AIM Autosport's GAMMA88 Car Fourth at Barber
Contact Scuppers Near-certain Podium Finish
Birmingham, Ala. (April 10, 2011) -- AIM Autosport's BMW-Riley Daytona Prototype sponsored by GAMMA88 finished fourth yesterday afternoon in the Porsche 250, round three of the 2011 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16, at Barber Motorsports Park. After racing to strategy and looking likely to achieve a second or third-place finish, the team's podium hopes were dashed by contact with a GT Class car while lapping it. A damaged wheel forced driver, Burt Frisselle, to pit under green with 26 minutes remaining in the 2h 45m race and a late charge fell 3.4 seconds short of the final podium place.
The race was started by Burt's co-driver, Mark Wilkins, who qualified the car sixth yesterday. During his stint, which lasted over half the race, he ran as high as second while keeping to the team's strategy for maximizing tire life. Heat played a significant roll, with 88: F (31: C) temperatures, bright sun and humidity affecting drivers, crew and, most importantly, tires.
With 57 laps in the books, Mark was running in fifth when a full-course caution slowed the field and provided an opportunity to pit for fuel, tires and to let Burt take over for the run to the finish.
Re-entering the race in fifth place, Burt held the position until a full-course caution with 50 minutes remaining allowed him to take the lead when his competitors had to pit for tires while and he was able to remain on the track.
When racing resumed, Burt gradually pulled away from the pack, but the 01 car, with fresh tires, climbed through the field and was soon on the heels of AIM's GAMMA88 car. Burt fended off intense pressure, but with 35 minutes to go Burt lost the lead. Nine minutes later contact while passing a GT Class car resulted in a bent rim and forced Burt to pit. Quick work by the crew had him back out in fifth. He soon claimed fourth and a big gap to third began to shrink quickly. Time was running out, however, and when the checkered flag flew, Burt had closed to within three and a half seconds of the final podium place.
Another good result for the team.
"The team did a great job this weekend. We unloaded slow, but every change sent us in the right direction," Burt said after the race. "The twin-class format of the Rolex Series adds another dimension to the racing and, unfortunately, contact with a GT car hurt us today. But the team did a great job to help salvage fourth. I expect a podium finish when we race at VIR [Virginia International Raceway]."
"Another good result for the team," said Mark. "We were looking to get on to the podium, but we didn't quite make it. What we can take away from this race is that we improved with every session and we hope to roll off the trailer quick at VIR."
"We're pretty pleased with how competitive we are, but disappointed to finish fourth," said Chief Engineer and team principal, Ian Willis. "The team did a great job preparing the car and it ran flawlessly. We did everything right and I think we've proven that we have what it takes to finish at the front."
Next on the Rolex Sports Car Series schedule is the Bosch Engineering 250 at Virginia International Raceway, May 13-14. The race will start at 3 pm ET, May 14 with live radio coverage on MRN and delayed television coverage on SPEED beginning at 5 pm ET.