Automatic Racing Ends Grand-Am Cup Season on the Podium at VIR ALTON, Va. -- Automatic Racing ended the 2006 Grand-Am Cup season on a high note, finishing second, fourth and twelfth in the team's first endurance effort during the Grand Sport Six...
Automatic Racing Ends Grand-Am Cup Season on the Podium at VIR
ALTON, Va. -- Automatic Racing ended the 2006 Grand-Am Cup season on a high note, finishing second, fourth and twelfth in the team's first endurance effort during the Grand Sport Six Hour Enduro at Virginia International Raceway on Saturday.
The race began Saturday afternoon and included two hours of night racing. To make things more challenging, rain began to fall at the start of the final hour. Skilled driving, quick pit stops and an excellent strategy helped Automatic Racing stay near the front for the entire race, despite the tough conditions.
Jeff Segal and Nick Longhi teamed up in the No. 90 BMW M3, taking second. It marks the third podium finish for Segal and the No. 90 entry this season.
Segal started the race from the fifth spot on the grid and ran in the top five for much of his stint, even leading at one point. Segal handed the BMW over to Longhi near the end of the third hour, and the car returned to the track in eighth. Longhi worked his way back up, and when the rain began with an hour to go he took the race lead.
Eventually, Longhi had to pit for rain tires, sending Segal back out on track for the finish. Longhi had built up such a long lead that Segal re-entered the race in second, losing just one position. Segal held onto second for the rest of the race.
"I've worked with Nick in the past couple of years, and we were supposed to be teammates this year but it just didn't happen," explained Segal. "I had a blast driving with Nick and I learned a lot from him as I always do. I couldn't see enough at the end to know who was behind me. I just drove and hoped we would get second."
"The car was perfect. It was as fast at the end as it was at the beginning," said Longhi. "(Team manger) Joe Varde went to a lot of trouble to make sure we had good brakes from the first lap until the last lap. I've got to thank the team for letting me do this."
Dave Riddle, Kris Wilson and David Russell drove to a finish of fourth in one of the best races for the No. 09 BMW M3 this year. All three drivers kept the car in the top ten throughout the long race, and during the final hour Wilson was second behind his teammate Longhi. A late-race stop for rain tires resulted in an eventual finish of fourth.
"We ran the race exactly as we needed to and stuck to the same plan all weekend," said Russell. "The necessity of rain tires is all that kept us from a podium finish. We had an electrical problem at the very end with our ignition switch and we lost about ten seconds, but otherwise the car was flawless."
"I've got to thank Kris and David for doing a great job. I think we did everything we could do and it's great to finish fourth in a six-hour race. It's a pretty good showing for us," said Riddle.
Emil Assentato and LP Dumoulin rallied back from an incident at the start of the race to finish 12th in the No. 91 Automatic Racing BMW M3. Assentato was pushed off course at the start of the race by another entrant, and he went into turn two behind the rest of the field. Undaunted, Assentato began working his way back up, and by the end of his stint he had made up ten positions.
"I wanted to stay out of trouble but I got knocked off the track. It affected the tow on the right front, but the car stayed together and the crew did a great job. In a six-hour race you've got to keep it together and keep going," commented Assentato.
Dumoulin continued the charge when he took over from Assentato, and by the end of the race the co-drivers had the No. 91 BMW up to 12th, marking an improvement of 25 positions.
In addition to their usual crew, Automatic Racing was proud to welcome guest crewmember Robert Bursak to the team. Bursak, from St. Louis, Missouri, was given a weekend on the Automatic Racing crew as a very special birthday gift from his wife. Bursak's hard-working vacation was rewarded by seeing his team on the podium.
Announcements about the 2007 race season will be posted at www.AutomaticRacing.com, so fans can keep up with all of Automatic Racing's news.
-credit: automatic racing