Ruhlman holds on to finish eighth at Puerto Rico, ends year in sixth overall in driver's championship.
San Juan, Puerto Rico (Oct 26) -- The 2002 Trans-Am Series' "Most Improved Driver of the Year" Randy Ruhlman held on today to finish eighth in the action-packed finale of the 2003 Motorock Trans-Am Tour for the BFGoodrich Tires® Cup. Ruhlman's eighth place finish was enough to boost him in points to sixth overall in the final 2003 Driver's Championship.
Ruhlman was moved up to fourth for the start of the scheduled 63-lap race, after Rookie of the Year Jorge Diaz Jr.'s qualifying time was disallowed. Concerns about heat and tire wear were left by the wayside as the race got underway and Ruhlman maintained a front running position. He got hit from behind and spun on lap three, and then at the midway point suffered another severe hit. Ruhlman was forced to come through traffic twice, but he had to overcome an even more serious problem, an engine that was working on just seven cylinders.
"We actually had a really great car. We conquered some of our initial problems with the handling, and had put together a winning car. Once the race got going and we were in fourth and fifth, I was hit early on by John Baucom, but I wasn't worried. I knew I had the car to make it back to the front, and I honestly think we had a shot at the win, even with the hit," continued Ruhlman.
"I made some good passes on people and had gotten about half way back up the field, before I suddenly had no power. One corner it was there and the next it was slow. We broke a rocker in the engine. Even with great corner speed, I was on seven cylinders, and I just could not get past these guys. They had about 100 horsepower on me, and that is an incredible amount to give away on every corner. To finish as high as eighth was good, but still very frustrating," said Ruhlman.
"I do think we have shown we have what it takes this year, with the fourth at Mosport and the third at Trois Rivieres. I am pleased that even after the difficult start to our season, we were able to steadily move up in the points to sixth overall. It would have been great to take the win here, and we thought we were a serious contender for it. Unfortunately, even with all of the yellow flag laps, it was just not going to happen today without all eight cylinders.
"This race was the inaugural Grand Prix of Puerto Rico and it was a really fantastic venue. The fans were so excited and cheered and stood the whole time. The Trans-Am series and drivers put on a show that was outstanding. This was a premier event and I am looking forward to racing here next year," remarks Randy Ruhlman.
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Ruhlman's Chevrolet Corvette is fielded this year by the Minneapolis-based, Derhaag Motorsports team, led by former Trans-Am driver Jim Derhaag. Jim Derhaag himself made 150 starts as a driver in the Trans-Am Series before his successful move to full time ownership in 1998. The team has fielded many successful drivers, including top Trans-Am drivers Justin Bell, Kenny Wilden, Tony Ave, Dorsey Schroeder, Chris Neville and Darin Brassfield.