Birmingham: SFoW Maserati race report

VIR Podium Finish For SFoW Maserati DANVILLE, VA. (October 3): The SFoW Maserati Trofeo Light took a hard-fought third place in the GT class at the VIR 400 Presented by Sun Trust, its second podium of the season. Drivers Emil Assentato, Joao...

VIR Podium Finish For SFoW Maserati

DANVILLE, VA. (October 3): The SFoW Maserati Trofeo Light took a hard-fought third place in the GT class at the VIR 400 Presented by Sun Trust, its second podium of the season. Drivers Emil Assentato, Joao Barbosa, and Steve Earle kept the Maserati in the top for almost the entire race, and came close to taking second place away from one of the factory-assisted BMWs which finished One-Two in the GT class.

Barbosa qualified the Maserati third fastest, but only 1/10 second off the pole position time. When one of the BMWs was moved to the back for a technical infraction, the Maserati moved up to start second in GT. "I had a lot of fun at the beginning," said Barbosa, who briefly dropped back to fourth at the start, but ran as high as second during the opening stint. "The Maserati was perfect for the whole race," he continued. "The BMW is a very strong car but our team does such outstanding preparation we're catching up the gap we had at the beginning of the year. The Maserati crew is working really, really hard to get the car competitive."

Assentato replaced Barbosa in the Maserati, but almost immediately an incident caused a full course yellow, and Assentato radioed the crew to put Earle in the car when they pitted. Assentato explained his unusual call: "I'm not here just to be a driver for myself, I'm here to be a driver for the team. The way the strategy worked out we had to get Steve (Earle) in the car before the end of the race so he'd get the points, and Sod's Law says it will be green for the rest of the race. We'd have to stop under green to switch drivers, and probably lose our podium finish. So I got out of the car." Assentato's decision ensured that he and Earle remained tied in the championship; had Assentato stayed in the car he might have moved ahead.

Earle explained the finish: "Joao's driving, our strategy, and a little bit of luck kept us on the same lap as the leading #21 BMW, Emil held our position, and then I got in at the end and it started raining. I was on slicks, and if I had come in we would have lost our podium spot so I stayed out for the last 25 minutes. It was really raining on the back of the course, and cars were going off right and left. The #22 just ahead of us went off, and I almost caught him -- probably another three laps and we would have had second place. Anyway third place and a podium is great for Maserati, and I'm really looking forward to next weekend's race."

New SFoW driver Darius Grala started the new #34 Maserati Trofeo Light (nicknamed "The Catfish") sixth in GT and was beginning to move up when the front splitter and part of the bodywork cracked, causing a lengthy pit stop for repairs. The stop dropped the #34 back to tenth in class, but Grala and co-driver Jeff Segal managed to move back up to eighth at the finish, in spite of also suffering a flat tire near the end of the race. "The race was a little more eventful than I hoped," Segal said. "The car ran really well, more than we could have expected right out of the box. It came off the boat and here we are racing it. I think it shows a lot of potential for the future."

The next race for both the SFoW Maseratis will be the 2004 Porsche 250 Presented by Bradley Arant, at Barber Motorsports Park near Birmingham, Alabama, on October 10th. That race will be presented live on SPEED Channel at 1PM.

Primary sponsorship for the SFoW Maserati team comes from Maserati of Washington. Additional support for the #33 Maserati is provided by Simply Wireless, Inc., one of the nation's premiere wireless retailers; TubiStyle, the leading after-market supplier of exhaust systems for exotic cars; Putnam Leasing, one of the oldest specialty vehicle leasing companies in the United States; Tradition, a world leader in the brokerage of financial and non-financial products; and J.L. Earle, M.D., P.A. Orthopaedic Surgery. The #34 Maserati has additional sponsorship from Algar Maserati, the authorized Ferrari and Maserati dealer for the Philadelphia area, and Putnam Leasing.

Further information on the Maserati Coupe and Spyder, the Maserati Trofeo Light GT, and the SFoW may be found at www.MaseratiGT.com on the Internet.

-sfow-

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Darius Grala , Emil Assentato , Joao Barbosa , Jeff Segal