RUBY TUESDAY CHAMPIONSHIP RACING TEAM MOUNTS CHARGE TO POST TOP-10 FINISH IN VIR 400K ALTON, Va. (April 29, 2007) -- The Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team rebounded from a last row starting spot to claim a ninth-place finish in Round Four...
RUBY TUESDAY CHAMPIONSHIP RACING TEAM MOUNTS CHARGE TO POST TOP-10 FINISH IN VIR 400K
ALTON, Va. (April 29, 2007) -- The Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team rebounded from a last row starting spot to claim a ninth-place finish in Round Four of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve VIR 400K at Virginia International Raceway.
Due to a suspension failure in qualifying and the resultant last place starting position, the Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team was going to need a sound race strategy if it was going defend its VIR race win from a year ago. Knowing that VIR is one of the toughest tracks to pass on, coupled with team's starting position, the team knew that getting to the front would be no easy task. Undaunted by the challenge, the team's strategy was to have driver Jorg Bergmeister pit on the first lap and hope for an early caution. The thinking behind this strategy was that if a caution came out early in the race, coupled with the team making an early pit stop, the result would find the No. 23 Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team Porsche Crawford Daytona Prototype near the front of the field because the race leaders would pit under caution.
One lap into the race, Bergmeister made his scheduled pit stop. The team topped the Alex Job Racing-prepared Porsche powered Crawford off with fuel and sent Bergmeister back out. Now the team needed a full-course caution for the strategy to work. On lap six, the team got exactly what it needed. A full-course yellow came out after the No. 99 Pontiac Riley made contact with the No. 05 BMW Riley leaving debris on the course. As a result, the leaders came in for pit stops, while Bergmeister stayed out on course and was in ninth-place when the race went green.
After the executing the race strategy to near perfection, Bergmeister was now positioned to set his sites on the leaders. However, shortly after the race went green, Bergmeister reported a handling issue with the car. At that point, it became a high-speed game of follow-the-leader around the 3.27-mile road course. Bergmeister had the No. 23 machine as high as fifth before coming in for the mandatory driver change.
"It was just a tough day due to starting from the back row," Bergmeister said. "I was struggling because the car was really nervous in the high-speed corners. Our strategy of making an early pit stop did help some and from there I hung on as well as I could. When we pitted for the driver change at mid-race, we had made some decent progress. Overall though, there just wasn't any more in the car for this race. Some days are just like that."
When co-driver Patrick Long took over on lap 40, even a new set of tires wouldn't improve the car's handling and the driving challenge would remain much the same during the last half of the race. The final laps would see the Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team rebound to claim an official ninth-place finish.
"Driving a loose handling car, like ours was today, makes it really hard to be competitive," Long said. "Our strategy helped as much as it could early on, but the car was just a handful for both of us. As the race progressed, the handling went away more and more and in the final laps I was driving more defensively rather than aggressively. Considering how far back we started, the team made the best of a bad situation and a ninth-place finish is about the most we could hope for."
The race perspective was the same from the pit box as team owner Alex Job knew all too well the struggles his drivers were contending with.
"Well, it's a top-10 with a ninth-place finish," Job said. "It isn't as good as we wanted, but considering we started dead last, it's okay. We're always shooting for a better finish as we have higher expectations for ourselves on this Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team. Early on the car went real loose and we were just hanging on at the very end, so ninth is the best we could do today -- but I'm extremely proud for how hard Jorg and Patrick drove and for how hard the team worked in preparing the car after our qualifying difficulties to keep us as competitive as possible during the challenges of this weekend."
The Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team next travels to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for Round Five of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve May 17-20.