Intersport No. 28 Drops Out of Petit Le Mans with Gearbox Woes But Still Places Fourth in Class Unofficially
BRASELTON, Ga., Oct. 10 - The Intersport Racing team and drivers Jon Field, Jeret Schroeder, Joaquin DeSoto and John Mirro were running seventh overall and third in the World Sports Car class around 5:30 p.m. Saturday in the inaugural Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta, but their hopes for a podium finish were dashed at that point when their Banana Joe's/American Fidelity & Liberty Riley & Scott No. 28 retired from the 10-hour/1,000-mile enduro with gearbox problems.
Unofficially their finishing position was 21st overall and fourth in the World Sports Car class.
Field, of Dublin, Ohio, the team owner, was behind the wheel when the trouble occurred. He was getting ready to pit in a few laps to allow Schroeder, of Vineland, N.J., to begin his third stint behind the wheel. Field was able to pull the car safely off the track at the end of the old pit road in the newly-refurbished 2.54-mile road course, but he, Schroeder, Miami's DeSoto and Mirro, of Bath, Pa., were done for the day about three and a half-hours before they all hoped.
The team started the race in 11th overall and fifth in the World Sports Car class. They dropped back as far as 19th overall when they pitted to bleed the brakes, which had been giving them problems almost from the start. They had all gamely battled back up through the standings and they were the highest they'd been all day when the mechanical gremlins struck.
Earlier in the race, around 1:30 p.m., Mirro was behind the wheel when he was hit from behind by another competitor, causing the car to lock in gear. He pitted and the Intersport Racing crew removed the gearbox cover and freed up the locked gear without needing to replace the entire gearbox.
The car continued gamely on until the gearbox finally expired about a half-hour after the car which seemed like a certain winner, the factory Porsche 911 which had won the real Le Mans race in France earlier this year, did a hydroplane-style flip that was sure to make all the networks' sports highlight shows. Yannick Dalmas of France was driving at the time and he somehow escaped uninjured despite his wild ride. He didn't make contact with another car; the accident was caused entirely by bad aerodynamic conditions which all occurred simultaneously. He was cresting a hill in turn seven, one of the slowest parts of the course, and he was drafting a Porsche when the front end of the car simply lifted, launching it up high in the air and into a flip and then crashing down on the track in a ball of fire and then into the nearest concrete barrier.
Considering that nothing that dramatic happened to the Intersport team, they will leave Atlanta a lot happier than they could have been. Pete Halsmer, who was a member of the team that Schroeder raced with in the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona earlier this year, ended up in Georgia Baptist Hospital with a punctured lung after crashing his BMW in another accident.
As far as the official lap charts go, the Intersport No. 28 car was 10th overall and fifth in the World Sports Car (WSC) class at the end of hour one; 10th overall and fourth in the WSC class at the end of hour two; 18th overall and fourth in WSC at the end of hour three; 11th overall and third in WSC at the end of hour four; ninth overall and third at the end of hour five; and eighth overall and third in WSC at the end of hour six. They had actually moved up to seventh before the gearbox let go.
"It was nice to have Jeret [Schroeder] with the team," said Field. "He was driving really aggressively, and he did a great job. We had brake problems but we were all just dealing with it. That's racing, I guess!"
"It was nice that Jon Field and the Intersport Racing team gave me the opportunity to be in the inaugural running of this race," Schroeder said. "Everyone on the team all worked hard and we worked well together. We were competitive time-wise. We all ran consistently. Even though we had some situations to deal with, we were moving towards the front of the field. We were looking at the possibility of a podium finish, but unfortunately the gearbox failure took us out. But all in all it was exciting and it was nice to be back at Road Atlanta and in a Riley & Scott for the first time."