Pumpelly and Lewis Top Friday Practice for Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series Twin Six Hour Finales at VIR
ALTON, Va. (October 5, 2007) -- Top sports car pilots Spencer Pumpelly and Shane Lewis topped the time sheets Friday in practice for this weekend's Twin Six Hour Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series season-ending races at Virginia International Raceway.
Pumpelly topped each of the day's two GS (Grand Sport) practice sessions in the No. 49 Marcus Motorsports MAH 720 Property Management/Auriemma Consulting Group Porsche 997 that he will co-drive this weekend with Darren Law and Mike Auriemma. Pumpelly's afternoon lap of 2:05.057 (94.133 mph) in the second and final session was the fastest of the day after also setting the pace in the morning session with a lap of 2:05.591 (93.733 mph).
"The Marcus Motorsports guys did an awesome job getting the chassis set up to go fast here," said Pumpelly, who recorded a win in this year's KONI Challenge race at Laguna Seca. "I love coming to VIR, it's just such a great track. I'm really looking forward to Sunday's race."
The second fastest GS entry was the No. 91 Automatic Racing BMW M3 of drifter Conrad Grunewald , who ripped off a 2:05.632 (93.702 mph) lap in the afternoon, while the championship-contending No. 55 Hyper Sport/SuperCuts Ford Mustang of Scott Maxwell completed the top three with a morning session lap of 2:05.739 (93.623 mph). Grunewald shares his M3 with Tim George Jr. while Maxwell is slated to run with regular co-driver Joe Foster with Charles Espenlaub also being added to the No. 55 squad this weekend.
Two more Automatic Racing BMWs rounded out the top five, including the No. 99 Fresh From Florida entry of David Russell and Tom Long and the championship leading No. 09 Fresh From Florida M3 of Jep Thornton and Jeff Segal. Long turned the fourth fastest lap of the day in the No. 99 at 2:05.821 (93.561 mph) while Segal was fifth quick on the day in the No. 09 with a lap at 2:06.021 (93.413 mph). If Segal and Thornton finish 20th or higher in Sunday's six-hour GS race (green flag at Noon), they will clinch the 2007 Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series GS Championship. Segal and Thornton have 279 points while Foster rides solo in second with 254 points.
The ST (Street Tuner) class also saw one car top each of that division's three practice sessions. Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Daytona Prototype regular Shane Lewis kept the No. 22 HART Honda Accord on top all day with Friday's overall fastest lap coming in the initial morning session at 2:11.655 (89.416 mph). Lewis also kept the quick Accord on top of the afternoon's pair of sessions with laps in the 2:12 range.
"Today was awesome, I love VIR," said Lewis, who won at Miami earlier this season with co-driver John Schmitt. "The Honda team asked me to drive flat out, which is good because I like being P1. I haven't held back at all, not on one lap. We know we can't go as long on fuel, and we don't have the longevity on brakes either, so we'll have to find other strengths."
The No. 69 SpeedSource/Mondial Forwarding Mazda RX-8 of David Haskell was second fastest in ST with a morning lap of 2:11.899 (89.250 mph) and he shares the car with top-three championship contender Jose Armengol this weekend. Armengol has no realistic chance to take second in the ST Championship but can ensure third place with a strong showing in tomorrow's race. His teammate Haskell knows all about championship fights and was the 2005 Grand-Am KONI Challenge ST Champion.
Current ST points leaders Adam Burrows and Trevor Hopwood were third fastest in ST in the No. 95 Turner Motorsports BMW 330i with Hopwood's morning lap of 2:11.932 (89.228 mph).
Five different makes of car were represented in the top five with the No. 01 Georgian Bay Chevrolet Cobalt SS of Jamie Holtom and Eric Curran in fourth and the title-contending No. 76 Kensai Racing Acura TSX of Billy Johnson, Karl Thomson and guest driver Matt Plumb in fifth. Holtom was behind the wheel of the No. 01 for its fastest lap of 2:12.130 (89.094 mph) while Plumb posted the No. 76's quick time of 2:12.232 (89.025 mph). Like every other car in the top five, both drivers recorded their quick laps in the morning session.
Heading into tomorrow's ST finale (green flag at 3 p.m.), Burrows and Hopwood have a scant five point lead over Johnson and Thomson in the ST Championship (285 -- 280 points). The title fight is expected to come down to the checkered flag at the end of the six-hour distance but any tiebreaker scenarios would fall in favor of Johnson and Thomson who have an ST series-leading four wins this year. Burrows and Hopwood are winless.