Sebring: Duncan Dayton race report

Intersport's Dayton, Field and Connor Finish Eighth in Top Class at Sebring SEBRING, Fla., March 20 - The Intersport Racing Lola Judd ...

Intersport's Dayton, Field and Connor Finish Eighth in Top Class at Sebring

SEBRING, Fla., March 20 - The Intersport Racing Lola Judd #37 was sixth overall and fifth in the top class with just an hour and a half left in Saturday's Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, but an engine misfire caused it to drop to 17th overall and eighth in the top class at the finish of the 52nd annual enduro at Sebring International Raceway.

The car, driven by Duncan Dayton, Jon Field and Larry Connor and sponsored by Banana Joe's, Goodyear and Highcroft Racing, experienced a host of challenges in this once-around-the-clock event. The team overcame many of the problems, however, and almost finished the race.

Field, of Dublin, Ohio, started fifth in the 44-car field in one of a dozen cars in the top class, LMP1. The team ran in sixth, seventh or eighth place overall (and fifth, sixth or seventh in class) for most of the afternoon and evening. It looked poised to finish sixth overall and fifth in class, but the engine misfire forced the car to remain on pit road for many laps at the end, causing the entry to plummet down the standings.

Still, the Dublin, Ohio-based team and its drivers performed admirably.

The three drivers all did single stints to start the race, with the rotation being Field followed by North Salem, N.Y.'s Dayton and then Connor, of Centerville, Ohio. Field did another single stint after that and then Dayton did a double stint. Connor followed with a single before Field and Dayton did two more doubles, and Connor was in the car at the end.

After his first stint Dayton reported that the car's paddle-shift system wasn't working at all. Manual shifting coupled with no power steering caused all three drivers to get blisters on their hands. It also made it very difficult to judge the car's speed on pit road, and the team received more than one penalty for speeding as it entered and exited the pits.

Just as frustrating was the poor radio contact between the car and the pit crew. That system worked either poorly or not at all for the entire race.

Dayton was in the car when it developed an electrical problem that was solved by changing the alternator, and in that process the paddle shift system was also fixed. The steering wheel was cocked about 30 degrees off center during that stint, which almost caused Dayton to crash on pit road, but later the crew made adjustments that solved that problem.

Dayton's last double stint had a little bit of everything. The paddle shift system started to fail again, and then Butch Leitzinger punted him in the rear. That caused a flat left-rear tire, which Dayton pitted to have changed at 8:30 p.m.

Twenty minutes later he was back in the pits to change another shredded tire. "I think he damaged the undertray too, and that caused the second flat tire," he explained.

Around that point the engine picked up the misfire that eventually caused the entry to retire.

"I've never worked so hard in my life for such slow lap times," Dayton said after his final stint. "It's so frustrating when you can't push. We had a lot of challenges in this one."

Three Audis took the top three spots at the end, with Pierre Kaffer, Frank Biela and Alan McNish the winning drivers.

A third of the Intersport Racing drivers in this race did end up on the podium, as the Intersport Racing Lola B2K/40 Judd of Clint Field, William Binnie and Rick Sutherland finished third in the LMP2 class. The team's third entry, a Riley and Scott MkIII C Elan driven by Mike Durand, Chad Block and George Forgeois, dropped out early.

The next ALMS race is scheduled for Sunday, June 27 at the team's home track, the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio.

Saturday's race was covered live on SPEED.

-lm-

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Series ALMS
Drivers Duncan Dayton , Butch Leitzinger , Chad Block , Jon Field , Larry Connor , Clint Field , Rick Sutherland , Pierre Kaffer , William Binnie