ROCKENFELLER/LONG SCORE LAST-LAP ROLEX GRAND-AM WIN IN ALEX JOB/RUBY TUESDAY PORSCHE CRAWFORD; TAKE POINTS LEAD DESPITE MISSING AN EVENT ALTON, Virginia -- April 24 - The Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team, making its debut as a partner with...
ROCKENFELLER/LONG SCORE LAST-LAP ROLEX GRAND-AM WIN IN ALEX JOB/RUBY TUESDAY PORSCHE CRAWFORD; TAKE POINTS LEAD DESPITE MISSING AN EVENT
ALTON, Virginia -- April 24 - The Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team, making its debut as a partner with Alex Job Racing, started that relationship on a high note as Mike Rockenfeller and Patrick Long scored a come-from-behind, last-lap victory yesterday in their Porsche Crawford at the Virginia International Raceway 400 to take the points lead in the Rolex Grand American Sports Car championship..
A thrilling last lap, last turn pass from third position by Mike Rockenfeller, a German driver now living in Monaco, sealed the team's second victory of the year in round five of the Grand American Rolex Series gives Rockenfeller/Long a five point lead in the drivers championship in the Daytona Prototype category.
Starting from the front row, Patrick Long raced into the lead on the first lap into the first turn. The young Californian was able to pace the field for the first 30 laps until a caution period slowed the action and he pitted on lap #31. Mike Rockenfeller took over the #23 Alex Job Racing-prepared Porsche Crawford returning to the fight in eighth place. From that position Rockenfeller ran steady fast laps until reaching third position. On the last lap, what looked like a certain bottom step of the podium became victory in the last turn. The leading Scott Pruett/Luis Diaz Lexus Riley was slowed by a GT competitor and the Angelelli/Taylor Pontiac Riley also had to lift, opening the door for Rockenfeller to rocket by to take the win.
Rockenfeller was particularly pleased as it was his miscue during Saturday's qualifying race that cost the team three points.
"It was a great win. Pat did a great job to lead the race during his stint and turn over the car with a lot left. The yellow came out and we had just passed the pits so some of the other cars beat us to pit lane. I left the pits in eighth and just focused on running clean laps and hoping the race would come back to me. The last lap I thought the race was over until the last turn when a GT car slowed the number 10 car and the 01, a gap opened and I raced through it to the win. It was redemption for the qualifying race, where the rain was so heavy it damaged the radio and limited my visibility, causing me to lift while in the lead when the white flag was displayed. I thought the race was over when there was one lap to go, and we had to settle for second place," said Rockenfeller, the defending FIA-GT champion in Europe last year.
"I had a good start and was able to negotiate the traffic to keep the car in the lead, "said Long, the only American employed by the Porsche factory as a race car driver. When the caution came on lap 30 we had just passed pit entry and we were beaten to the stop by a few cars. The team did a fast pit stop and Mike was able to make up ground. He was the man on the last lap; a great battle and a great win for the team."
"It was an exciting finish!" said Alex Job. "Pat did a great job at the beginning to put the car in the lead. Mike was able to stay the course with consistency and some nice moves until the last lap. We had just about settled for third until we saw the action in turn 17 and he drove through the melee to take the win. It was a great second win and what a debut for the Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team."
Job pointed out that it was a great accomplishment to forge ahead with points in only four events, while the other teams have all raced five times (his team missed the Mexico City event due to budget issues). The team will see its next racing action in round six of the Grand Am series at Laguna Seca on May 7th.
Uwe Brettel, president of Porsche Motorsport North America, noted that once Rockenfeller caught the top-three pack after the pit stop, he could not catch the front-runners until the last- lap incident.
"This racing is very close, and the drivers at the top have similar skill levels, so one has to drive flat-out and hope that pressure causes the competitor in front of you to make a mistake," said Brettel.
The Grand-Am parity is shown both in the manufacturers and chassis-maker points, where Lexus now lead Porsche by one point (190-189) and Crawford and Riley are tied with 195 points each.
Other Porsche Daytona prototype finishers included the Eddie Cheever/Christian Fittipald Crown Royal Reserve Porsche Crawford (seventh); David Donohue/Darren Law Red Bull Brumos Porsche Fabcar (12th); and the Hurley Haywood/J.C. France Brumos Porsche Fabcar (16th). The Burt Frisselle/Brian Frisselle Synergy Racing GlycoMax Porsche Doran did not finish due to drive train issues.
The Cheever/Fittipaldi Porsche Crawford has finished in the top seven every time it has finished, put its drivers in fifth place in the standings, but misfortunes on the track, including an accident at Long Beach and an early-race spin at VIR have prevented them from even better finishes. The Donohue/Law Red Bull Brumos Porsche, which ran as high as second during the Virginia event, lost time when it made contact with the Cheever car early in the event, causing front-end damage which affected handling and aerodynamics throughout the event.
In the GT race, Rolex 24 winners Randy Pobst and Ian Baas piloted their TPC Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car to a third place finish behind the two factory Pontiac GTOs, with qualifying race winners Wolf Henzler/Robin Liddell fourth in their Tafel Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup.
In Grand-Am Cup, Spencer Pumpelly/Andy Lally finished third in their Marcus Motorsports Porsche 911 behind a Nissan 350Z and a Mustang GT.