Rookie Thorne Finishes 12th But Lee's Drive Through Field Ends Violently In Formula BMW Season Opener Saturday at Mid-Ohio LEXINGTON, Ohio, May 20 - Twin tooth Racing's Robert Thorne of Sherman, Conn. brought his Team Autotecnica car home 12th...
Rookie Thorne Finishes 12th But Lee's Drive Through Field Ends Violently In Formula BMW Season Opener Saturday at Mid-Ohio
LEXINGTON, Ohio, May 20 - Twin tooth Racing's Robert Thorne of Sherman, Conn. brought his Team Autotecnica car home 12th in his first Formula BMW USA race ever Saturday at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car course.
His teammate, Matt Lee, escaped injury in a violent crash on lap 13 after a brilliant charge from the 25th starting spot to 11th.
Lee said the crash was caused when Maxime Pelletier hit him, causing him to spin and then get drilled by Joel Jackson, who had no hope of avoiding him.
Jackson was unhurt too, although both Lee's car and Jackson's caught on fire in the melee.
Team Autotecnica's Enrico Diano said that Lee's car would be repaired in time for the Syosset, N.Y.-based driver to compete in tomorrow's race, the second half of a doubleheader here.
Lee's official finishing position Saturday was 24th.
Thorne started seventh, and he was the fourth-highest-finishing rookie. He did an amazing job not to get caught up in the accident too, although his car's nose was damaged in the fracas. Luckily for Thorne he didn't have to race with that problem, as the event ended under the full-course caution for the crash.
Reed Stevens led the 17-lap race from start to finish. Robert Wickens finished second and polesitter David Garza placed third.
Lee had already passed seven cars by the end of lap two. He got by Philip Major on lap three to move into 17th place, and three laps later he was up to 15th with only Jules Duc between him and Thorne.
Thorne and Lee were in 13th and 14th, respectively, on lap seven. They ran that way until Lee passed Thorne on lap 10 and then set his sights on Ryan Campbell in 11th place. He had just made that pass when the accident occurred.
Lee qualified third for tomorrow's race during an early qualifying session Saturday morning with a lap in 1:26.698 (93.760 mph). That was just 0.268 of a second off David Garza's pole-winning 1:26.430 (94.051 mph).
Thorne qualified seventh for that race, which will be held tomorrow morning at 10:30 a.m. He was the second-fastest rookie in the session with his fastest lap of 1:27.643 (92.749 mph). Times were substantially faster in that qualifying session than they were in the qualifying session for Race One on Friday when the track conditions weren't as good. The weather was clear but cool on Saturday, with no rain, and more of the same is expected tomorrow.
Thorne and Lee's cars are sponsored in part by Bumper to Bumper, Autoparts Warehouse, the Francis A. Lee Company, Matt-Con Services Corp. and Integrated Structures.
After the Mid-Ohio races this weekend the Formula BMW USA circuit travels to Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Conn. for another doubleheader May 26-28.
More information is available on the Internet at twintooth.com, autotecnicagroup.com, formulabmwusa.com and midohio.com.
Post-race quotes follow:
Robert Thorne: "It was intense the whole race. I killed the start; I think I passed two cars right away.
"I was close to the crash that Matt was in. Matt and some other car spun out right in front of me.
"What happened was a red car made a pass on Matt. They touched each other and Matt spun around. The guy in front of me and the guy in front of that and I came on Matt and he was going backwards across the track right at us. The first car in the line went on the outside and hit Matt with his rear. Then the guy in front of me locked his brakes and I hit him, which broke the nose of my car and he spun around. I went to the inside of Matt's car, which is now on the other side of the track. At that point the car that hit Matt exploded.
"That's what I saw."
Matt Lee: "I'm OK. It was an extremely eventful race. I went from 25th to 10th I think, but then I got hit by Maxime Pelletier in Turn Four. Then I spun around and Joel Jackson was forced into me; he had nowhere to go. My car was on fire; I'm not sure if it was really my car or his fluids that were burning, but it was on fire.
"My car really wasn't that good before the crash though. It was power understeering."