Sears Point: The Racer's Group race report

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The #66 New Century Mortgage/Monster Cable Porsche 911 GT3 RSR of Cort Wagner and Patrick Long finished today’s ALMS Grand Prix of Sonoma in 5th position in the GT class. A punctured tire under green flag racing effectively ended the team’s chance at a podium finish, as Long was forced to limp the car around the serpentine wine country road course on three wheels. Long had started the race in 4th position, and had advanced through the field into second position before his flat tire caused him to pit under green and sacrifice one race lap.

Long said, “Early on I let the two leaders set the pace, and allowed enough distance between myself and them that I could stay out of trouble. That paid off a few laps into the race when the 2nd and 3rd position cars crashed into each other – the front three cars were driving on the razor’s edge, and it bit two of them. After the restart I was putting time into the leader when my puncture happened. The crew did a great job to get me back out on the track almost immediately, and I just kept my nose clean before giving the car to Cort. The car was perfect, and I was able to drive it at 7/10ths for the entire stint.”

Wagner received the car from Long in 8th position, and immediately set about reeling in the cars ahead of him in the field. He was able to make up three grid spots through the duration of his stint, and brought the car home in fifth position. He said, “Unfortunately I had an uneventful race. Pat did a great job in a car that TRG set up very well, and I was confident that we had a podium-capable car today. New Century Mortgage and Monster Cable brought a bunch of guests out to the race, and it wonderful to have them supporting us; I just wish we wouldn’t have had a puncture.”

The #67 Flamingo Resort/TRG Porsche of Pierre Ehret and Jim Matthews started the race from the back of the field after electing not to qualify, due to a faulty clutch. Ehret started brilliantly, passing several cars for position on the first lap of the race, and conserved the car throughout his stint, pitting for fuel, tires and a driver change roughly halfway through the race. Co-driver Jim Matthews assumed the controls of the car and immediately began dicing for position with a group of GT-class Porsches. In the braking zone at turn 11 of the road course, a 180-degree horseshoe, Matthews was contacted by another car and brushed the outside wall of the track. The incident caused left rear suspension damage and required an extended pit stop for repairs. Matthews would rejoin the race, but the damage to the suspension proved fatal to the car. Matthews and Ehret retired after 52 laps of racing.

Pierre said, “With the clutch problem that we had on Saturday, we lost valuable track time to get the car totally set up. When we got out into the race today, we discovered that we had some pretty serious oversteer in the car. We were still competitive even with the oversteer – but it was still a battle.”

Team owner Kevin Buckler commented, “Well, we got dogged by a flat tire, it’ s as simple as that. The #66 drivers were both great, as was the crew, but in the end, a flat under a green flag cost us. It’s a bummer, the car was running at the front and capable of being there the whole race. I’m very proud of everyone’s effort, but luck didn’t go our way today. The #67 car went out early because of some minor contact, but this track punishes even small problems. A small scratch here caused us to go out, and a tiny little toe-link in the suspension was the demise of the car. As they say, ‘That’s racing,’ and we’ll be absolutely ready for Portland next weekend.”

Round five of the 2004 ALMS season takes place Sunday, July 27 at Portland International Raceway. Speed Channel will broadcast the race live at 4pm ET, and will cover the entire race.

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Series ALMS
Drivers Kevin Buckler , Pierre Ehret , Patrick Long , Jim Matthews