The #66 New Century Mortgage/Monster Cable Porsche of Cort Wagner and Patrick Long finished 5th in today's ALMS Grand Prix of Portland, after leading the GT class for the better part of an hour during the race. Cort Wagner started the race in 6th position, and drove a brilliant stint, gaining two positions on the field before a yellow flag near the 45-minute mark of the race presented an opportunity for the team to perform a full pit stop and driver change. Unfortunately, the team was hit with a stop-and-go penalty for fueling the car before first shutting off the engine; the penalty was enforced on the first lap of green-flag racing after the full-course caution.
"My stint in the car was uneventful," said Wagner, "and I was just able to run my own pace. The team set the car up perfectly, and I was able to monitor the tires throughout the stint -- the car kept getting better as the stint went on and the fuel got lighter. I wish I could have driven a whole stint under green, but I've got a great teammate in Patrick Long, and he did a fantastic job driving for two straight hours."
Porsche factory driver Patrick Long took over from Wagner and within 20 laps had captured the lead, which he would hold until a late stop for fuel. The team elected to double-stint the #66 car's Michelin tires, and found that they held up remarkably well in nearly two hours of continuous running. Long would surrender the lead only in the pits, as the car had to pit for fuel to finish the race.
Long said, "I'm a bit bummed to have been able to fly by the #45 and #31 Porsches, and then see both of them on the podium. Our pace was great throughout most of my stint, but we were hurt a bit by the penalty. In races of this length, there is usually more than one yellow flag, so when we didn't get one in my stint, we were forced into a strategy that called for us to run our tires longer than normal and make an extra stop under green for fuel. The fact that the team set up a car that allowed us to run one set of tires for nearly two hours is a testament to the crew -- we had a great setup, and our engineering staff gave me a huge amount of confidence in the car."
The #67 Flamingo Resort/TRG Porsche of Pierre Ehret and Jim Matthew had a solid race, only to suffer a heartbreaking drive train failure with three minutes left in the race. Ehret started the car in 11th position, and clawed through the field to run as high as fifth in class. He said, "I had a good run in the car, but towards the end of the stint the tires were going away from me a bit, but that goes with the territory. I got a good idea of where our car differs from some of the top cars in the class -- there was one car in particular that I was able to overtake several times in the corners, but his engine was so strong that he was able to walk away from me on the straight-aways."
Jim Matthews flew in his stint, only to have his progress come undone with two laps remaining in the race due to a suspected input shaft or drive shaft failure, which rendered the car unable to finish the race. He said, "I was having a nice stint, but about halfway through I heard a loud bang from under the car, which I radioed back into the crew. They told me to keep it on the track, and there weren't any problems until just near the end, when I suddenly heard this ugly crunching sound as I went to shift."
Team owner Kevin Buckler reflected on the race. "Overall, we had a good race -- the cars were both great and the drivers did a fantastic job. The stop-and-go in the #66 car hurt us, but as usual the team fought back and came very close to a podium. The #67 car had a wonderful race, but a small mechanical problem with only a couple of laps to go is heartbreak. I'm proud of the team -- everyone worked very hard and the proof was in the cars."
Round six of the 2004 ALMS season will take place on August 8, 2004, from Mosport International Raceway, outside Toronto.