Podium Finish Dashed With Five Minutes To Go At New Jersey Motorsports Park Millville, NJ - The APR Motorsport crew was oddly quiet in pits during the closing stages of the KONI ST race at New Jersey Motorsports Park today, knowing well that ...
Podium Finish Dashed With Five Minutes To Go At New Jersey Motorsports Park
Millville, NJ - The APR Motorsport crew was oddly quiet in pits during the closing stages of the KONI ST race at New Jersey Motorsports Park today, knowing well that racing can be a cruel sport and no race is finished until all the cars cross the finish line. Sadly, as has happened more than once this season, the aforementioned podium finish was ripped from the clutches of the team with a mere 4 minutes and 37 seconds to go in the race.
With Dion von Moltke behind the wheel, the APR Motorsport/BBS Wheels #171 VW GTI was bumped multiple times repetitively, culminating it having it's right drivers door caved in and being spun off track by the 5th place car at turn in the braking zone of turn 2. The over-ambitious pass attempt ended up taking both cars off circuit and ended all chances for Dion and his teammate Ian Baas, as well as the highly placed Acura that struck them, from reaching podium with mere minutes left in the 2.5 hour endurance race.
The weekend was full of successes that kept ending in frustration and was truly a tough one to swallow for APR Motorsport. Saturday, the #171 car of Baas and von Moltke initially qualified second in the hands of Ian Baas. Hours later the team was notified the #171 car moved back to the 11th spot for " traveling too slow on circuit" during qualifying, something that Ian was doing intentionally (and is actually rather frequent in racing) in an effort to gain a gap between himself and the cars in front of him as to facilitate the fastest lap possible.
Starting the race on Sunday in the 11th spot due to the penalty, Baas quickly and smoothly made his way up to the 8th spot, handing the car over the von Moltke slightly before the halfway point of the race. Quick pit work gained the #171 time during the stop, with the car gaining multiple spots in the pits. Things were looking very good for the #171, as they were now outside of the pit sequence with four of the six cars in front of them and knew it was only a matter of time before the 3rd place would come knocking. As anticipated, von Moltke found himself en route to a podium (in fourth place) with about 15 minutes to go. While carefully pushing as hard as possible towards the front in an effort to gain one of those last three vital spots, the aforementioned accident took the 4th place #171 car of von Moltke and Baas out of podium contention, their ending up in 15th place due to the contact.
Dion said about the race weekend: "I feel the worst for Ian as he did such an incredible job this weekend. He qualified the car in P2 only to be penalized for trying to keep space from others on track. He drove an incredible stint in the race, handing the car to me in 8th place, well positioned to finish on the podium. I was up to 4th place when I was aggressively pushed off track by the 5th place Acura, taking us both out of any contention for the podium. I really feel Grand-Am must find a way to more effectively deal with these types of situations as we seemingly spend far more time under yellow than green in KONI this year. This should have been a podium day for us, but now we move on to Miller, where the GTI's should be really good."
Baas had much to add: "The race was weekend was definitely an emotional rollercoaster. The second place qualifying being revoked hurt, but starting eleventh definitely motivated me achieve a good result. The race was pretty aggressive, with pushing everywhere, and lots of dust and dirt making for poor visibility. I ran a clean and consistent first stint for a little over an hour before I turned the car over to Dion during a double yellow and a great pitstop. But what looked to be the teams first podium was stolen from us when an overanxious competitor hit our car repeatedly over a lap, eventually causing an accident that effectively removed both our car and his from podium contention. Team APR really gave a us everything we needed to win this race, but as with many races beforehand this year, factors out of our control kept us our ultimate goal. I look forward to the next two races and believe we will again have great chances at a podium finish which is frankly much deserved for this first year team."
APR's other car in the race, the #181 APR Motorsport/Team Janica Racing VW GTI of regular team driver Mark White and German Touring car specialist Sabine Schmitz (filling in for regular teammate to White, Randy Pobst, who had another racing conflict), suffered a minor mechanical failure during the opening five laps and had to be retired.
White said: "I was really looking forward to this weekend after our 7th at Trois-Rivieres, our last race. We've been knocking on the podium door for too long this season and with Sabine's great endurance-minded racing style, I felt our chances were really good to stand on the podium, likely next to Ian and Dion. Sadly, a defective part caused the car to lose power while Sabine was making a run towards the front, knocking us out of the race pretty early. You can't win them all, but I know I intend to do everything within my power to see we do so at Miller and VIR."
Sabine added: "I really want to thank Mark White and APR Motorsport for having me fill in for the ever fast Randy Pobst. I had big shoes to fill while subbing for Randy and I wish we had the opportunity to challenge for the lead, as the car was capable of winning. I really enjoyed racing in America and I hope to be back in the US and in Grand Am for the 2009 season, maybe as early as the 24 Hours of Daytona, a race I've always dreamed of winning. (Note: Sabine is the winningest women endurance racer in the world and the only women with two 24 hour wins, both coming at the 24 Hours of Nurburgring.)"