a good run on the exit from the corner. I went through the gap and we touched a little bit. It was close and very hard. I think it was just a great race."
"It was an unbelievably job by Mike on the last lap," added Rockenfeller's co-driver, Patrick Long. "I think Mike was fortunate that Scott and Max were getting together like they did on the last lap and he capitalized on that. I think everything was straight up fair racing. There was no cutting corners or illegal driving. It was fair racing and he did a great job."
Angelelli and his teammate, Wayne Taylor, saw things differently. "On the last corner, I thought the (GT car) was just going to take his regular line. But he just went wide and that surprised me. So I slowed expecting him to come back down. Scott tried to make a move and obviously I was trying to defend my position. Scott again was very fair - as usual - and everyone saw the end result. I think he will not be penalized and I wonder why. At the last corner, I never expected him to cut the corner in traffic. Normally, I get penalized for that."
"Max drove unbelievably well," Taylor said. "To lose the race on the last corner is disappointing. And the most disappointing part is that Max is blamed for any contact. And yet today, they made contact and it's okay. What sort of message does that send? It's clear that if you look last year we won the championship. This year we have the same drivers, the same car, and the same team. There's got to be something wrong when we can't get to the podium. I think (GrandAm's) equivalency formula is a little out of whack right now. It's nice to be back on the podium, but there's still a lot of work to be done. We're at the limit of what we can do with our resources and GrandAm needs to check this out."
Pruett and co-driver Luis Diaz ended up third in their Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley. "Any of our cars could have won the race," Pruett explained. "We were all going for it at the end. It just kept escalating, escalating, and escalating. We were trying to take advantage of slow traffic with Max and at the same time Rockenfeller was trying to take advantage of both of us. It was a great race. That's what racing's all about. It was nail-biting to the checkered flag."
The No. 19 Finlay Racing Ford Crawford and the Krohn Racing Ford Riley rounded out the top-five. Rockenfeller and Long now hold a five-point lead over Jorg Bergmeister in the Daytona Prototype drivers' championship.
The TRG Pontiac GTO.Rs finished one-two in the GT class, with Andy Lally beating his teammate, Paul Edwards, to the finish line by 8.812 seconds for his first class win of the season. Randy Pobst and Ian Baas finished third in the No. 36 TPC Racing Porsche. Lally and Bunting now hold a five-point lead in the GT drivers' championship.
"It was just awesome to win," Lally said after his first win of the season. "It finally feels good to get a win after two podium finishes."
The Rolex Series will return to the track May 7 at Laguna Seca.