AIM Autosport gambles on cautions Seventh place finish tightens up the point's race Starting from the outside of the second row for Friday night's Crown Royal 200 at Watkins Glen International, Burt Frisselle quickly had the AIM Autosport No. 61...
AIM Autosport gambles on cautions
Seventh place finish tightens up the point's race
Starting from the outside of the second row for Friday night's Crown Royal 200 at Watkins Glen International, Burt Frisselle quickly had the AIM Autosport No. 61 Ford Riley up into third place and running down the leaders. AIM Autosport came to this race as defending champions having lead from pole for all but three laps in 2008. Brian Frisselle put the car on pole and Mark Wilkins drove it to victory last year so there was some irony that older brother Burt would power the No 61 past Brian, now driving the No 10 Ford Riley, into the first two turns to take the spot.
Burt gave the position back a few laps later in traffic but the top four were opening a gap through the first thirty laps. A quick stop for fuel dropped the No. 61 to tenth but that pit strategy would soon have AIM back in the top five and then going for the lead of the race as other teams cycled through their pit stops. A tight battle for second soon became the lead for the No. 61 that Mark held for six laps but the team's original fuel strategy was not playing out. Expecting more caution periods late in the race - there were three very early on, the race stayed green for an extended period and the team was forced to bring Mark in for a splash of fuel. At that point they also decided on a fresh set of tires to gain some advantage over the final thirty minutes of the race. Unfortunately, they would lose track position due to the extra time in the pits and would now have to fight back from twelfth place. By the end of the two-hour race (93 laps) Mark had the AIM Autosport No. 61 Ford Ford Riley up into seventh spot. He recorded the team's fastest time on the penultimate lap chasing for another position.
"We rolled the dice on fuel" commented team principal Ian Willis. "Based on the number of early yellows and running with the GT cars on the very fast short course, we expected more cautions toward the end which we needed to make the strategy work. Unfortunately, we didn't get those late yellows and we came up just a bit short. Luckily, some of the people we are chasing in the championship also had problems and there were some dark horses at the front that helped even the points battle." He continued, "Now we focus on Montreal and going for the repeat in front of a hometown Canadian crowd."
Burt Frisselle offered: "The No. 61 Ford Riley was fast today and we definitely had the pace to run at the front and our initial strategy seemed like the way to go. I have run here before with the GT's on track and the possibility of late-race cautions has always been a factor. It looked good for an AIM Autosport podium but it just didn't go our way at the end.."
Defending race champion Mark Wilkins commented: "The team did a great job once again giving us a great car that could run at the front. We qualified right up there and the car was very quick in race trim. We had a plan but as we all know, plans can change and we had to make a snap decision late in the race that caught us out." He continued, "We came away with a strong finish though and some very good points since some of our main rivals also had issues. The next three races should be very exciting."
With the seventh place finish and troubles plaguing the two cars just ahead in the championship, AIM Autosport remains sixth overall but has closed the points gap considerably with three races to go. AIM Autosport heads to the next race at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal also as defending champions having recorded their first Rolex Sports Car Series victory there in 2008. It is on record as the closest finish in series history at .064 seconds. AIM started the final lap of last years race in fourth place making it an even more incredible victory.