United Racing is highest finishing American team at Granja 500 This year's Siemens Granja 500 endurance race in Brazil was one of the most eventful editions the competition has seen, in its' 9 years history. Matt Jaskol, being the only Granja ...
United Racing is highest finishing American team at Granja 500
This year's Siemens Granja 500 endurance race in Brazil was one of the most eventful editions the competition has seen, in its' 9 years history. Matt Jaskol, being the only Granja veteran of United Racing, was the chosen driver for the dry yet dramatic start of 75 karts, in which an accident had a few of the competitors turned around on the straight, facing the oncoming last half of the grid (fortunately, all drivers involved were unharmed). After only 45 minutes, the red flag was out because of a torrential rain pouring down and rendering the ondulating track unsafe.
The United Racing Team of Jaskol, Pat Long, Phil Giebler and Tim Maddux qualified 26th in their group, starting 44th, less than one and a half second behind the pole-sitter, Ferrari's F1 Felipe Massa, and when the race was interrupted on lap 41 Jaskol had made his way to 26th place, and entered the pits for wet tires, losing a few positions and having Pat Long restart (after about an hour) in 31st place. From there on, the team kept executing perfectly timed pit stops and strategy, and only moved forward up to the final moments of the race. After the rolling restart Pat started to make his way through the field, driving two impeccable stints in a row of about one hour and forty minutes each, the first wet and the second dry, and pitted in with the kart in the top 20.
On dry tires, Phil Giebler then had to contend with common Brazilian racing conditions of intermittent rain and a track dry in a few places, wet in others and slippery all around. With great rhythm and passing maneuvers, he drove around the Brazilian "rain specialists" also for two stints in a row all the way to the top 10 when he got to a position behind rain and local karting legend Christian Fittipaldi. They kept dicing it up between themselves from 10th to 6th (final podium position in this event) for most of the early morning, when the motor on the United Racing kart started to show signs of losing power, already under daylight. A few moments before sunrise, the power on the track was cut off, and a fire started on the power-house of the facility, at the end of the pit straight. That was a scary sight but was quickly put off by the track's fire brigade. Generators restored the light, and the race was not even interrupted.
Tim Maddux was next and with great pace was able to hold position in the top 10 for most of his stint, with a motor which was visibly losing power lap by lap. He delivered the kart to Jaskol for the last two stints, and Matt had the ungrateful duty of holding on to an ever-decaying motor, and for most of his stint the team doubted the motor would last to the end, so slow and powerless it had become. He went on to put on an impressive fight to finish the race on track, although hopelessly losing more and more power. About 30 minutes from the finish he was still running steadily between 10th and 12th place, when the brakes gave up forcing a lengthy pit stop which cost the team more than 10 laps fixing brakes.
Matt, with a perfect endurance race attitude of never say die and a strong determination to see the checkered flag from the kart, still went back on track and carried the ailing machine to a 27th place overall and 26th on the A Class, not a good show of the team's early pace and advancement but, given the conditions, a good finish, and the best of the fully foreign teams in the race.
Patrick Long: "What a week! As expected, theses guys are serious about their endurance karting in Brazil... I personally learned a lot about the Granja in the days we spent preparing and taking part, and I can't wait to return to this race, that I've fallen in love with, with much more preparation and experience. To run in the top ten in a race that some of the top teams had three karts entered for the same driving paring meant that we we're right on it! It seems to me that the challenge to build a multiple Kart team from the ground up stateside is on the cards, and I personally can't wait. Thanks to our sponsors, Oakley, overamerica, Douglas Wheel and Ava Sports for making this happen."
Matt Jaskol: "This was another year (my second) at the Granja, but definitely not just another race, this is one of my biggest races of the season. Although I thought it would be easier than my first year, it was actually much harder. Battles on and off track made it the toughest, with the language and cultural barriers, but I guess this is what this race is all about. Helping put the American team together was a lot more work than last year's arrive and drive. For me the race was like a 12 hours F1 race, with 75 karts. It was awesome to be on the same team with friends I grew up racing with, and to watch them drive our kart. To see our number on the top ten timing board for most of the race made everything worthwhile. You can't explain the atmosphere at the track and in the pits during the race; I will never forget the sound of pouring rain over hundreds of mechanics and drivers yelling and rushing to get rain tires on at about 2am so we could all go race again. We did not finish where we wanted, but to finish the race in our maiden trip as an American team was a victory. We already look forward to next year".
Phil Giebler: "This 500 mile kart race was completely nuts, totally insane. 74 teams show up for this thing, all on the track at the same time! The track is less than a mile long and the layout is pretty wild, built into the side of a hill and with the perfect combination of tight esses, technical turns, and grab your sack turns along with an actual jump. Then you throw in a little rain and you have one exciting race. Fortunately, the rain is a great equalizer and we had a better chance the longer it rained, as we did not have the best engine package to say the least. My first stint was the most insane of the whole race. I was on a mission to get through traffic and soon I was back up to 12th place when the rain came. Some parts of the track were slightly damp and others completely wet. While everyone was overly cautious I was going for it! I loved the challenge and kept moving forward and finally we cracked into the top ten, we were on the electronic leader board and while driving I could see my position and the lap times of everyone in the top 10. I was just hoping that the track would stay inconsistent and it did. Around 5:30am -all of a sudden, as I was wiping rain and mud off my visor, ALL the lights in the whole place go OUT, pitch dark- not even a bright moon light to help out. I felt like I was a Jedi training blindfolded, only having to trust and rely on the Force.
"Everything was based on feeling - you couldn't see how wet it was, all you could see were sparks from the karts that were going off the track. Then only ten minutes later when I thought it couldn't get any stranger I noticed that a Fire started at the end of the straightaway, just 35 feet off the asphalt. I thought there were riots going on! I had some great battles with some of Brazil's best drivers; it was much fun going toe to toe with the likes of Felipe Massa, Rubens Barrichello, Christian Fittipaldi, Dan Wheldon and Felipe Giaffone. Even though it wasn't the result we wanted I still had a blast on and off the track. I can't wait to do it again next year and give it a real shot with a little more preparation next time. It was an awesome experience and we couldn't have done it without the help of some key people and supporters. Thanks to Douglas Wheel, Oakley, and overamerica we were able to compete in the event and make a strong American showing. I'll be there next year!"
Fernando Avallone: "I was really impressed by how quickly these drivers got on pace, on an unknown track, equipment and race format. All four guys drove masterfully in very complex conditions, and showed we can definitely win this race based on their driving skills and race craft against the locals and international talent; they put themselves in equal conditions without any hesitation. As a team we learnt a lot for a future effort, specially what to do and what not to do, and left convinced we can increase the number of American elements in our crew and be even more competitive, so the preparation for next year's race starts immediately. Although our final result does not reflect it, the drivers carried us from 44th at the start to a podium position with a few hours to go in the race, and we got a lot of compliments from everybody who saw us on the top 10 board for most of the race. Our drivers represented the USA strongly, and showed in no uncertain terms they are a force to be reckoned with, among one of the strongest and most varied field of top competitors."
The United Racing Team was supported by overamerica, Oakley, Douglas Wheel and Ava Sports. The Siemens Granja 500 was won by the team of Rubens Barrichello, Felipe Giaffone, Dan Wheldon and Tony Kanaan.