Montreal, PQ (Aug. 25, 2003) - With a season so far not yielding the results that he had hoped for, Toronto native Dan McMullen made a change of race teams two weeks ago prior to the Fran Am East Coast race at Mosport and, along with new sponsor...
Montreal, PQ (Aug. 25, 2003) - With a season so far not yielding the results that he had hoped for, Toronto native Dan McMullen made a change of race teams two weeks ago prior to the Fran Am East Coast race at Mosport and, along with new sponsor ATI Technologies, signed on with Team Autotechnica of Toronto for the balance of the 2003 season. The result of the change was a win the first time out for the new combination and there are now higher hopes for the rest of the year for the young Canadian driver to move up in the Fran Am 2000 North American Pro Championship.
Going into Montreal for round eight of the Fran Am Pro Championship Dan was very excited with the prospect of getting back to the front of the grid with the help of his new team, which is where he spent most of his time in 2002 on his way to finishing the year as vice-champion. He and Team Autotechnica immediately found that they work together well and Dan has found renewed confidence in himself and the setup that his engineer and mechanics put on his new car. In qualifying, Dan never got a clear lap but still ended up with an eighth place starting spot for Sunday mornings race, which is far better than he has realized in the previous races so far this year.
When the red lights went out to start the race Sunday morning, Dan got a fairly good start. As all of the cars entered turn one, he saw ahead of him that the cars of pole sitter Andrew Ranger and the car of Juan Martin Ponte had come together, ending Pontes race on the spot. All of the other drivers behind them moved left leaving the right side of the track wide open. Dan seized the opportunity and stayed right, setting himself up perfectly for the right-hander at the Senna hairpin. As a result, he moved up into sixth place and was on a charge. As they came to corner six, Dan was closing quickly on the car of Mark Wilkins in fifth and with a quick move to the left and some late braking, he now moved up to fifth position. When the field entered the chicane at corner eight, Charles Hall attempted a very late pass on Sean McIntosh for second place, but as Hall had left his braking way too late, he slid through the corner and ended up taking to the grass, reentering the track in front of McIntosh resulting in them both being slowed dramatically. Robert Bell took the opportunity to slip by them both and Dan followed on Bells gearbox moving up to third position.
Dan would hold onto third place while coming under pressure from Hall, who was trying everything he could to make up for his previous mistake. At several spots on the track, Hall had his front tires locked up, smoke pouring off them as he tried in vain to pass Dan back, and on more than one occasion there was near contact between Dan's car and Hall's as Hall skated around wildly under braking. This all changed though when Hall slid wide on the exit of corner eight and made contact with the wall, damaging his right front suspension. Dan now had some breathing room to those that were following, although the excitement wasn't over yet. As the drivers went into the corner ten hairpin, Hall's front suspension collapsed causing him to slide off into the grass at a very high rate of speed. As the leaders negotiated the hairpin, Hall's out of control car slid through the grass and came very close to hitting Sean McIntosh's car as he rounded the corner. Fortunately everyone made around safely without any further contact.
For several laps, Dan hounded Bell looking for a way past into second. The opportunity came on lap eight when with a great exit on the previous corner Dan got a clean run heading to corner six. With a quick move to left and some more late braking Dan was alongside and had the corner, moving himself into second place. Now it was time to head off after the leader Ranger, but try as he might Dan could not overcome the large lead that had been built up, but he still managed to close to under three seconds when the checkered flag fell at the end of the seventeen lap race.
Following the race Dan said, "The car was great except for a bit of understeer in the hairpin at corner ten. I had a good start but saw the trouble ahead of me in corner one clearly and was able to avoid any problems." He also said, " I am so happy with my new team! They did a fantastic job of giving me a great car and it is so nice to back on the podium. I want to thank them and my sponsors, especially ATI Technologies and MYE Consulting for making this all possible".
Next up is Denver as part of the CART event next weekend where Dan has high hopes of again contesting for a podium finish, but this time one step further up on the top step.