AJR's Gonzales, Leitzinger and Junco Third at Laguna in GTC Monterey, Calif., Alex Job Racing's (AJR) Juan Gonzalez, Butch Leitzinger and Rudolfo (Rudy) Junco came home third in GTC in today's running of the American Le Mans Series (ALMS)...
AJR's Gonzales, Leitzinger and Junco Third at Laguna in GTC
Monterey, Calif., Alex Job Racing's (AJR) Juan Gonzalez, Butch Leitzinger and Rudolfo (Rudy) Junco came home third in GTC in today's running of the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) Monterey presented by Tequila Patron to be run at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The AJR No. 80 came fourth and the No. 23 finished the six-hours in seventh.
In a caution filled six-hours, 10 total yellow periods, the team of Gonzalez, Leitzinger and Junco were able to drive their No. 81 Mission Foods/Alex Job Racing/Porsche GT3 911 Cup car to third place in GTC. The team overcame being shuffled back during pit stops and restarts to put Leitzinger in a position with three laps to go to pass teammate Ricardo Gonzalez for the last place on the GTC podium.
"We had a strategy for me to start the race and get maximum time in the car my first stint," Juan Gonzalez said. "We were able to take advantage of the yellows and I did my hour-and-a-half. My lap times were consistent and I brought it home safe and in one piece. It was very active out there, a lot of cars going off. It was a good day we were able to pass our teammates for third at the very end."
"It was furious out there," Leitzinger said. "From the instant I jumped in the car it was flat-out. I was driving ten-tenths and everyone was doing the same thing. It was impressive. This GTC class is a lot of fun. It is kind of our version of touring cars. There are always a lot of yellows here. The restarts are crazy and people have trouble keeping the car on the track. The last yellow helped us, the first ones hurt us so it evened out. The last yellow got us close to the 80 car and I was able to pass Ricardo for the last spot on the podium."
"It was a very interesting race," Junco said. "This was my first ALMS endurance race and my first time racing a Porsche 911. It is a very competitive series. I was struggling to get a feel for the car all week. In the race, after getting through the traffic, I was able to get a good rhythm going and do some solid lap times. Endurance racing is very different from the sprint racing I am used to driving. The whole team is involved with pit stops, the race strategy and driver changes. You have to have everything work just right to do well. I am happy to be on the podium in my first race with the team."
Ricardo Gonzales and Luis Diaz ran a very consistent race to be in the thick of getting their first podium position in their No. 80 Car Amigo/Alex Job Racing/Porsche 911 GT3 Cup entry. Ricardo Gonzalez battled with teammate Leitzinger over the last four laps before finally giving up the position to the sports car ace and settling for fourth.
"This was a very strong way to close out an otherwise difficult weekend," Diaz said. "Things got really exciting there towards the end and we got within a lap of the podium, which is frustrating but also encouraging. The team did a great job, no mistakes at all during our stops and the strategy worked out great for us. We just needed better luck with the yellows. This has been by far our best race this year and we are going to the next race with strong momentum."
"That was a lot of fun," Ricardo Gonzalez said. "The last few laps with Butch behind me I was just trying to manage the traffic and hit my marks and keep him behind me. Coming into Turn One I made a move to pass some slower cars and I really hurt my tires, Butch followed me and was very close and after that I just didn't have the tires to keep him behind me. It's very frustrating to lose the podium with only one lap to go but we are all very happy to be back in front. Every race we get better and better and it's only a matter of time until we get our first win."
The No. 23 Battery Tender/Tequila Patron/Alex Job Racing/Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car driven by Bill Sweedler, Romeo Kapudija and Jan-Dirk Lueders had a very tough day. On lap seven Sweedler was punted by a GT2 car into the Turn Six gravel and had to be extricated, costing the 23 three laps. The team was able to work strategy and get a couple of laps back, but a sticky transmission cost the trio time at the end of the race. In addition, Kapudija was suffering from a stomach ailment but was able to take the checker for seventh.
"It was a terrible day today," Sweedler said. "I was hit by one of the Lizard cars, he just torpedoed into the back me, it was tough. It put me off the track I had to be towed out of the kitty litter and that cost us three laps. I always say we have to be consistent and keep it on the track, we just made too many mistakes today."
"A little bit of a tough start," Lueders said. "After about two laps into my stint I got hit by a prototype at the exit of Turn Ten. I was able to recover and keep going without spinning. The car wasn't damaged, it was still very good. We had a little under steer, but not as bad as the last couple of days. The rest of the stint was fairly uneventful. The race had a lot of yellows and then came the exciting restarts."
"It was a very rough day," Kapudija said. "We came up short for sure. The gearbox started to act up. Into Turn 11 I was catching neutral and I had to shift from third to second. The transmission would go from third to first and that locked up the rear wheels and got me sideways and shut the car off. Then 40-minutes into the stint I started to feel ill. I was able to drive an hour-and-a-half and finish the race. The team did a great job with the car. We had a nice contingent of Battery Tender people here and I wish we could have had a better finish for them."
Alex Job, team owner, goes into the traditional Le Mans break with his team atop the points lead in GTC.
"We really had an up and down race," Job said. "Juan, Butch and newcomer Rudy were able to battle back from some bad luck with yellows to finish on the podium, which proves that consistent professionalism will sometimes trump speed. Ricardo and Luis did a great job to come back from a tough race at Long Beach to be competitive for a podium spot only to be beaten by the 81. I think their confidence is high after today. Romeo, Bill and Jan had a really tough day. If you go off here and have to be towed out it costs three laps, which are very tough to make-up with so many yellows. We go into the break leading the points and have all of our guys in a good position for the run to the championship when we come back in July."