Watkins Glen: Alex Job Racing race report

Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team perseveres through Sahlen's Six Hours Of The Glen WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. - It was an exciting, yet tough weekend for the Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team. They finished 16th in today's Grand-Am Rolex ...

Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team perseveres through Sahlen's Six Hours Of The Glen

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. - It was an exciting, yet tough weekend for the Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team. They finished 16th in today's Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Sahlen's Six Hours Of The Glen at Watkins Glen International.

The weekend started off well when the team rolled the No. 23 Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team Porsche-powered Crawford Daytona Prototype off the transporter on Thursday. That is when the Grand-Am community got its first look at the Crawford Composites newest creation - the new Crawford DP08 bodywork. In fact, Friday morning's practice session was the first time the newly modified No. 23 Porsche Crawford had ever turned a wheel on a race track.

But, that is when the initial excitement wore off and the learning process began. Bill Auberlen was the first driver to get seat time and he was the one who eventually qualified the car sixth in what turned out to be a crash-shortened qualifying session.

Following the post-qualifying technical inspection, the No. 23 machine was moved to the back of the field due to non-compliance with the front dive planes. Therefore, Auberlen started today's round six race last on the DP grid and even before he turned his first official race lap, he had to make a pit stop to repair a throttle cable. This put the team one lap down one lap into the race.

Auberlen spent most of his first stint trying to get the lap back. Unfortunately, Grand-Am no longer has the "lucky dog" rule, which would have helped the team get back on the lead lap. On lap 38, Auberlen came to pit lane for his first full pit stop and driver change. This is when teammate Joey Hand took the reigns. Hand, who pushed hard and made in-car adjustments throughout his 32-lap stint, drove the No. 23 into the top-15 before giving it back to Auberlen.

With Auberlen back in the car still one lap down, he continued to work the sway bars to improve the car's performance. By lap 110, he set the team's fastest lap to that point and was up to 12th before Grand-Am officials informed the crew that the No. 23 no longer had brake lights.

So, on lap 113, Auberlen brought the No. 23 machine to pit lane for a full stop, a driver change, and the crew fixed the brake lights. However, the more than four minute pit stop cost the team another lap. Hand was now back in the car for his second stint and unfortunately he was now two laps down. At this point, the team decided to approach the race more like a test session - trying a variety of set up changes in an effort to learn more about the new bodywork.

On lap 153, Hand made his final pit stop with less than one hour to go. By this time, the team was in 15th when Auberlen got back in for his third and final stint. Undaunted by being two laps down, Auberlen continued to hustle the No. 23 around the 3.4-mile, 11-turn road course. In fact, he set the team's fastest race lap (1:44.279) on lap 172 of the 179-lap race. He tried to turn a faster time on the very next lap, but halfway through the run, he spun the car and could not get it restarted - thus ending the team's day.

"The car was built in a very short amount of time," Auberlen said reflecting on this weekend's events. "Crawford put the car together in very short order. Then, we brought the car to the track and we rolled it out, which no one should ever do because we did not have any info on the car. Then, we tried to learn as much as we could in two sessions, which was pretty close to an impossibility. And, because we brought it out at the track and it did not perform to the winning standards, everyone is down in the mouth. But, I don't think the team should feel down because we need to test this thing like every other team does. We need to test this car more. We know what it is lacking, but we are not quite sure how to fix it yet and we are going to try really hard to do that."

"When you take essentially a brand new car that has never turned a lap [at a race track], you can't expect too much [from it]," Hand said following the race. "That being said, somehow, you always do expect to do well. The Ruby Tuesday team always expects the best. All of these guys are top-level. I'd like to think Bill and I are top-level and we are always putting in as much effort as possible to win - period. So, everyone is really bumming right now. We didn't have the result that we were looking for at all. We struggled with the car throughout the weekend. We were trying to get the hang of the new body. The car has a lot of potential. Now we've got a whole new book of issues we've got to figure out. We knew so much about the other car. We had a lot of data on the other car and now we don't have any on this one.

"Bill is the one that did a lot of driving today. He did a really good job and ran some fast laps. As usual, I was just trying to keep up with him. I think that the day that this car gets close, Bill and I will do everything in our power to put this thing at the front."

"This was basically a six hour test, which we knew it would be," Team Owner Alex Job said encouragingly following today's race. "Obviously, we wanted a better result than 16th. But unfortunately with three laps to go, Bill spun and the car would not restart. So, we went from 13th to 16th.

"We had an issue at the beginning - a throttle cable failed right at the start. Then, we had some issues with the brake light wiring, which will have to be resigned to be better protected. And then, in the end, Bill spun and couldn't get it restarted. But, you know, we had our fastest race lap just a few laps before we spun. Considering the car did not turn its first wheel until 9:30 yesterday morning, I am impressed with the debut of the car. Obviously, we've got some work to do, but it's a brand new car."

The team will stay at Watkins Glen International through Monday's test session, where they hope to learn more about the No. 23's bodywork and how to improve the car's overall performance. From there, the team travels to Virginia for a wind tunnel test on Tuesday and then back to Crawford for more work. The Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 heads to Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course June 21 for the EMCO Gears Classic.

-credit: ajr

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Bill Auberlen , Joey Hand , Alex Job
Teams Alex Job Racing