The Banner Racing Pontiac GXP.R running in 4th as the Rolex 24 hour passes the 15th hour Daytona Beach Florida (January 25, 2009): It is 7 AM at Daytona International Speedway as the Rolex Grand-Am competitors race into "Dawn's Early Light"...
The Banner Racing Pontiac GXP.R running in 4th as the Rolex 24 hour passes the 15th hour
Daytona Beach Florida (January 25, 2009): It is 7 AM at Daytona International Speedway as the Rolex Grand-Am competitors race into "Dawn's Early Light" and this is the time of the famed Rolex 24-Hour event when time begins to wear on the competitors and crews because although they have raced at near break neck speeds for over 15 hours, the longest period of time in which any top level racing series in North America competes, the drives and crew know that they still must race for another 8 plus hours. In other words they will continue to race in the second longest race on the Grand-Am schedule before this edition of the Rolex 24 concludes.
As of 6:30 AM the Rolex Grand GT leaders have put in 400 and two laps as the #86 Farnbacher Loles Porsche of Dominik Farnbacher, Eric Lux, Matt Marsh and Kevin Roush Loles leads the #66 (Spencer Pumpelly, Ted Ballou, Tin George Jr., Emmanuel Collard and Richard Lietz) and #67 TRG (driven by Andy Lally, Justin Marks, RJ Valentine, Jorg Bergmeister and Patrick Long) Porsches which are all essentially on the same lap. All three are within the top ten overall.
The Banner Racing Pontiac GXP of Paul Edwards, Kelly Collins and Jan Magnussen races in 4th position just under 4 laps down from the leaders. The 07 lost just over six laps after a collision with the #69 Mazda in the pits. The damage resulted in a 6 minute trip to the garage area for repairs. The crew also replaced the front brakes during that stop as well.
The #07 Pontiac has been able to close the gap but still needs some help to make up the somewhat large gap to the lead trio of Porsches.
The Rolex 24 began for the Banner Racing Pontiac GXP.R in 15th position as qualifier Paul Edwards began the hectic first hour just trying to stay clean and out of trouble not wishing to get consumed in trouble as did last year's GT winner the #70 Mazda which broke a fuel cell after hitting debris or getting too hard on the curbing along the track early in the first hour. The Mazda most like lost any chance at a repeat win losing about 40 laps in the garages.
After running barely in the top 20 early on Edwards managed to bubble up to 8th when he turned over the car to Kelly Collins on lap 54. Edwards ran a double stint and indicated that the Banner team had planned on doing double stints most of the time during this race.
"It was fine," said Paul Edwards after his first double stint. "We are fighting it a bit because we did all of our practice here at Daytona in cold weather and I think as the night comes our setup will come to us. But right now I was fighting a lot of over steer under braking and getting on the power. We improved it a bit with tire pressure adjustments but as soon as the cloud cover went away the car went back to an over steer."
"It is a long race so I'm happy that I kept it out of the wall and kept it from hitting anybody. For sure the opening laps were a matter of survival. I wasn't taking any risks. A couple of the guys out there were making outside moves and I was thinking 'No, I need to finish this race' so I wasn't going to risk the car in the first hour of a 24 hour race. It is too much of a lottery being mid-pack at the start to be too aggressive. We just have to concentrate on staying out of trouble for now."
Working lap 78 Kelly Collins had the 07 Pontiac GXP.R up to 7th some 4.1 seconds behind the #88 Porsche of Steve Johnson.
After two cautions and at 7 PM the #86 Porsche of Kevin Roush leads the race by less than a second over Wolf Henzler in the #87 Porsche. The #65 TRG Porsche of Bryce Miller is 3rd followed by the ^& TRG entry of Patrick Long. The Banner Racing Pontiac GXP.R of Kelly Collins is now up to 5th 19 seconds out of the lead.
When the caution flags flew on lap 116 the Banner Pontiac GXP.R now driven by Kelly Collins inherited the lead in GT from the fifth position when leaders pitted under caution and Collins did not.
"We are getting good tire and fuel mileage right now so we didn't chose to stop under this caution," said Banner Racing's Leighton Reese. "We are working on track position because we just don't have the speed on the straights to keep up with the Porsches. Basically we got a half-lap lead by not stopping. A bit of a gamble but this is what we are going to have to do if we are going to get our Pontiac into the winners circle."
At the four hour mark Kelly Collins leads followed by the #33 Porsche of Patrick Pilet and the #86 Porsche of Kevin Roush. Henzler and Tim George Jr. are in 4th and 5th.
A timely yellow allowed Kelly Collins to pit the GT race leading Banner Racing Pontiac GXP.R under yellow as he turned the controls over to Jan Magnussen. The pit stop dropped the #07 Pontiac GXP.R into the 3rd position.
"The timing was excellent," said Leighton Reese. "We had to stop for fuel and better doing that under a yellow than a green. Kelly did a great job keeping our Pontiac GXP in the lead. We almost got lapped but this last sequence of pit stops really worked out for us. I was thinking optimistically that we would try to get into the lead by midnight but we surpassed that by getting the lead five hours into the race so it is good so far."
"Yes we are good now but it is a long race," cautioned team manager Joe Kantarik.
"It was good," said Kelly Collins of his double stint. "The car felt really good I changed the bars (sway bars) and stiffened the front a little bit and then went softer on the front to get the front to turn a little better. When the fuel burned off I went back up on the bars so our Pontiac GXP stayed very balanced throughout the stint.
"The tires were very predictable although they did get a bit slippery as the fuel load burned off. Other than that everything was good and the car is working great. Steve and Jim, talking with me and let me what was going on and they made the decision (to stay out during the caution) and it was obviously a good one. We were almost a lap down but because of two good decisions we were in the lead."
Working the 5th and 6th hours Jan Magnussen takes over the point when Wolf Henzler pits the #87 Farnbacher Loles Porsche turning the wheel over to Richard Westbrook. The course immediately went yellow when the #55 Daytona Prototype had suspension failure of sorts on lap 156 (for overall DP leaders).
Magnussen now driving the #07 Banner Racing Pontiac GXP.R continues to lead by just over a minute over the #86 Farnbacher Loles Porsche with Eric Lux now at the wheel but the double caution flags flew again on lap 161/153 for the stranded #76 Krohn Daytona Prototype.
The caution has evaporated the generous lead Magnussen enjoyed as what the yellows had given has now been taken away. Such is 24 hour endurance racing where 1 minute and even lap leads evaporate quickly.
The #89 Farnbacher Loles Porsche went to the garage in the 5th hour due to a problem with the hydraulics of the clutch which also caused additional damage to other parts of the drive train.
The race goes green again on lap 166 as Magnussen holds a slim 1.5 second lead over Lux with Westbrook close behind. Lietz is seven seconds behind Westbrook in 4th.
Westbrook gets his Farnbacher Loles Porsche past stable mate Lux for second and trails Magnussen by 2.2 seconds as the GT leaders work on their 162nd lap around the 3.56 mile Daytona track.
Lap 171 overall the #56 Ferrari loses a wheel coming out of the Bus Stop as the wheel almost collects a prototype. Yet another full course yellow as Magnussen continues to lead GT in 16th overall.
At the conclusion of the seventh hour and the Banner Pontiac GXP.R has regained the lead after a round of green flag pit stops leads with Paul Edwards now at the helm. Edwards and the 07 Pontiac have completed 201 laps and hold an 11 second lead over the #87 Farnbacher Loles Porsche of Dirk Werner with Dominik Farnbacher another 9 seconds back in the #86 Porsche. The TRG Porsches of Spencer Pumpelly, Andy Lally and Craig Stanton are in positions 4, 5 and 6 with Andrew Davis 7th in the #57 Stevenson Pontiac.
"I'm very happy, we got up near the front again," said Jan Magnussen after his first stint in the Banner Racing Pontiac GXP which was a double. "It was a very uneventful run, but it was very, very hot out there. It was a problem when I was behind a Mazda or a Ferrari which have really high top speed because I was faster than they were on the infield but I couldn't do anything on the straight because they just open the gap back up and I would have to catch back up and try to pass. Sometimes you lose some time like that.
"The Pontiac is running absolutely perfect and the guys are making great calls and so far so good. It is still early but we qualified fifteenth, we are no longer fifteenth so right now it is perfect!"
Paul Edwards pits the 07 Pontiac on his 213th lap for service which puts the #86 Porsche of Farnbacher into the lead with Pumpelly's Porsche in 2nd.
The front running #87 Porsche has been pulled into the garage area to repair a broken driveshaft. The car was running within the top 3 when the failure occurred.
Edwards upon exiting the pits after his pit stop gets hit by the #69 Mazda slightly damaging the suspension of the #07 Pontiac. The Banner Racing team took the GXP into the garage to repair the damage which took about 6 minutes. The team also replaced the front brake rotors and pads.
The incident dropped the 07 to 8th and later 10th but some 5 laps out of the leader, the #86 Farnbacher Porsche. Porsches now occupy 8 of the top ten positions with only the Pontiacs of Davis, in 4th, and Edwards, running in 10th, invading the Porsche parade at the front of the running order.
"I was pulling out of the pits and I didn't even see him coming," said Paul Edwards. "When I did I kept the car straight and low but he cut right across in front of me and clipped my nose."
As the eighth hour comes to a conclusion Spencer Pumpelly has the #66 TRG Porsche in the GT lead by over a minute with Dominik Farnbacher's #86 Porsche and the #67 TRG Porsche now driven by Patrick Long in 2nd and 3rd with Andrew Davis in the #57 Pontiac in 4th and Sascha Maassen in 5nd driving the #33 Porsche.
The Porsches of James Sofronas (Farnbacher Loles #88), Lawson Aschenbach (Orbit Racing #35) and Shane Lewis (#26 Gotham Competition) in 6th, 7th and 8th. Edwards runs his Pontiac in 9th with the #97 Stevenson Chevy Corvette cracking the top ten in the hands of Ryan Eversley.
Through the late night, or more accurately the early morning hours the Banner Racing Pontiac GXP slowly begins to eat away at the 6 lap deficit and when the Florida skies begin to lighten the #07 Pontiac is running in 4th position in GT and 11th overall within 3 laps of the leading trio of Porsches.
Kelly Collins who said he was tired but upbeat replaced Paul Edwards in the car during a morning pit stop just after 7 AM.
"The car was great all night," said Edwards.
Paul's only complaint it that his right foot hurt so much that he was having trouble hitting the brake pedal as hard as he should.
Interestingly Edwards recorded the fastest race lap for the 07 Pontiac GXP.R of 1:51.863 for a lap average speed of 114.568.
"It's much cooler at night here so the grip is as good as it is going to get," said Edwards who indicated that when the Florida sun come up high in the sky later today the track usually gets very greasy and slick.