Long Beach: Genoa Racing race report

Genoa Racing Finishes Third in LMPC Class In American Le Mans Series Action Saturday At Long Beach Grand Prix LONG BEACH, Calif., April 17 - Genoa Racing recorded its second podium finish in as many races in the American Le Mans Series presented...

Genoa Racing Finishes Third in LMPC Class In American Le Mans Series Action Saturday At Long Beach Grand Prix

LONG BEACH, Calif., April 17 - Genoa Racing recorded its second podium finish in as many races in the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patron when drivers J.R. Hildebrand and Tom Sutherland finished third in the LMPC class and seventh overall Saturday at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

After 100 minutes of intense competition the top three LMPC cars finished fifth, sixth and seventh overall. The Green Earth Team Gunnar No. 99 of Gunnar Jeannette and Elton Julian won the class and completed 66 laps to finish one lap ahead of both the second-place car, the Level 5 Motorsports No. 55 of Scott Tucker and polesitter Christophe Bouchut, and Genoa Racing's No. 36. Sutherland, of Los Gatos, Calif., took the checkered flag 13.491 seconds behind Bouchut.

Hildebrand, of Sausalito, Calif., turned in a spectacular first stint. He went from third in class and tenth overall at the start to take command of the class lead in convincing fashion. The Level 5 Motorsports No. 55 fell back early in the race but Hildebrand had to work hard to chase down and pass the car that started second in class and went on to take the top LMPC honors, which was being driven by Julian at the time.

It didn't take the reigning Firestone Indy Lights champion long to get the job done, even though there were two early yellows to slow the field. He passed Julian in Turn 5 shortly after that second yellow to take the class lead, and then he stayed there throughout the remainder of his stint.

Once he was leading his class Hildebrand was mainly concerned with Greg Pickett, who was driving a LMP car that was naturally faster than his mount on the straights. Hildebrand was able to pass him too, getting around him on lap 18 just a half-hour into the race, to take sixth overall and put more space between he and Julian.

Hildebrand was still flying when he set the car's fastest lap of the race 10 laps later with a 1:19.191.

He had more than a 5-second lead over Julian when the third and final yellow came out on lap 36 when the Flying Lizard Porsche went off course and there was debris on the 1.968-mile, 11-turn temporary street course.

When the pits opened on lap 36 almost the entire field pitted for fuel, tires and a driver change, including the Genoa Racing team, which is based in Zionsville, Ind. At that point about 56 minutes had elapsed in the race and there were 44 minutes remaining.

The pit stop went smoothly but some of the other teams were faster, and when Sutherland began his stint the entry had dropped from eighth overall to 14th, and the Team Gunnar No. 99 was in the class lead, one lap ahead of Genoa's car and with Jeannette behind the wheel. To make matters even more challenging there were some fast GT cars ahead of Sutherland that were slower but treacherous, because they were duking it out among themselves for their own class positions.

Sutherland called his stint "intense" but even though he was the youngest driver in the race he kept his composure and brought the car home safely. Sutherland, who is sponsored by ClickAway, remained in second place in class until Bouchut got around him with about 22 minutes remaining to push him to third. He brought the car home in one piece for another strong finish for the team, which is new this year to this particular series.

The next race in the series is a six-hour race Saturday, May 22 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif.

J.R. Hildebrand: "The other LMPC podium finishers had a different system for pit stops that was faster than ours was today, but we had a really good car.

"I got the class lead going into Turn 5. There was water or some kind of liquid on the track there, and I knew he'd take it easy going through it. I went up over the curb and dove down and made the pass. We might have touched a little, I don't know.

"Once I got in the lead I was still stuck behind the Muscle Milk car. He was faster on the straights but slower in the corners. In traffic I could hold him off, but the key to staying in the class lead was getting by him to put some distance between our car and second place. I think I finally passed him coming out of the Fountain Turn.

"I flat-spotted both front tires during qualifying and we had to start on those tires, so I had to deal with that during my stint too. The right front was worse than the left.

"I got the call to do this race about a week ago, and I want to give a big thank you to Angelo [Ferro] and Tom [Knapp] for putting it all together. I don't know if I'll be in this car for Laguna Seca though; I hope to be racing in Indianapolis in May."

Tom Sutherland: "We had a little problem with our pit stop. I don't think there were any incidents during it; our stop was just a little bit slower than some of the other teams.

"When I got going I was back in 14th or something like that. I think I was behind the top six GT cars, so I had to deal with them, and then I also had Christophe Bouchut behind me.

"I really pushed hard. At the end I just put my head down and drove the best I could. Bouchut was on fire; he was taking a lot of chances to get by, but I knew my first priority was to bring the car home.

"I was very happy with our Michelin tires; they were fine throughout my stint. The team did a really great job to give us a really good car, and I want to thank them all for their hard work."

-source: genoa racing

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Series ALMS
Drivers Gunnar Jeannette , Christophe Bouchut , Elton Julian , Tom Sutherland , J.R. Hildebrand , Scott Tucker