Sizzling Summer Heat Will Challenge Pontiac Teams Barber Motorsports Park Far From "No-Sweat" Situation; GTO.Rs and GAINSCO/Blackhawk Racing Ready for a Warm Weekend Down South DETROIT - Barber Motorsports Park near Birmingham, Ala. is a ...
Sizzling Summer Heat Will Challenge Pontiac Teams
Barber Motorsports Park Far From "No-Sweat" Situation; GTO.Rs and GAINSCO/Blackhawk Racing Ready for a Warm Weekend Down South
DETROIT - Barber Motorsports Park near Birmingham, Ala. is a technical, handling-intensive 2.3 mile road course that many Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series drivers enjoy. In late July, however, the oppressive Southern heat and humidity coupled with the physical exertion required to successfully navigate the track can make it extremely demanding on a driver. The new Pontiac GTO.Rs and GAINSCO/Blackhawk Racing's Pontiac Riley will become saunas this weekend, making it all the more difficult for their drivers to concentrate on this already complex track for Sunday's 250 mile race.
"The Barber race is going to be hot and humid and not very comfortable inside the cars," said Andy Lally, co-driver of the #65 Pontiac GTO.R. "I live in Atlanta and we have been having much of the same weather as Birmingham has. I still do the same training that I do all year round which includes running and kayaking. I ran a 10k two days ago and when there was a breeze it felt like a hair dryer being turned on in your face. You will have to be in good condition to be able to press hard through the entire race this weekend."
The #65 Pontiac GTO.R, piloted by TRG drivers Lally and Marc Bunting, finished 20th in the GT class a month ago at Daytona owing to contact with Scott Pruett's Daytona Prototype Lexus. The car was poised to make a top-five finish but after being pushed into the wall it was too badly damaged to continue. Now, freshly repaired, the #65 GTO.R and its sister car, #64, will try for a GT class podium. Drivers Jan Magnussen and Paul Edwards of the #64 GTO.R will make their belated GT class debut having not raced at Daytona. Their car, suffering from a cracked bell-housing, could not be supplied the necessary replacement parts since the Rolex Series practiced, qualified and raced all on the same day.
"Both Pontiac GTO.Rs are both at 100% now," said Kevin Buckler, owner of TRG. "The #64 car had a very minor problem at Daytona but we didn't want to place it or any drivers in jeopardy so withdrawing it was the smartest thing to do. The #65 car had more extensive repairs done to it but it is ready as well and our drivers are looking forward to a great race here. Paul and Marc tested these cars on this track not too long ago and had a chance to learn the layout so that may help us a bit."
A late entrant into the Rolex Series this year, the GAINSCO/Blackhawk Racing team will start in their third race this season. The Sacramento, Calif.-based team was strong in their first two races, finishing in the top-ten in both. Co-driver Alex Gurney-son of road racing legend Dan Gurney-and Alex's teammate Bob Stallings are apprehensive about the heat but are nonetheless excited to drive their #99 Pontiac Riley to what they hope will be a podium finish.
"We were strong at Laguna Seca but Daytona was difficult for us," said Gurney. "We feel much more prepared for Barber Motorsports Park. We joined a bunch of the other teams for a Barber test a few weeks ago and we feel really excited about being able to race here. It's an amazing track. As far as the layout, it's actually pretty tricky; there are some very quick entries and big elevation changes so it's not straightforward at all. Also, the heat will definitely be a factor this weekend. Both Bob and I have been training hard and we've tried out a couple of different cooling systems so we think we will be ok. On a side note, Mr. Barber asked me to do some parade laps before the race in my dad's Lotus 29 Indianapolis car which will be really special-for myself and the fans."
The eighth leg of the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series, the Porsche 250 presented by Bradley Arant, will take place on Sunday, July 31 at 1:00 p.m. EDT and will be televised live on SPEED TV.