Phoenix, AZ (May 4, 2003) - The first race of the 2003 Fran Am 2000 North American Pro Championship couldn't have had more ups and downs for twenty year-old Toronto native Dan McMullen. With the ongoing search for sponsorship funds delaying his ...
Phoenix, AZ (May 4, 2003) - The first race of the 2003 Fran Am 2000 North American Pro Championship couldn't have had more ups and downs for twenty year-old Toronto native Dan McMullen. With the ongoing search for sponsorship funds delaying his entry into the series with GTI Formula Motorsports until just days before the event, Dan went into the weekend with no testing and not having had a chance to work with his new team. Still, his hopes were high for a top result.
Things though did not start off well as during practice Dan experienced total brake failure in his car and had an incident with a wall that did a fair bit of damage to the front end of his car. The team went to work to repair the car, but as it turned out, not everything was quite as it should be come time to qualify on Friday. Dan said that the car didn't feel right and was very unstable on the combination banks of the Phoenix International Raceway oval and the twists and turns of the infield road course. Even still with all of this adversity, Dan qualified a very respectful twelfth for the race on Saturday afternoon. GTI Formula Motorsports team owner David Hosie said after the qualifying session, "I don't know how Dan qualified the car so well under the circumstances. The setup was so bad he should have been at the back of the grid. It shows us that Dan really has a lot of talent to do what he did." David went on and said, "We are going to ensure that the car is absolutely right for the race, what ever it takes."
Come race day Dan was confidant that he could move up through the field and make a charge to the front. When the green lights went on Dan did not get his usual great start that he has become known for in the past in the 2002 Fran AM season, as well as in the French Formula Renault series and the Elf la Filiere championship, even though he knew right away he had a fast car under him, the earlier problems having all been corrected. He put his head down and started to charge, picking off cars one by one until he came up behind the eighth qualified #28 car of Tim Barber. Dan said afterwards, "I was much faster than Tim, but I couldn't find a way by him, he was blocking me all over the track." At one point Barber forced Dan off of the track at corner two which forced Dan up onto the unused oval part of the track. Dan though managed to rejoint the race and regained his position behind the #28 car and then proceeded to try everything he could to find a way by, but without success. It stayed like this until nearly the end of the race when Barber got involved with a back marker and ended up hitting the wall hard on the third turn of the oval section of the track. This elevated Dan into sixth place but then the race ended suddenly with the checkered flag along with a red flag and yellow flag from the starter. Under the circumstances Dan, as well as the team were very happy with the result. But there was still more to come.
A while after the race had been completed, it was announced by the Fran Am officials that the finishing order was being changed as the race had been stopped under a red flag condition, which meant that the results would be as to the running order on which the cars had completed the previous lap before the red flag was displayed. This lead to much confusion as no one was really clear on what had transpired to come to this conclusion. The GTI team were under the impression that the race had been stopped because the time limit for the race had been reached and to confirm this fact Dan stated "I saw the checkered flag, along with red the flag, but I did not see any black flags at any corner marshal stations," which would indicate that the race was being stopped for a safety reason because of an on-track incident. There was much discussion following this change of events between Dan, the GTI team and the Fran Am officials, but in the end the results were as posted. Instead of a well-deserved sixth place finish, Dan was demoted to seventh, with the crashed car of Tim Barber being reinstated in the sixth finishing position. Instead of earning ten points for the race, Dan would end up with only eight points from the result, a disappointing end to a very tough weekend.
For Dan, he now has to put this behind him and get ready for the next race on May 18th at Barber Motorsports Park. The GTI Formula Motorsports team is committed to taking every possible step to ensure that the problems experienced this weekend do not happen again and that they provide Dan with a car he can take to the front. As team owner David Hosie said after the Phoenix race, "if there had been a few more laps, Dan would have been on the podium easily with the lap times that he was turning after getting clear of the #28 car." He went on and said, "For round two of the championship in two weeks we are aiming to be on the podium."