SONOMA, Calif., Monday, July 23, 2001- Shane Lewis, of Jupiter, Fla., drove the ...
SONOMA, Calif., Monday, July 23, 2001- Shane Lewis, of Jupiter, Fla., drove the #45 ESP American Viperacing Dodge Viper GTS-R to fourth in the GTS class in yesterday's X-Factor Grand Prix of Sonoma American Le Mans Series (ALMS) race. The two-time 24 Hours of Le Mans starter was 18th overall here at Sears Point Raceway co-driving with Jeff Altenburg. Lewis was making his return to the cockpit following right leg surgery to repair a previous injury.
"We went aggressive on a tire choice in our first stint and that sort of bit us," said the 1998 Professional Sports Car Racing Rising Star. "But, it was a good run for the ESP American Viperacing Dodge. I thought we were going to get the Saleen there at the end but it topped us. It feels great to be back in a car. I feel great. I am ready to go race in Portland right now. I could jump right back in that Viper and run an endurance race as good as I feel."
The three-time IMSA Supercar race winner, who qualified the Viper fourth in class, was closing on the class pole-winning Saleen entry towards the checkered flag. Despite gaining on each successive lap, Lewis was not able to catch the rear-engine specialty car before the finish.
The leg surgery sidelined him at this year's endurance classic at Le Mans but Lewis has run in all of the 2001 ALMS events to date. Since the surgery shortly after the 12 Hours of Sebring, the Lancaster, California-born driver has been undergoing vigorous rehabilitation to prepare for his return to the cockpit.
"In two laps I was yelling and screaming I was having such a good time," Lewis exclaimed. "To be honest, once I was in the Viper, I didn't event think about the leg. I just fell into a groove and it was like I had never been out of a car. This was sort of a check-up for me personally. I wanted to remove any doubt in my mind that the leg was ready to go. Now we'll go into Portland with nothing but winning on our minds."
The personable driver, who regularly ranks as one of the ALMS' most popular, will drive in the second race of a two-event deal with American Viperacing at Portland International Raceway on August 5th. American Viperacing is currently seeking the resources to keep Lewis as a key member of their team for the remainder of 2001 and beyond.
"I think that this first race with American Viperacing went really well," reflected Lewis. "The guys on the team worked hard and we raced hard. Jeff [Altenburg] and I got along well and the car was really very good. I am looking forward to going into Portland. I think we can do a lot up there with this Viper."