SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- It was all about rookies and veterans in the Motorock Trans-Am Tour for the BFGoodrich Tires Cup season finale in the Puerto Rico Grand Prix. Talented rookies and seasoned veterans were all vying for the podium, but in the end, it was a Rocketsports Racing rookie and veteran that claimed the win and third place on the podium. Local island standout Wally Castro, driver of the No. 3 Puerto Rico Lottery Jaguar XKR, took the lead on lap 51 of the 55-lap race, scoring the win in only his second Trans-Am start. Rocketsports stalwart Tomy Drissi, driver of the No. 5 "Stuck on You, the Movie" Jaguar XKR, stood third on the podium, his best finish in the 2003 race season.
Castro made his previous Trans-Am Tour appearance in the 1996 St. Petersburg Grand Prix, running as high as fifth before a broken axle relegated him to an 11th place finish. In 2003, Castro currently maintains a 22-point lead in the Puerto Rico National Championship -- GTS class, collecting four wins and one second-place finish, with one race remaining.
"What a super race. My team joined together with Rocketsports and it was beautiful," said an elated Castro. "It was unbelievable. I had a great car and I knew we had a good shot right from the beginning."
Castro relied on his experienced Rocketsports crew. "They made the call to come in for tires and that was the key to winning," explained Castro, who was running sixth when pitting under caution to change tires. "The car came back to me. I had to do a lot of braking and the tires were really hooked up. I knew for sure at the end that we had the fastest car."
A black flag and drive-through penalty for unmanned pit equipment in pit lane following that stop put him back to 13th place. "The crew was confident," Castro continued. "They told me to push the car the more I can, and that we'd have lots of tire left at the end; they were right.
"The Trans-Am Tour is awesome; it was a good, competitive race. I am more than grateful to be the one to win here in Puerto Rico," concluded Castro.
Drissi, who qualified ninth, pitted twice in the race. Pitting to replace the rear deck lid and change tires following a spin, his second pit stop was a strategic decision.
"We decided to take on tires," said Drissi, "and it paid off. That, and I really focused on braking. The guys were really braking well today and I had to stay focused.
"I didn't realize that it was Wally coming on strong there at the end," Drissi revealed. "If I had, I would have pushed it harder, but I don't think I'd have had anything for him. But a podium finish is a great way to end the season. You can savor it until next year.
Scott Pruett, driver of the No. 7 Motorock/Jaguar R Performance XKR debuting the new Jaguar AJ-V8 four-valve, overhead-cam, fuel-injected engine, qualified on the pole, lead the most laps, and won the BFGoodrich Tires "Take Control" award, but sheared two right rear hub drive pins, resulting in a 13th place finish.
"It's just one of those things that happen in racing," said Pruett, who clinched his third Trans-Am Tour Drivers' Championship with his win in the Motorock Miami 100. "But I'm very pleased for Wally. It was great for him, our team, the Puerto Rico Grand Prix, and the Puerto Rican fans. It was great to see Tomy finish off his season on the podium.
"But except for not winning the race, I couldn't be more proud or pleased for the Rocketsports team and Jaguar," Pruett continued, referring to the new AJ-V8. "This is the new era for Trans-Am racing. This is just the first step for us. We started with a concept and we very nearly won in its first outing.
"What Rocketsports had done with the help and support of Jaguar is nothing less than spectacular," concluded Pruett, who has eight wins in 11 Trans-Am Tour starts in the 2003 season.