SpeedSource Takes GT Honors in Rolex 24 Jan. 31, 2010 - DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - In the GT class, SpeedSource's "never give up" motto was evident in making up several positions and laps during the latter stages of the race. Once down seven laps to...
SpeedSource Takes GT Honors in Rolex 24
Jan. 31, 2010 - DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - In the GT class, SpeedSource's "never give up" motto was evident in making up several positions and laps during the latter stages of the race. Once down seven laps to the class leaders, No. 70 Castrol Syntec Mazda RX-8 co-drivers Sylvain Tremblay, Nick Ham, David Haskell and Jonathan Bomarito climbed back from a deep deficit to give the team its second Rolex 24 victory in three years. It was the second Rolex 24 class victory for Tremblay, Ham and Haskell, and Bomarito's first. It also marked Mazda's 23rd class victory in the Rolex 24 (complete race results).
"This win is for all the dealers, 900 of them all across North America and Mexico," Tremblay said. "And I think we have over 9,000 members in Mazda Speed Motorsports and club racers, that have the same will to win, the will to never give up. And that's what it was all about."
Tremblay started third in the No. 70, but wasn't able to stay up front early. The car lost two laps between the third and fourth hours and several more when Bomarito radioed to his crew the car was suffering from a vibration. By the 14th hour, the car was sixth in GT, but seven laps off the leader's pace. However, problems - mechanical woes and running out of fuel, among them - plagued SpeedSource's competitors, and by the 20th hour, the Mazda RX-8 led the class. Additional misfortunes by other competitors, coupled with SpeedSource's efforts, put the quartet ahead by four laps over the No. 67 ShoreTel/Openwave Porsche GT3 and co-drivers Seth Neiman, Johannes van Overbeek and 2009 co-winners Jorg Bergmeister and Patrick Long.
The SpeedSource drivers let the race come to them, and then stayed in position to take the victory. For 16 consecutive hours, no car from a team other than TRG or Stevenson Motorsports led the GT class. In fact, the two teams held the top five positions for most of that time as well.
Van Overbeek, Bergmeister and Long all led laps, both Saturday evening and early Sunday morning, and fought No. 71 TRG Porsche GT3 teammates and two Stevenson Camaros for the top spot.
But during the final quarter of the race, that all changed. Stevenson Motorsports driver Andrew Davis in the No. 57 BryanMark Financial/Stevenson Automotive Group Camaro vacated the lead when he brought his car behind the wall with transmission problems; all three drivers led, and combined for a race-high 217 laps. In the next two hours, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Bobby Labonte in the No. 71 TRG machine ran out of fuel on the superstretch. Though it occurred under caution, it was the last time the No. 71 led during the day.
The No. 67 Porsche GT3 also suffered setbacks - in fact, twice - while leading during the race's final six hours. A broken spring and a stuck throttle forced the team from the point both times.
"There were times where I'm sure the Stevenson guys thought they had it in the bag where we thought we had it," Long said. "The 71 and, of course, the Mazda guys, did a great job."
SpeedSource's No. 69 FXDD Mazda RX-8, featuring polesitter Jeff Segal, regulars Emil Assentato and Nick Longhi as well as veteran Anthony Lazzaro, was a solid top-five performer until a water leak did the car in after 17 hours. The No. 69 was relegated to 16th in class.
That left Tremblay's No. 70 up front, and by four laps. Overall, Tremblay, Ham, Haskell and Bomarito finished seventh. They finished with 145 laps led among them. Bomarito crossed the start/finish line under the checkered flag to complete the 707th GT lap.
"Amazing," Bomarito said. "I was fortunate enough to do this race with these same three guys last year. And to be able to come back and have that continuity and that relationship, we just felt so confident in all of each other's ability, the car, and we knew what we had to do. We just had to stay out of trouble and keep the car on the track, and we did that. And here we are. I got a new Rolex. I can't believe it."
Ham, who joined Tremblay and Haskell in the 2008 Rolex 24 victory, said prior to the race's finish he would be relinquishing his role as Tremblay's fulltime co-driver for 2010.
"It just feels really wonderful," Ham said. "And it's been an honor and a pleasure to represent SpeedSource and Sylvain and all these people...thank you very much for the opportunity. And it means a lot to me."
Bergmeister, Long, van Overbeek and Neiman finished second. TRG's Andy Lally, Wolf Henzler, Kelly Collins, Ted Ballou and Pat Flanagan finished third in the No. 66 AXA Porsche GT3 after overcoming a sensor failure before the race's halfway point. The field's only three-driver team - Davis, Robin Liddell and Jan Magnussen - finished fourth in the No. 57 Camaro, the new car's first race in Rolex Series competition. Craig Stanton, John Potter, Jeroen Bleekemolen and Richard Lietz were fifth in the No. 44 Magnus Racing Porsche GT3. Fourth through seventh places were separated by only one lap.
The next race for the GRAND-AM Rolex Series will be the Grand Prix of Miami on March 6 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.