Daytona 24: Synergy Racing race report

EMC Mechanical/Gamewell Mechanical Porsche takes 11th in Rolex 24 At Daytona after recovering from early-morning hit Team Seattle raises more than $460,000 for Children's Hospital with Synergy Racing DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (January 28, 2007) -- ...

EMC Mechanical/Gamewell Mechanical Porsche takes 11th in Rolex 24 At Daytona after recovering from early-morning hit
Team Seattle raises more than $460,000 for Children's Hospital with Synergy Racing

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (January 28, 2007) -- Synergy Racing drivers Steve Johnson (Bristol, Tenn.), Patrick Huisman (The Netherlands), Richard Lietz (Austria) and Richard Westbrook (England) recovered after their No. 81 EMC Mechanical/Gamewell Mechanical Porsche GT3 Cup was hit in the early-morning hours to take home an 11th-place GT finish in the Rolex 24 At Daytona on Sunday.

Huisman started the No. 81 Porsche on the pole after setting a new track record in qualifying, and he and his teammates maintained the Porsche's position in the top five of the GT class for the first eight hours of the race. A brake change during an extended full-course caution dropped the entry back to ninth place, but the powerful driving line-up worked its way back up through the field picking up lap after lap on the leaders.

Just before 4 a.m., Lietz was at the wheel of the EMC Mechanical/Gamewell Mechanical Porsche in rainy conditions when a full-course caution came out. The No. 70 Mazda was lined up in front of the No. 81 during the restart and made contact with another Porsche putting the Mazda into a spin.

"He crashed into the Farnbacher car in front, and then he spun," Lietz explained. "As he began to spin, I went to the left to avoid him, but he spun into my rear right wheel. I couldn't do anything."

The contact spun the No. 81 Porsche into the tri-oval and caused suspension damage that took an hour to repair in the Synergy Racing garage. The incident also resulted in a loss of more than 30 laps and dropped the EMC Mechanical/Gamewell Mechanical Porsche to 17th in the GT class.

The team returned to the track to face more harsh weather, but the drivers used it to their advantage to gain some positions in the field. "For me, the rain was fine because I'm used to that sort of thing," Westbrook said. "It was really enjoyable, and we made some places back up. That's what we wanted--rain. That was our real hope because we ran strong in it. But after being hit by the Mazda, we were just too many laps behind. It's a real shame."

The foursome was able to move the No. 81 Porsche up to 11th place before the 24-hours expired on Sunday afternoon. They finished 36 laps behind the GT-class winner; very close to the number they lost in the garage making repairs from the early-morning accident.

"It's a shame. We had a great line-up. We had a great car. We should have been on the podium, at least," Huisman said. "If it wasn't for that little accident we had, where it wasn't our fault, we could have run for the lead at the end of the race. But that's racing."

"That's the 24," Johnson remarked. "There are so many variables. If there are no mechanicals, or no human errors, or nobody hits you, then it's a miracle. It wasn't to be this time. It's unfortunate the way it happened, because it was so foolish--just a reckless act did it. But that's the way it goes.

"We had the elements you need to win: the drivers, the team and the car," he continued. "But that one last element--the luck--is the intangible you can't buy or prepare in advance."

The 2007 Rolex 24 At Daytona marked the first major endurance race for reigning Porsche Supercup champion Westbrook and newly announced Porsche factory driver Lietz, and now both are eager to return.

"I definitely want to come back," Westbrook said. "This has just given me more and more hunger to win it. Now I know what to expect. Richard and I were both in the same situation; it's our first long distance and big race in America. It's given us a real taste for it."

However, their teammate Huisman has competed numerous endurance races and captured victories in nearly all the major ones, including Le Mans, Spa, Nurburgring and Sebring. The one missing from his resume remains Daytona. While this year's effort fell short, Huisman says he will definitely be back. "I have to have that watch," he laughed.

Team Seattle raises more than $460,000 for Children's Hospital Team Seattle endured a grueling Rolex 24 At Daytona to raise more than $460,000 for Children's Hospital through donations and pledges made for each of the 758 laps the No. 82 Who's Calling/Live Search Porsche and No. 83 Kid's Country Learning Centers/HomeStreet Bank Porsche turned during the twice-around-the-clock race.

Team Seattle founder Don Kitch (Bellevue, Wash.), Chris Pennington (Redmond, Wash.), Chris Pallis (Mercer Island, Wash.) and Tony Bawcutt (Kirkland, Wash.) piloted the No. 82 Porsche, while David Gaylord (Graham, Wash.), Don Pickering (Reno, Nev.), Hal Hilton (Issaaquah, Wash.) and Ben McCrackin (Corpus Christi, Texas) were at the controls of the No. 83 Porsche.

The No. 82 Synergy Racing-prepared Porsche recorded 250 laps before its race was ended early when slippery track conditions got the best of Pallis in turn two and the Porsche made hard contact with the Armco railing. The No. 83 entry had its own setbacks during the race that sent it to the garage for repairs, but the Synergy Racing crew was determined to get it back on track each time so it could continue raising funds for Children's Hospital. Pickering brought the No. 83 machine to the checkered flag in 24th place and, most importantly, with 508 completed laps.

-credit: synergy racing

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Patrick Huisman , David Gaylord , Hal Hilton , Steve Johnson , Chris Pallis , Ben McCrackin , Chris Pennington , Richard Westbrook , Richard Lietz , Tony Bawcutt