Bowmanville, Canada. Sunday, 30th August, 2009 -From complete dominance to extreme disappointment they were the scenes that played themselves out here today as we follow the competition for the ...
Bowmanville, Canada. Sunday, 30th August, 2009 -From complete dominance to extreme disappointment they were the scenes that played themselves out here today as we follow the competition for the #20 BP Dyson Racing Mazda on the ten turn, 2.459 mile circuit that is Mosport, one of the fastest in the American Le Mans Series.
The weekend could not have started better for Marino and his co-driver, Butch Leitzinger, a good test session on Friday meant the #20 crew could concentrate its efforts on set-up and fine tuning. However, by Saturday morning heavy and persistent rain was falling over the Bowmanville track so the #20 crew decided to sit out the first practice session. By afternoon the skies had cleared and the track had dried out and with only a couple of minutes of the second practice session remaining Marino was holding the fastest time in LMP2. The Lowes Fernandez LMP2 Acura then slipped in a quick lap, but Marino was feeling very confident for his second qualifying run in as many races. Could he repeat his pole position in Road America just two weeks ago? On lap 4 of his qualifying run here in Mosport Marino answered that, setting a time of 1:06.379 he took pole in LMP2 and set the 3rd quickest time overall, just one second behind David Brabham's LMP1 pole time and 0.5 seconds quicker than the #16 sister car.
Following his domination in qualifying Marino was behind the wheel for the start of the race this afternoon, his concentration, commitment and determination immediately manifest itself as he joined the two front running LMP1 Acuras of Highcroft and de Ferran going 3 abreast into turn one. The bit was well and truly between Marino's teeth, setting the fastest lap in LMP2 on lap 6 he continued to hound the 2 front runners eventually taking the de Ferran car on lap 24 to go 2nd overall. Just 3 laps later Marino took the overall lead which he retained comfortably until lap 35 when oil dropped by some of the LMP1 cars was sprayed over Marino's windscreen and mixing with rain droplets that threatened the race from time to time it completely destroyed all forward visibility. He needed to pit urgently, but being so close to the pit window, the team asked Marino to persevere with it. Marino was obliged to run a further 4 laps judging his position on the track by using side vision only. "It's not like being in an open prototype where you can just dispense with a tear-off from your visor when your vision is obscured, you are completely without vision and there's nothing you can do about it. I was trying to hold track position as best as I could; they were some of the most stressful laps I've ever driven," said Marino when he eventually exited the car on lap 39.
Following a very quick and efficient pitstop, Butch Leitzinger was back out on track in the #20 car. A couple of laps later a crash involving the #16 sister car was to put Chris Dyson and Guy Smith out of the race and give rise to a lengthy full course caution. Shortly after the restart the Fernandez LMP2 Acura made a very quick pitstop rejoining the track ahead of the #20 car, however Fernandez was penalised for speeding in pitlane and required to serve an immediate penalty putting Butch back out in the lead of LMP2. Butch continued to retain the lead until the cruellest turn of fete befell them both, with just over 10 minutes of the race remaining the #20 car went out of the race with a blown turbo, Fernandez retook the LMP2 lead and with it the LMP2 Drivers Championship. Fortunately Marino and Butch had done enough to retain 2nd place in LMP2 and finished 5th overall.
Despite disappointment Marino remained positive after the race, "I can't tell you how disappointed the whole BP Dyson Mazda crew are, we had two cars capable of dominating this race and for neither to finish with a victory is hard to take, especially as we came so close with the #20 car. The Fernandez car was close to us at the end, but Butch had the situation well under control. I have to take this opportunity to congratulate the Fernandez crew and Acura on their championship success, they are great competitors. We will learn from the problem we had today and hopefully we can pick up where we left off at Petit Le Mans next month." Round 9 is on Saturday, 26th September, 2009, at the Road Atlanta circuit in Atlanta, Georgia.