A great car and a great call puts AIM Autosport on the podium Burt battles to the end to bring the Pacific Mobile No. 61 Ford Riley second overall Alton, Virginia (2010.04.24) With the words "We're back baby!" ringing in the headsets, Burt ...
A great car and a great call puts AIM Autosport on the podium Burt battles to the end to bring the Pacific Mobile No. 61 Ford Riley second overall
Alton, Virginia (2010.04.24) With the words "We're back baby!" ringing in the headsets, Burt Frisselle brought the Pacific Mobile No. 61 Ford Riley across the line in second place for the Bosch Engineering 250 at Virginia International Raceway. This is AIM Autosport's first podium in the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 since taking a third-place finish at Infineon Raceway in August 2008 and Burt's first podium in the series since 2004.
Over eighty-four laps, the Pacific Mobile No. 61 Ford Riley was never out of the top four except during the first pit stop. Starting from the outside of the front row, Mark was in a tough battle in the first turns and dropped back to third spot but the front three cars started to pull away from the rest of the field with Mark constantly battling to go back to second. He would inherit the lead when the 01 and 99 cars came in for green flag stops. Mark would bring the No. 61 to pit lane at the end of the next lap (24) for a full tank of Sunoco fuel, a fresh set of Pirelli P-Zero tires and a driver change. A slight miscue during the stop cost the team a bit of time and they would go back on track in sixth but with cars ahead still to stop. He would take a position back two laps later and when all the cars completed their stops, the No 61 was sitting fourth with Burt at the controls. It was status quo through the next thirty-one laps with Burt fighting the 59 car for position.
A caution on lap fifty-four and everyone came to the pits. The AIM Autosport crew had an amazing stop and put Burt back out ahead of the 01 and effectively in the lead. Again as the rest of the field completed their stops, the No. 61 would emerge as race leader which Burt held for six laps when the 01 got back the position. In a bold move, race engineer Jim Malicki decided to short-fill on fuel during the final stop and put the car in a fuel conservation mode and even at that, Burt was able to keep pace with the leader and once again started to pull away from the pack in a three-car battle that lasted to the end of the race. It was a gamble that paid off and allowed Burt to put the No 61 into "full race" mode in the closing laps.
There was some drama near the end when the leader suffered damage to the rear spoiler and two back-to-back cautions bunched up the field. Burt was close but could not make a move to the front. He also had to worry about the 10 car which was closing from third place.
At the checkered flag, Burt brought the Pacific Mobile No. 61 Ford Riley home in second place just .293 seconds behind the leader. He was ecstatic on the radio and thanked the entire team for providing he and Mark with a great car and for a "job well done" during the race.
Burt commented in post race interviews: "The car was just fantastic and the team did an awesome job. It was great to run up front and be in the hunt all day and Mark did a amazing job to put us on the front row and keep us up front during his stint." He continued, "Chasing Scott (Pruett) in the 01 at the end was interesting and a bit hairy. With his broken spoiler I could definitely get the better of him in the corners but of course with all that down-force gone, he could just pull away in the straights. We just didn't have enough at the end to get by. At that point it was focus on the podium and keeping the 10 car behind us. I am really happy to get this for the team and AIM is now back and ready for some more of this - and a race win before the season is done."
Mark Wilkins commented: "We had a great car all weekend long. We qualified strong which gave everyone on the team a real boost. I drove hard in my stint and made sure to stay out of trouble and give Burt a good car to run to the end. " Wilkins continued, "During Burt's stint we made just a couple of small changes that helped quite a bit and it is great to see AIM Autosport back on the podium. Today we gambled. Sometimes that works and other times not. Today went in our favour and it was a great result for the team."
Team principal Ian Willis had this to say after the race: "What we lost on the first pit stop we more than made up for on the final stop. Jim (Malicki) made a bold decision to short fill on fuel and that gave us track position. Burt did a great job and even set the fastest lap for the car while he was running in conservation mode. I am happy for the drivers and the crew and now that we have this one out of the way, we can move on to concentrate on taking the top step of the podium once again."
With the second place finish, AIM Autosport remains thirteenth overall in the series championship but has closed the gap considerably on the teams ahead. Meanwhile Burt and Mark have moved into third overall in the drivers' championship.
AIM Autosport is now headed to Lime Rock Park in Connecticut for testing in advance of the GRAND-AM race there on Memorial Day weekend.