Porsche Teams End 2008 Season on a Positive Note; Law, France End Up 3rd In Points; TRG Scores Podium Finish
TOOELE, Utah-September 20 -- Porsche teams competing in the 2008 Rolex Sports Car Series Presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 turned in strong performances in both DP and GT Class competition in the SunRichGourmet.com 1,000 Saturday at Miller Motorsports Park.
J.C. France of Daytona Beach, Fla., and Portugal's Joao Barbosa piloted the No. 59 Brumos Racing Porsche-Riley to a fourth-place finish in the season finale won by John Pew, Ian James and Raphael Matos in the Michael Shank Racing Ford-Riley. The fourth-place finish enabled France and Barbosa to finish third in the final point standings. France was also able to clinch the Jim Trueman Award for gentleman drivers.
The No. 67 TRG Porsche 911 GT3 Cup driven by New Yorkers Tim George Jr., Andy Lally and Patrick Long of Belleair, Fla., scored a podium finish for third place in the GT Class.
DP Class cars using Porsche power also scored top-10 finishes as Joey Hand of Sacramento, Cal., and Bill Auberlen of Redondo Beach, Cal., placed eighth in the No. 23 Ruby Tuesday Alex Job Racing Porsche-Riley while the No. 58 Brumos Racing entry driven by Phoenix residents Darren Law and Buddy Rice and David Donohue of Malvern, Pa., finished 10th overall after employing clever pit strategy to lead the race early.
However, a broken rear sway bar would hinder Auberlen on the final 30 laps while a drive- through penalty took Law out of contention.
For the Porsche contingent, the day belonged to France and Barbosa, whose steady performances lifted them to third overall in the points. In the final eight races of 2008, France and Barbosa and their Brumos trademark No. 59 finished fourth no less than five times.
France, who qualified and started 14th position, managed to dodge the first-lap melee and kept the car on the lead lap when he turned it over to Barbosa on Lap 29. When the mid-race rains fell, the Portuguese driver charged up to the lead pack before France took over for a second stint on Lap 58. Porsche legend Hurley Haywood of Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., was supposed to be the third driver, but opted to sit out the race to ensure that France could capture the Trueman Award.
Barbosa took over for France on Lap 78 and remained in the car for the duration. With five laps remaining, he passed Ricardo Zonta for fourth and wound up half a second behind the third-placed Alex Gurney.
"The car was awesome today," Barbosa said. "The Brumos Porsche guys did an unbelievable job the whole year. The chemistry between all of us is really good. I'm really proud of all the Brumos crew. We fell off at the beginning of the weekend, but we finished strong-that's all that matters."
Haywood, the team director, was equally proud of the Brumos operation.
"The 59 car had some bad luck at the beginning of the season, but the guys hunkered down and fought like heck and we were third in the championship in the team standings." Haywood explained. "Joao and Jamie (J.C. France) did a helluva job. Overall, it was a pretty good show. After the first quarter of the season, we came on strong. Next year, we're going to run for the championship."
France certainly contributed to the effort and was understandably elated at the year-end accolades.
"I'm so proud of the whole team, especially my teammate Barbosa," France said. "I had a blast out there early racing with (Jim) Matthews and (John) Pew. I was having a lot of fun until the rains came down. Barbosa had another great performance out there and brought us home in fourth which gives us third overall in the team standings. It's something that we finished where we did (in the final standings) considering we never had a podium, but Barbosa got us up there with a lot of fourths so we're going to end up on the big podium at Las Vegas."
After running near the top of the charts the entire weekend, eighth was not quite the result team owner Alex Job envisioned.
"It was a real roller coaster for us," Job said. "Unfortunately, right near the end the rear sway bar broke and that affected our handling. We had been able to come back to the front, but unfortunately we weren't able to this time.
"We only had six races with this Riley (chassis). We had to build the car in six days and since then it's been flat out so we had no time with car and I'm really proud of the team, especially Greg Fordahl, my engineer, and the incredible they did to be this competitive."
When the green flag dropped, a tangle on the front straightaway involving brought out a full- course caution. Hand made a tremendous start and was third by the time the cars came around to complete Lap 1. Donohue used the yellow flag period to pit and satisfy the rule requiring a visit to the pits in the first 45 minutes of the race. The stop dropped him to 13th and more than a minute behind the leaders. By Lap 14, Donohue was leading the race and built a margin of nearly seven seconds over Hand before pitting on Lap 32.
Hand kept the Porsche name in P-1 and amassed a lead of more than 28 seconds over Gurney before pitting on Lap 39 and handing over the wheel to Auberlen. Auberlen rejoined in fifth place, immediately ahead of Donohue who would stay close for the next few laps.
A caution period on Lap 62 allowed the leaders time to pit and Donohue turned over the wheel to Rice after running a three-hour stint. Auberlen also pitted and had Hand take over. Hand would rejoin the race in third with Rice right behind him.
"I did a double stint and the first stint was much better than the second one," Donohue said. "I had some dirt in my eye and I didn't realize how bad it was until I got out of the car. It really did affect me during the second stint."
It took Hand only a few corners to take over second and for the next 10 laps, he hounded race leader Michael Valiante. Rice also battled Jonsson for third. By Lap 71, Valiante built a lead of more than seven seconds when the first major rain of the weekend washed the track. Shod with slick racing tires, cars from both classes spun all over the vast track.
Valiante mistakenly dashed into the pits (which were closed at the time) and rejoined in second behind Hand, who led the lead pack into the pit lane on Lap 78. Quick pit work from the Brumos crew vaulted Rice into the lead while a lengthy stop relegated Hand to sixth place. However, there was nearly three hours of racing to go.
Despite the heavy rain, it was a short-lived and the high winds helped dry out the track. After the switch to rain tires, suddenly everyone was returning the pit lane for dry-weather slicks on Lap 84. At that point, Hand was leading, Barbosa had charged to second and Rice was fourth. Law took over the No. 58 car and by the time the three Porsche-powered DP entries returned to the track, Law was seventh, Barbosa was eighth and Auberlen (who took over for Hand) was ninth.
The trio of Law, Barbosa and Auberlen would each move up a position when a full-course caution on Lap 108 allowed them to close on the lead pack.
On Lap 113, Barbosa was able to pass Law for sixth, but Law's race would come apart shortly afterward when he tangled with Scott Pruett in Turn 14. The contact drew a drive- through penalty and Law rejoined the race in 10th position, 46 seconds behind the leader.
Suddenly, the hope for a top Porsche finish fell onto Barbosa, who moved up two more spots in the final 137 laps.
TRG Team Scores Another Podium Finish in GT Class
Although the Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsches would occupy the top three spots early in the race, it was the TRG entry of George, Lally and Long that wound up with the top Porsche finish in the GT Class. The Banner Racing Pontiac GXP driven by Paul Edwards, Kelly Collins and Kris Wilson finished 12th overall and first in GT. The finish also enabled George to earn "Rookie of the Year" honors. "I'm excited to lock up 'Rookie of the Year,' " George said. "It was really awesome to be running with Pat Long and Andy Lally here. The team did a great job. We had a couple of deals with the tires at the end, but it was a sweet run."
Porsche has won GT Manufacturers Championship seven times of the nine years the series has been in existence, with Pontiac winning twice, including 2008.
Porsche also continues to be the leader in the Rolex Grand-Am GT series since its beginning in 2000 (includes GT, and the former SGS, GTS, and GTU class designations). Porsche has the most class wins in the history of Grand-Am (all classes), the most wins in the GT class, GT poles, and the most GT podium finishes (by more than 100 finishes). More than 90 percent of these records have been set by Porsche 911 race vehicles - including the Porsche 911 Turbo, the Porsche 911 GT3 R/RS, and the current Porsche 911 GT3 Cup.
The Farnbacher Loles team immediately took command of the GT Class with Germany'sWolf Henzler, a Porsche factory driver, in the No. 87 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup leading Leh Keen of Charleston, S.C. in the No. 86 entry. Early pit strategy and the full-course caution on Lap 12 vaulted Germany's Dominik Farnbacher into the lead in No. 88 and by Lap 16, the Farnbacher Loles team held the top three spots.
Farnbacher was on a different pit sequence and pitted on Lap 27, handing the lead back to Keen who had Henzler in tow. Keen would pit on Lap 42 (Henzler had pitted a lap earlier and relinquished to Bryce Miller of Summit, N.J.) and hand over to Eric Lux of Jacksonville, Fla., with the lead now going to Lally.
Lally briefly led, but Lux regained the top spot on Lap 44 with Miller in third. His lead would last until Lap 62 when he and France had a coming-together in Turn 10. Lux got the worst of it after spinning into the tire barrier. He briefly resumed only to come to a halt at the entrance to Turn 16 with a broken suspension.
The caution reshuffled the standings but when the green flag came out, Werner took over the lead with Patrick Long taking over the No. 67 TRG entry in fourth. Long, the only American Porsche factory driver, was making the most of his guest appearance, taking the lead on Lap 76 when Werner spun and got stuck in the infield during the rainstorm.
"The elements of rain and dry and strategy certainly played a big part in today's race," Long pointed out. "I think, all in all, it was a great result to be back up on the podium with TRG after being away for about four or five years. Running with Andy, Kevin (Buckler, the TRG owner)
and Tim, they're just a class act. I'm proud to be back. I think we had a car to win today, but the chips just didn't fall our way."
After pitting, Long would regain the lead on Lap 106, but he surrendered the lead and his car to Lally on Lap 109. Lally would move up to third by Lap 120 and remain there for the rest of the race.
"We had an excellent car, and I had some bonehead run into me," Lally lamented. "That kind of set us back for the race, and unfortunately, I'll take the blame for that. It was silly. But we had a really strong car, and TRG just gave us the solid stuff. We had the fast race lap, we had a great car and we were coming through at the end. We picked up something on the tire. The tire was going down or we blistered it, and we just couldn't make that last spot."