Motor problem derails Jon Fogarty at Laguna Seca. Alex Gurney finishes sixth in TAC fourth round. MONTEREY, Calif. (June 8, 2002) - - What was shaping into a highly productive race weekend turned to disappointment for Dorricott Racing at the...
Motor problem derails Jon Fogarty at Laguna Seca.
Alex Gurney finishes sixth in TAC fourth round.
MONTEREY, Calif. (June 8, 2002) - - What was shaping into a highly productive race weekend turned to disappointment for Dorricott Racing at the Mazda Raceway Laguna in round four of the 12-race Toyota Atlantic Championship on Saturday, June 8.
Dorricott Racing's Jon Fogarty, Alex Gurney, and Luis Diaz improved their starting positions in Saturday morning's final qualifying by Gurney and Fogarty sneaking into row two with positions three and four, respectively, and Diaz leaping to seventh on the grid. When the 30-lap race was complete, Dorricott Racing's driver trio became more a "Tale of Three Drivers."
Fogarty recorded his first DNF (did not finish) through no fault of his. Diaz struggled to complete the race due to multiple contacts throughout, and Gurney's savvy found a way to keep his Castrol/Behr Swift 014.a running enroute to his third top-six finish in the first four races.
The tone of the race emerged at its beginning when the 26-car field screamed down the front straight-away toward the second corner of the 11-corner, 2.238-mile road course. Pole-sitter and eventual race winner Ryan Hunter-Reay decided upon a painfully slow approach to the starter's stand while the field formed an extremely tight-quartered dual column of 13 rows. As the morass of cars headed into turn two, the inevitable occurred with multiple contacts between six cars including Fogarty. When the dust had lifted, over one-half of the field had been adversely affected including those who succeeded with their evasive measures. One car was forced to retire by turn five, but the remainder continued albeit in a race order that was unimaginable two turns earlier.
Fogarty, however, was the exception as he improved two positions to second place and set out after Hunter-Reay.
"I got a good start," said Fogarty. "I was able to pass Alex (Gurney) then I was inside of Jonathan Macri. Sepp Koster came around the outside and barreled on me. We had contact but it wasn't a big deal for me. I think he spun. I came out 'P2' which was fantastic."
Gurney, meanwhile, was forced to run off-track into turn two's dirt before recovering and swinging the into seventh place. Diaz didn't lose as many positions as he could have and guided the Temex Swift 014.a through the carnage to reappear in 10th place.
"The start wasn't very good," said Gurney. "My car had a little taller first gear for the speed that Ryan slowed it down too. I just didn't get a good jump. I fell back to at least fourth. I think Sepp Koster spun around. I had to chose one way or another. The way he was spinning forced me to go around the outside. I had to run off onto the dirt on the exit of turn two. I came out of that mess in seventh. After that, my car was loose. It was difficult to keep pace with the handful of guys in front of me."
Diaz then began a methodical pace of passing cars one by one. Diaz passed Canadian Michael Valiante for ninth place on lap five. Grant Ryley fell victim to the aggressive Diaz two laps later when Diaz passed him for eighth.
Gurney had maintained seventh place since the opening melee. Both cars were running well but Diaz seized an opportunity to pass Gurney on the inside while entering the ever-sharp left-hander of turn 11 and pulled into seventh place on lap 14.
The problem for Gurney was more that Ryley took advantage of the gap created behind Diaz on the pass and slipped tight and behind him. All three cars sped 'flat' down and up the long front straight-away with Gurney nursing the outside. As they approached the near-180 degree corner of turn two, Gurney and Diaz were nearly side-by-side. Unintentional, incidental contact occurred between them through the braking zone. Diaz slid into the dirt. Gurney recovered and continued but Ryley avoided contact and leaped to seventh place. Diaz pitted for a precautionary inspection of his car's rear suspension before resuming.
"I was running well but then came the unfortunate incident with my teammate, Alex," said Diaz. "It's painful because I love Dorricott Racing. My teammates are my friends and I have the utmost respect for Alex. It was unintentional and a shame because we were both running well and might have each finished much higher."
More trouble plagued Diaz on lap 21 when he suffered a contact strike from Eduardo Figueroa. Diaz was able to continue for a 15th place finish, but Figeuroa was forced to retire from the race.
Things continued to worsen but this time for Fogarty. With only six laps remaining in the race, it appeared the Portola Valley, Calif., resident would cruise to an uncontested second place finish. However, disaster struck the Thomas Fogarty Winery & Vineyards Swift 014a with ""pop," "sputter," and a rolling stop off-course due to a blown engine.
"I drove really hard to keep the car in second place but, unfortunately, the car didn't give back," said an upset Fogarty. "It turned out to be 'one of those days."
Fogarty relinquished his Toyota Atlantic Championship lead to Canadian Michael Valiante, 52-46. Gurney, however, improved to 39 points but dropped one position into a tie for fifth place with Rodolfo Lavin. Diaz moved to eight place in the TAC with 27 points.
Fogarty maintained a slim three-point lead for Atlantic Rookie-of-the-Year honors over Roger Yasukawa, 46-43. Diaz is in fourth place with 27 points.
A bright light for Fogarty came in the form of a $1,000 bonus as he collected his first career $1000 WorldCom "Fast Pace" Award for running the race's fastest lap with a time of 1:19.651 seconds (101.151 mph).
Round five of the 2002 Toyota Atlantic Championship will be held at Portland International Raceway this upcoming Saturday, June 15.