Birmingham: Race report

Leitzinger and Forbes-Robinson Extend Rolex Series Record in Porsche 250 presented by Bradley Arant BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (October 10, 2004) -- No. 4 Howard-Boss Motorsports co-drivers Butch Leitzinger and Elliott Forbes-Robinson extended the ...

Leitzinger and Forbes-Robinson Extend Rolex Series Record in Porsche 250 presented by Bradley Arant

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (October 10, 2004) -- No. 4 Howard-Boss Motorsports co-drivers Butch Leitzinger and Elliott Forbes-Robinson extended the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series record for most different overall winners in a single season with their triumph in a soggy Porsche 250 presented by Bradley Arant at Barber Motorsports Park.

The duo became the sixth different set of co-drivers to take an overall victory in 2004, adding to the record established in August when Didier Theys and Jan Magnussen became the fifth different overall winners with their triumph in the Sahlen's 200 at The Glen. The previous record for different winners in a single season was four, set in 2000 and equaled in 2001 and 2003.

After taking over the controls from Forbes-Robinson--who led 27 laps--Leitzinger took the lead from Scott Pruett in the No. 01 CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley on a Lap 59 restart. Leitzinger withstood heavy pressure from Max Angelelli in the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Riley and Christian Fittipaldi in the No. 54 Kodak EasyShare Bell Motorsports Pontiac Doran as the laps ticked away, but the victory was his when Fittipaldi spun and made hard contact with the Turn 10 barrier with four laps remaining. Fittipaldi was not injured, and the race finished under caution.

It was Leitzinger's 10th career overall victory in Rolex Sports Car Series competition, moving him into sole possession of second place on the all-time list behind James Weaver, who owns 13 career Rolex Series overall wins. The win was Leitzinger's first in the Rolex Series since he emerged victorious at Watkins Glen in August 9, 2002.

"I know Max (Angelelli) would have been all over me like he was the whole half hour or so before that (if the race had finished under green)," Leitzinger said. "If we would have had a green, white, checker finish, we might have had a pretty spectacular Talladega-type crash. I do feel bad for the fans having to sit through the conditions, and the yellow finish, but they saw a good race. It's nice to finally 'break the duck' and get that first win for this team. Now, we've got California in a couple of weeks and we'll see if we can continue it."

For EFR, today's win was his first overall victory in the Rolex Sports Car Series, and was his second Rolex Series class win. His previous class victory came in the 2000 Rolex 24 At Daytona when he teamed with Weaver, Rob Dyson and Max Papis to win the SR class. Today's overall win also gave Forbes-Robinson a major road racing victory in five straight decades.

"This is great," Forbes-Robinson said. "We've been racing in this series all year and have been disappointed several times, but it's so great to get this win. It's so great to turn the car over to Butch (Leitzinger) knowing the conditions and having a guy that so good to finish up is a great thing to have. Everybody drove is some really tough conditions today, and I'm surprised there's weren't more cautions. But, we got through it and it was a heck of a race. Thanks so much to (car owner) Dave Brule and Max and Jan Crawford and everyone on this team."

Angelelli and co-driver Wayne Taylor came home in second place, moving Taylor to within three points of Daytona Prototype co-points leaders Pruett and Papis (327-324) heading into the season-ending Lexus Grand American Champions Weekend at California Speedway in three weeks. It was the fourth straight race in which the No. 10 duo had finished higher than their rivals in the No. 01 CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing machine.

"During the course of the race, the positioning of the championship was changing every lap," Taylor said. "We can't get caught up in this too much now though. Max and I have been ahead of the Ganassi car the last four races and we have to keep doing that. It's unfortunate that Fittipaldi went off or it would have closed the gap even more. We have to go there (to the finale) with the best car, and we have to win the final race and then we'll see."

For his part, Angelelli also remains in contention for the Daytona Prototype title as he is 26 points in arrears of the leaders with 35 points still available. However, Angelelli will be removed from championship consideration as soon as Taylor runs a lap under green flag conditions in California. Nevertheless, the Italian extended his streak of podium finishes to six consecutive races with the runner-up performance today.

"I was really looking forward to having a green flag because the track was drying out, and my car was much faster on dry conditions," Angelelli said. "Unfortunately the yellow stayed and I had no chance to overtake him. That is my only regret."

The Fittipaldi incident opened the door for Pruett and Papis--who led the first 23 laps after starting from the pole position--to finish third for their seventh podium performance in 11 races. Perhaps more importantly, the extra spot also guaranteed the duo of at least a share of the 2004 Daytona Prototype championship with a second-place result or better in the California finale.

"The CompUSA team came into this weekend knowing what we had to do but we just couldn't take the chances we wanted to out there because of the conditions," Pruett said. "It was just terrible out there with the steady drizzle on dry tires. I had to keep the No. 01 CompUSA Lexus Riley to the dry line because if you went off just a little bit it could have been disastrous. In fact, you saw that happen to the No. 54 car right in front of me at the end. The championship is going to come right down to an incredibly exciting end and that's a credit to the series because it truly shows how close the competition is. The CompUSA team will be ready to put it all on the line in California and see exactly what we're made of."

"With the No. 01 CompUSA (car) leading the race, we had to set a conservative pace but really everyone was using the (No.) 01 car as a reference for braking points, and that made this very difficult for us," Papis added. "We had a lot to lose because any small mistake could have taken us out of the championship. That's racing and in the end it was a great race in difficult conditions. I don't ever remember driving on slicks in wet conditions for so long. I'm really looking forward to Fontana now. The CompUSA team wants this championship very badly and we're working hard both on and off the track for it. Maybe we come out of this race only leading by three points, but the fact remains we're still the ones to beat."

Intermittent rains throughout the race played havoc with many team strategies. One team that was bitten early by the conditions was the No. 02 CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley duo of Jimmy Morales and Luis Diaz, who lost one lap after pitting for new tires just five laps in. However, Morales and Diaz eventually found their way back onto the lead lap and came home with a fourth place result. It was their third straight top-four performance dating to a fourth-place run in the Miami 250 last month.

Didier Theys and Andrea Montermini filled out the top five with a fifth-place showing in the No. 27 Doran-Lista Racing Lexus Doran. With a sixth-place performance, No. 2 CITGO Howard-Boss Motorsports Pontiac Crawford co-drivers Andy Wallace and Milka Duno also kept themselves alive in the Daytona Prototype championship chase. Wallace is 18 points out of the championship lead, while Duno is 35 markers in arrears. However, just as is the case with Angelelli, Duno will be removed from contention as soon as Wallace drives a green-flag lap in the race at California.

AUBERLEN WINS EIGHTH GT RACE; NO. 21 TEAM CLINCHES TITLE

GT class points leader Bill Auberlen and co-driver Justin Marks drove the No. 21 Prototype Technology Group BMW M3 to its second-straight class victory in the Porsche 250 presented by Bradley Arant, beating teammates Boris Said and Joey Hand by more than one lap. It was Auberlen's eighth GT win of the season, and moved him seven points ahead of Said in the GT driver standings heading into the season finale.

"It was a very tough race," Auberlen said. "We made the right decisions. Dry tires at the beginning -- it was perfect -- we ran away. The crew made some really great decisions. Justin said before the race that if it goes from rain to dry to rain to dry that is exactly what he wanted and he got it. The car performed perfectly and it was all because of the team and their right decisions. It was a great day."

The win also clinched the 2004 GT team championship for the No. 21 team, as the team leads the No. 22 team--which moved past the No. 66 The Racer's Group Porsche GT3 RS team with today's second-place performance--by 43 points (348-305) with just 35 points still available.

"This one is for the team," said Marks. "They made all the right decisions today. We had crazy conditions -- the yellows and the rain. The winner of the race was the team that made the right decisions in the pits and our team made those decisions at the right time that put us in victory lane."

Finishing third in GT were Mark Greenberg and Spencer Pumpelly in the No. 77 G&W Motorsports Porsche GT3 RS, followed by Gunnar Jeannette and Marino Franchitti in the No. 60 Gunnar Racing Porsche GT3 RS. Jeff Segal and Rusty West rounded out the class top-five in the No. 34 Scuderia Ferrari of Washington Maserati Light GT.

BUNTING AND LALLY PICK UP SECOND SGS WIN; EXTEND POINTS LEAD

In the Super Grand Sport (SGS) class, co-points leaders Marc Bunting and Andy Lally drove their No. 38 TPC Racing Porsche GT3 Cup to its second class victory in the Porsche 250 presented by Bradley Arant. The win enabled Bunting and Lally to extend their lead in the driver standings to 16 over their teammate and team owner Michael Levitas, who finished second along with co-driver Randy Pobst in the No. 36 TPC Racing Porsche GT3 Cup.

"It was an important win for us," Bunting said. "Levitas is catching up in the points, so this gives a little bit of a cushion going in to the last race in California. Andy did a great job in the rain, and it was bit of a hectic race, but it came out the way we wanted it to. We're real happy."

As was the case in the GT class, the No. 38 team also clinched the SGS team title with today's performance. The team holds a 43-point advantage over the No. 41 ORISON-Planet Earth Motorsports team (345-302) with one race left on the schedule.

"We had a 16-point lead going in to the race, and I haven't done the math after, but we're really happy," Lally said. "These guys did an awesome job. I have to say a special thanks to this TPC crew. We had an electrical gremlin that came on board last night. We weren't sure if we were going to be able to start today, and these guys stayed here super late last night and put this thing together and we went to victory lane. "

Levitas and Pobst came up just short in their bid for three straight SGS class wins, but came home in second for their sixth top-two performance together. Leh Keen and Cory Friedman finished third in the No. 14 Autometrics Motorsports Porsche GT3 Cup, while Mae Van Wijk and Craig Stanton came home fourth in the No. 86 G&W Motorsports Porsche GT3 Cup. Bob Ward and Michael Baughman completed the SGS top five with a fifth-place performance in the No. 47 Michael Baughman Racing Porsche GT3 Cup.

-garra-

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Andy Wallace , Milka Duno , Jan Magnussen , Butch Leitzinger , James Weaver , Boris Said , Didier Theys , Max Papis , Christian Fittipaldi , Scott Pruett , Wayne Taylor , Bill Auberlen , Joey Hand , Rob Dyson , Randy Pobst , Elliott Forbes-Robinson , Andy Lally , Gunnar Jeannette , Max Angelelli , Marino Franchitti , Andrea Montermini , Justin Marks , Spencer Pumpelly , Michael Levitas , Jimmy Morales , Cory Friedman , Mark Greenberg , Michael Baughman , Marc Bunting , Chip Ganassi , Bob Ward , Jeff Segal , Rusty West , Mae Van Wijk , Lehman Keen
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing , Autometrics Motorsports