St. Petersburg, Florida - There was real disappointment for VICI Racing today at St. Petersburg when the ...
St. Petersburg, Florida - There was real disappointment for VICI Racing today at St. Petersburg when the #5 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR was retired from the Acura Sports Car Challenge event after sustaining accident damage during the second free practice session held shortly after lunchtime.
VICI Racing, and tire development partner Kumho Tire, arrived in St. Petersburg this week for the second round of the 2008 American Le Mans Series (ALMS) flushed with optimism after an impressive debut showing at Sebring in mid-March, and with promising Brazilian Ruben Carrapatoso joining a strong driving roster alongside team regulars Craig Stanton and Nathan Swartzbaugh.
The team was also delighted to welcome the involvement of P1Groupe for the first time, and a new partnership with Tampa-based Makes & Models lifestyle magazine. These two join our current partners, Wempe, Tornos and Westway Development.
Today, the first day of on-track action at St. Petersburg, started very early with an hour long opening free practice session (8:05-9:05 AM); and for Ruben, who was making his Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, St. Petersburg and ALMS debut this weekend, it was the perfect opportunity to allow him turn in some learning laps in the car to familiarise himself with the technically- demanding 1.8-mile, 14-turn road course which races majestically through the city's downtown district, as well as along the waterfront and marina.
Ruben, a former World Karting Champion, who has successfully raced in Euroseries F3, A1GP, and South American Stock Cars, quickly settled into the #5 car. Very early on he posted a solid lap in 1:19.648. And as the times on track quickly dropped he followed this up with a 1:16.503, which put him in a respectable position in the timesheets. After 22 minutes the Brazilian brushed the wall of the high-speed Turn 11/12 chicane and the team took the opportunity to wrap up the opening session and inspect the car closely.
The afternoon's second free practice session (1:05-2:05 PM) would be followed by a short 10 minute interval before qualifying got underway. Ruben was first in the cockpit and was soon running in the very low 1:17s before a spinning Acura after 7:43 necessitated a yellow flag period. He pitted for checks and resumed when the course went green at 10:42. Ruben followed this up with consistent laps in the low 1:16 and mid 1:15 bracket. At 20:48 of the session completed Rubens pitted again, before after 33 minutes he handed over to Nathan.
With fuel and a new set of Kumho Tires Nathan was out after 38 minutes of the session and he turned in similarly consistent times to Ruben before on 47 min a slide saw him make contact with the barriers. Unfortunately an LMP2 car then made contact with the stranded #5 car which resulted in more serious damage being inflicted.
Back at the paddock this was deemed after exhaustive examination to be unrepairable at the circuit, and the decision was made to withdraw the car. The whole team is now looking forward to the next round of the ALMS at Long Beach in a fortnight's time where we hope to turn in a good result.
Ruben Carrapatoso says: "I enjoyed my experience of the RSR; it's a really easy car to drive, and it's so disappointing that we can't make the race as I'm sure we would have impressed many people. I enjoyed the St. Petersburg circuit, although it was very dirty and slippery, and I have been pleased to work with the VICI Racing team. I focused on learning the track this morning and being careful, although I did graze a barrier. By the afternoon the track conditions had changed and I used the second session to develop my understanding of the car and circuit further. I now look forward to Long Beach where I think we could surprise a few people."
Ron C. Meixner, President VICI Racing, says: "It's a really bitter blow to have to withdraw our car today after all the hard work that has gone in and we were looking forward to building on the promise we showed in Sebring. However our attention has already turned to Long Beach and we are now focused on repairing the car and putting on a good show for the fans in California. We we're also delighted to welcome P1Groupe and Makes & Models to the team, we are disspointed that it was a short showing and look forward to a more rewarding event in two weeks time."