Corsa Motorsports/White Lightning Racing Series Premiere Comes to Early End Engine Fire Halts Sebring 12 Hour for EquiWest Ferrari SEBRING, Fla., March 17, 2007 -- The rollercoaster weekend for the No. 32 EquiWest/Michelin Ferrari F430 GT came...
Corsa Motorsports/White Lightning Racing Series Premiere Comes to Early
Engine Fire Halts Sebring 12 Hour for EquiWest Ferrari
SEBRING, Fla., March 17, 2007 -- The rollercoaster weekend for the No. 32 EquiWest/Michelin Ferrari F430 GT came to an end today on a downturn. The Corsa Motorsports/White Lightning Racing entry was making its American Le Mans Series debut here at Sebring International Raceway and ran as high as second in the 55th Annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring before an engine fire brought it all down. The fire occurred just moments before the race entered its eighth hour with Jose Maria Lopez (Cordoba, Argentina) behind the wheel of the Steve Pruitt (Sandy, Utah) owned machine. The team of Lopez, Rui Aguas (Porto, Portugal)m and Maurizio Mediani (Reggio Emilia, Italy) would finish 16th in class, 32nd overall, 158 laps down to the GT2 class winner. Lopez was uninjured in the blaze.
The fire erupted in the left rear of the car on GT2 lap 218. On Wednesday the right-side had suffered heavy damage in an accident that forced the Dale White- managed team to sit out qualifying, As Lopez hustled the machine in an effort to recapture lost laps from an earlier stop (the team lost five positions and 11 laps to repair a left rear tie rod bolt failure) a small fire began in the left rear of the engine area. That fire expanded rapidly engulfing the entire rear section of the newly repaired car. Lopez managed to bring the car to a stop near a safety worker station. With everything from the rear wheels back aflame, the car's once pristine Ferrari Rosso Scuderia red paint was now charcoaled from the fire. The team has not had the opportunity to determine the cause of the blaze or the length of the required repair. However, the team has already activated a plan to fly the car to Italy where Ferrari Corse Clienti and Michelotto Automobili will do a thorough study of the car and its components and initiate repairs. Corsa Motorsports/White Lightning Racing is scheduled to race next on March 31st at St. Petersburg, Fla.
Prior to today's struggles the team had experienced the high of highs and the low of lows here at the 3.7- mile Sebring International Raceway circuit. They stood atop the time charts in practice and suffered the challenges of contact with the Turn 17 tire wall on Wednesday- the incident required the car to leave the track for repairs and the No. 32 missed all of Thursday's early practice and qualifying session only arriving in time for the required night practice. The fire was the final low but Corsa Motorsports is determined to rally and find victory lane in the American Le Mans Series this season.
The No. 31 Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing Ferrari F430 GT also suffered its blows in today's event. The Michael Petersen-owned car driven by Tim Bergmeister (Langenfeld, Germany), Tomas Enge (Monaco) and reserve driver Memo Gidley (Novato, Calif.) finished eighth in GT2 class at the 12 Hours.
Steve Pruitt, Owner: "The race started with some promise. We started at the back and made our way through the field. It was around hour five that we were in second-place. The car was doing well, the drivers were doing well. We found we could double-stint the Michelin tires. Everything was going quite well. We had a couple little mishaps in the pits, to be expected first time out. Other than that, no other real problems. Then we had an overheating issue and, evidently, lost an oil line and that caused the end of the day. Very frustrating for everybody. The car itself is not a total loss but will require a substantial amount of time to be rebuilt. We are making arrangements to have the car flown back to Italy next week and have the car gone through and rebuilt at the factory. We think the American Le Mans Series is the premier Series in North America. It is evident in how this GT2 race finished. Our spirits are not high but the outlook is good. I think we have the combination here if we can get the loose ends tied-up. I think we have an opportunity to be competitive and I think the people in the paddock now see that we can be competitive."
Dale White, Entrant/Team Manager: "It is most important that Jose is OK. Even though the fire was all at the back of the car, that was a scary deal. Anything like that is pretty devastating. We worked really hard to get the car ready to race today and the team had done a great job. We felt that the 32 car had a great shot at the podium. We were there for awhile but it just wasn't meant to be today. We will go back tonight and regroup. We'll approach it fresh in the morning and see where we are at with the car; what can be done in time for St. Petersburg and what we can do better the next time out."