Baldwin-Tafel Racing Earns Fourth At 24 Hour Debut DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., February 6, 2005 -- Baldwin-Tafel Racing made a dramatic debut in their first Rolex 24 At Daytona with a fourth-place finish, 13th overall. The No. 73 Mesco Building ...
Baldwin-Tafel Racing Earns Fourth At 24 Hour Debut
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., February 6, 2005 -- Baldwin-Tafel Racing made a dramatic debut in their first Rolex 24 At Daytona with a fourth-place finish, 13th overall. The No. 73 Mesco Building Solutions/Davis Communications Porsche 911 GT3 Cup entry worked as high as second-place early in the event but would leave the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series season-opener with a top-five. The result continued the Jack Baldwin (Marietta, Ga.) and Jim Tafel (Alpharetta, Ga.) owned Grand Touring (GT) team's streak of top-ten finishes in the series.
Robin Liddell (Northampton, England) qualified and started the Porsche a quarter-hour past noon yesterday. The 2004 Rolex 24 GT class winner charged early reaching the second-spot behind the pole-winning Porsche. However, the second pit stop of the race revealed a stripped wheel stud causing a lengthy repair to the wheel mounting hardware dropping the No. 73 multiple laps behind the GT class leaders. Baldwin, Tafel and Liddell were joined by three-time Rolex 24 starter Andrew Davis (Bogart, Ga.), and 2004 Grand-Am Cup champion Craig Stanton (Long Beach, Calif.) in the Mesco entry for an inspired charge throughout the night. Each driver put-up qualifying quality laps through the cold Florida night to make-up the loss. With one hour to go, the Mesco Porsche re-entered the top-three.
Despite the dedicated effort by every member of the Cumming, Georgia-based team, the fight was not over. After 23 grueling hours, the podium was far from secure. Liddell rolled-up his sleeves, literally, to maintain the slim hold on third as he fought for every hundredth of a second on the track. With one lap remaining and just over three seconds ahead of fourth-place, the fuel warning light flashed on the dash of the red and blue Mesco Porsche. A white flag pit stop for a splash of fuel dropped the car from its finger-tip hold on third to fourth in class. Liddell would cross the start-finish line 37.367 seconds off the podium.
The No. 73 completed 659 circuits in the 24 hours the five drivers lapped the 3.56-mile Daytona International Speedway road course. The fourth-place marks a one-place improvement over their fifth in GT starting position. However, the 13th-place overall finish in the two class event showed a 17-place improvement from its 30th-place overall grid position.
Mesco Building Solutions, founded in 1955, is a wholly owned subsidiary of NCI Building Systems, Inc. NCI is the largest manufacturer of metal construction products for the North American building construction industry and is a publicly held company trading on the New York Stock Exchange under NCS.
The Mesco Building Solutions/ Davis Communications Porsche 911 GT3 Cup will return to the track for round-two of the Rolex Series on March 5th at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Jack Baldwin, owner/ driver: "It was a monumental effort from everyone on the team to get to Daytona. To be in a position to be on the podium at the end was tremendous. We had a problem early that cost us more time than we could make up at the end. After that, with the class being as competitive as it is, our option was to run as hard as we could the whole event. We decided in the middle of the night to take it to them. Everyone was set on 'kill'. We were the fastest car in the class for most of the event. We had to be to have a chance at a win. We've all lost races like this. I've lost wins like this before. It has even happened to me here at Daytona. It's a bitter defeat but, at the same time, we finished fourth and we completed 24 hours in our first endurance race as a team. We showed we had something for them. I am especially proud of the effort the guys put into it. All the drivers and the crew hung in there and did a hell of a job. We're on to Homestead. This is just the start of the 2005 season."
Jim Tafel, owner/ driver: "To finish the race was sensational. But to be able to taste it [the podium] on the tip of your tongue and then, at the last minute, to run out of fuel going for a podium finish was a real stinger. It felt unreal. But, at the same time, I can't believe what has happened to me the last ten months is real either. It is the highs and the lows of the sport. I'm real happy with everybody on the Mesco team. Our whole crew, our engineer, Jack, all of our drivers; everyone was just sensational. I wouldn't change anything from that standpoint. We just had some unfortunate luck. This gives me an even greater drive to achieve greatness for this team."
Craig Stanton, driver: "Wow! That was a tough race. The Baldwin-Tafel team really had our work cut out for us. We didn't have any luck. We worked really, really hard but every time we got back from one problem, we'd have another. Still, the guys never gave up and we got back up front. We didn't quite get the finish we wanted but the Mesco Porsche was really quick all race long. I'm disappointed because we were so close to the podium. But I got to work with a great group of guys here and we never gave up. So that was really satisfying."