Fontana: Bell Motorsports preview

Kodak EasyShare Team Wants to End Season Like it Started it with a Rolex Series Victory; Car Required Over 200 Hours of Labor Following Crash at Barber Motorsports Park FORT WORTH, Oct. 26 - The Bell Motorsports/Feeds the Need Racing team ...

Kodak EasyShare Team Wants to End Season Like it Started it with a Rolex Series Victory; Car Required Over 200 Hours of Labor Following Crash at Barber Motorsports Park

FORT WORTH, Oct. 26 - The Bell Motorsports/Feeds the Need Racing team would like to end the 2004 Rolex series just like it started it: with a victory.

The defending Daytona Prototype championship team put its Kodak EasyShare DORAN JE4 Pontiac No. 54 in victory lane at its biggest race of the year, the prestigious Rolex 24 at Daytona International Speedway, in February.

Now drivers Terry Borcheller, the reigning Daytona Prototype champion from Gainesville, Ga., and Christian Fittipaldi, the Brazilian star from Key Biscayne, Fla., would like to win the 2004 season finale on Sunday at California Speedway in Fontana, Calif.

The two-hour-and-45-minute race, called the Lexus Grand American 400, will be televised live on SPEED at 4 p.m. Eastern time on Sunday.

The team was spectacular at the most recent race, which was held at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala. Oct. 10. After dicing repeatedly with several top cars, Fittipaldi was running third just a handful of laps from the end when he was involved in an accident. Luckily he wasn't hurt, but unfortunately the car sustained extensive damage. The situation was made worse because the crash occurred only 18 days before practice starts at Fontana, which is on the other side of the country from the team's headquarters near Miami. Considering everything, the team's appearance at Fontana this weekend is already a huge accomplishment.

"The depth and determination shown by our team in recent weeks are amazing," said Borcheller. "I've been in touch with Jim [Bell, the team owner] almost every day since Birmingham, and he's kept me updated on the progress of the car, even though he's been fighting a nasty cold. These guys are amazing, and I hope Christian and I can give them a performance that will reward their unbelievable hard work. They're the best."

"The entire Bell Motorsports team - Bob Metzler, Bob Carroll, Bernie VanHamond, Vidal Maldonado, Danny Duenas, Claudio Bernard, Julio Mendez, Albert Tormes, Brian Sakata and Mark Krause - have worked feverishly to restore our Daytona Prototype to an acceptable mechanical and competitive level," said team owner Jim Bell.

"The chassis sustained major damage, as did the complete suspension, transmission, bell housing and carbon fiber bodywork," Bell explained. "Because of the lack of time, Kevin Doran supplied us with a substantial amount of the required components, including the actual engine cover off of the No. 27 Doran-Lista car, before we left Barber Motorsports Park. Special thanks to Doran Designs for all of their hurry-up accommodations to us to affect this rebuild in the time we had. The actual chassis straightening and all steel fabrication and welding was done in the Bell Motorsports shop by Bernie VanHamond and Bob Carroll. This includes a complete new exhaust system fabricated by Bob Carroll. All suspension and transmission components were cracked-checked, rebuilt, and reassembled by Bob Metzler and the rest of the Bell Motorsports team. The car was finished Saturday afternoon [Oct. 23], loaded in the transporter, and began its trip to Fontana. The car is 100 percent after over 200 hours of labor by the whole team."

Bell Motorsports and its drivers have had a great deal of success at Fontana in previous years.

Borcheller picked up his first overall pole in the Rolex series during qualifying for this event last June with a lap in 1:32.314 (109.972 mph) in the Bell Motorsports DORAN JE4 Chevy, an automatic track record for the Daytona Prototype class. He and co-driver Forest Barber went on to finish third in class and fourth overall in the race. Borcheller set the fastest lap of the race with a 1:29.322 (113.656 mph), another automatic track record. (Borcheller also has a SRP II victory at Fontana in 2002 with co-drivers Ralf Kelleners and Bill Rand in the Rand Racing/Risi Competizione Lola Nissan.)

In the companion Grand-Am Cup division, Bell Motorsports won the GS II class in both 2002 and 2003 at California Speedway. Borcheller and Barber were the drivers of the team's entry, a BMW M3. Borcheller holds that series' GS class race-lap record for Fontana with a lap in 1:50.154 (92.162 mph).

Besides the fact that the track has been very good to him, Borcheller said he's looking forward to this weekend's races for another reason. Several executives from his long-time sponsor, K& N, plan to be on hand this weekend at Fontana. K & N Engineering, the leader in high-flow air filters and intake kits, is headquartered in Riverside, Calif. "Fontana is in K & N's backyard, and we're looking forward to having them come to the race," Borcheller noted.

Fittipaldi is also looking forward to this weekend's event, especially since he has a victory here on the oval in CART champ cars.

"I only tested once on the Fontana road course, but I don't think that will be a problem because we have a lot of time to get acclimated during the practice sessions on Thursday," he noted, referring to a tire test at the track that day.

"The place brings back good memories for me," Fittipaldi continued. "I finished third at Fontana in 1999 and won in 2000 [in CART]."

Fittipaldi started third and led 35 laps on his way to that CART FedEx victory in 2000. He was driving the Newman-Haas Kmart Lola Cosworth Ford No. 11. The previous year he led 37 laps and set the fastest race lap before finishing third for the same team and sponsor. The engine was the same that year, but the chassis was a Swift.

Bell Motorsports is currently seventh in the Daytona Prototype point standings but mathematically could rise as high as fourth after Sunday's race.

Borcheller, the only one of the team's drivers to compete in all 11 events so far this year, is eleventh in the Daytona Prototype driver standings or ninth when one disregards the two spots ahead of him (first and eighth) that are currently tied. With a victory at Fontana he mathematically could advance to fourth or fifth.

Doran Designs, which built the chassis the team uses, is third in the car builder standings while the team's engine manufacturer, Pontiac, leads that category.

The weekend's official program starts on Friday with practice from 9:40 a.m. until 11:20 a.m. and again from 2:10 p.m. until 2:55 p.m. The following day there is a one-hour practice session at 10 a.m. prior to qualifying at 1:20 p.m. On Sunday, Halloween, there is a warm-up session at 10 a.m. prior to the 400 kilometer/89-lap race beginning at 1 p.m.

After the race the series will honor its champions at an awards ceremony at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas on Monday night, Nov. 1.

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Ralf Kelleners , Christian Fittipaldi , Terry Borcheller , Forest Barber , Kevin Doran
Teams Risi Competizione