Homestead: Race report

Auberlen and Alhadeff Score First Rolex Series Overall Win in Linder Industrial Komatsu Grand Prix of Miami DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 24, 2007) -- In just their eighth Daytona Prototype start as a team, No. 05 Luggage Express Team Sigalsport ...

Auberlen and Alhadeff Score First Rolex Series Overall Win in Linder Industrial Komatsu Grand Prix of Miami

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 24, 2007) -- In just their eighth Daytona Prototype start as a team, No. 05 Luggage Express Team Sigalsport BMW Riley co-drivers Bill Auberlen and Matthew Alhadeff scored their first career Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve overall victory in Saturday's Linder Industrial Komatsu Grand Prix of Miami at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

With 11 laps remaining, Auberlen swept to the inside of 2005 Daytona Prototype co-champion Max Angelelli in the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley in Turn 6 and came out with the lead in a textbook maneuver. Auberlen then spent the remaining laps keeping Angelelli and the rest of the field in his mirrors and the two-time Rolex Series GT champion went on to win the race by 1.759 seconds.

"First of all, it feels unbelievable," Auberlen said. "It came earlier than I even expected. I knew we had a learning curve with the car. The team had a gelling curve, where everybody has to come together. It's all coming together so fast. We've got a good motor program now, and everything is good, so to win this one, it's one of the best wins I've ever had. It was one of the hardest-fought wins I ever had to do.

"As far as the pass on Angelelli goes, on the restart before that, I was much faster than him, but it was like he drove in his mirrors. Everywhere I went, that's where he wound up. I was like, 'I can't go by, so I have to make myself invisible.' If you put a Daytona Prototype right behind another one, they can't see you. I tucked right up behind him to where I knew he couldn't see me, waited for his brake lights to come on, and when he did that, I went just a second longer. It was too much for him. For him to do it, we would have had to wreck. I passed him, went out, and the car was strong."

For Alhadeff, who drove the first 21 laps before turning the car over to Auberlen under the day's second of seven full-course cautions, it was his first professional race victory. It was the 25-year-old Alhadeff's eighth Daytona Prototype start and 26th overall Rolex Series start in a career that began in 2005.

"This is one of the greatest days of my entire life," Alhadeff said. "I'm so happy for my whole team and for my family and for myself. We've been working so hard to do this. We've been there a couple of times and it's gotten taken away from us for whatever reason. Now, we finally did it. It was a well-deserved finish, because we struggled in the beginning with some of things that happened on the track and a pit stop that wasn't that great. Everybody just pulled through. Bill Auberlen, man, that guy is unbelievable."

Angelelli and co-driver Jan Magnussen held on to finish second for their best result of the season to date after finishing third in each of the first two races in the 2007 season. Magnussen started from the pole position and led a race-high 21 laps in his stint before turning the car over to Angelelli. Interestingly, the No. 10 machine has never won a race in which it has started from the pole position.

"Obviously, I'm very happy for the team," Magnussen said. "It looked for a while there like we were going to win this race, but Bill was very strong at the end and got a run on Max after the (Lap 80) restart. From my point of view, I didn't do that many laps in this race, but I got away cleanly at the start and got a big gap. Everybody else was fighting behind me. I had a clean run. My car today was just great. Then I gave it over to Max and it was a really exciting race until the finish."

Angelelli led 15 laps before surrendering the lead to Auberlen. It was the 10th consecutive race that Angelelli and Magnussen finished inside the top five positions, and the performance enabled them to move to within one point, 92-93, of Daytona Prototype points leader Scott Pruett.

"I enjoyed the race," Angelelli said. "It's what Grand-Am racing is all about. You cannot rest for a second or you will get passed. Bill really made a fantastic move. It really surprised me. When I saw him, I couldn't believe it. If I knew he was there, I would have closed the door for sure, as I did before. I knew he was really strong the first two laps after (restarts) and I really wasn't. He covered himself behind my car in the middle and I couldn't see him in my mirrors, so he did really well. The race was difficult for everybody. My car behind the other DPs was really difficult, but I enjoyed it. I enjoyed the whole race."

Pruett co-drove the No. 01 TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley to a third-place result alongside Mexican racer Memo Rojas to keep the Daytona Prototype points lead by the thinnest of margins. It was Pruett's second podium result of the season, the other being the overall victory in the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona with co-drivers Salvador Duran and Juan Pablo Montoya, and was the first podium result of Rojas' Rolex Series career.

"I had a run on (leader) Ian (James) on the back straight, and was able to get inside of him and had the lead for a second or two, but just ran out of room and I didn't want to get into him," Pruett said. "I had to get out of it a little bit and that allowed Max to get by and he brought the 05 car with him. It was a scrap out there all race long. That's what Grand-Am racing is all about. We had a strong effort from everyone -- Memo did a great job, Lexus did a great job and really the whole Ganassi team was terrific."

"I'm happy with my first podium," Rojas added. "The racing was really tough. It seemed like we were always in a battle trying to get to the front. In the end, I think any of the cars that were running up front had a chance depending on traffic. It was really good racing."

Patrick Carpentier and Milka Duno continued their strong early season performance with a fourth-place performance in the No. 11 CITGO/SAMAX Pontiac Riley. It was their second top-four result of the season to go with a second-place run in the Rolex 24 At Daytona, and kept Carpentier and Duno within 13 points of Pruett in the point standings.

Floridians Hurley Haywood and JC France rounded out the top five in the No. 59 Brumos Porsche/Kendall Porsche Riley. It was the duo's second top-five result in three races to go with a fourth-place performance in the Rolex 24 At Daytona.

The top-nine cars finished within 10.5 seconds of the winner. Darren Law led 20 laps in the No. 58 Red Bull/Brumos Racing Porsche Fabcar he shared with co-driver David Donohue en route to a sixth-place finish. Rob Finlay and Michael Valiante came home seventh in the No. 19 Z-Line Designs/Mission Residential/Make-A-Wish Ford Crawford followed by Colin Braun and Max Papis in the No. 75 Krohn Racing Pontiac Riley. Defending Daytona Prototype champion Jorg Bergmeister and 2006 Homestead winner Patrick Long finished ninth in the No. 23 Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team Porsche Crawford, and Burt Frisselle and Mark Wilkins rounded out the top 10 in the No. 61 Exchange Traded Gold/AIM Autosport Lexus Riley.

James led 15 laps on his way to a 12th-place result in the No. 6 machine with co-driver Henri Zogaib, and Christian Fittipaldi led nine laps before finishing 14th with co-driver Harrison Brix in the No. 39 Crown Royal Special Reserve/Cheever Racing Porsche Fabcar.

***

HAM AND TREMBLAY TAKE SECOND STRAIGHT GT VICTORY IN MIAMI NAIL-BITER

Nick Ham and Sylvain Tremblay in the No. 70 SpeedSource Mazda/Mazdaspeed RX-8 extended their points lead in the GT class by taking their second straight class victory in a wild finish over RJ Valentine and Andy Lally in the No. 66 CRG/Maxter/Rotax/MBA/NFP/F1Air Porsche GT3.

Tremblay led 16 laps, but had to hold off a hard-charging Lally over the closing laps to secure the victory in the "hometown" race for his Sunrise, Fla.-based team. He crossed the stripe just .103 seconds ahead of the defending Rolex Series GT co-champion.

"That was one of the best races I've ever had," Tremblay said. "I just had tons and tons of fun. I'm very proud of the entire SpeedSource team and all the calls we made. To have won two in a row this early is just awesome. Nick drove a strong first half of the race. Momentum is the best thing."

Ham started second and led 12 laps during his stint before turning the car over to Tremblay. After picking up the first-ever Rolex Series GT victory for Mazda three weeks ago in Mexico City, Ham and Tremblay extended their lead in the GT driver standings to 17 points, 96-79, over No. 22 Gatorade/TodayMD.com Porsche GT3 co-drivers Carlos de Quesada and Jean-Francois Dumoulin.

"Overall, it was a very good race," Ham said. "Everything went according to plan. I did the first stint and my job was to keep the car clean and stay as close to the front as possible, which we were able to do. We called our pit stop right. We pitted at the right time so we just needed one stop, and at the end we were able to bring it home. When we did the stop I think it was in the sixth place, and he just gradually kept moving up. It was a great win for Mazda and the RX-8."

For the third-consecutive race, Valentine and Lally managed to substantially improve on their result from the previous race with a second-place run. The duo opened the year with a 17th-place class result in the Rolex 24 At Daytona before taking eighth in GT earlier this month in Mexico City.

"I just did two or three laps, then we put Andy in to close the deal," Valentine said. "He almost closed it."

"We had a really good car and by far the best Porsche in the field, hands down," Lally added. "We did a decent job with it. We came up just a little bit short, and that's a little bit disappointing. I wish we had a little more for those guys at the end, but I don't think we could have planned out the race any better than we did."

Bryce Miller and Dirk Werner rebounded from a cut tire to complete the class podium in the No. 87 Marquis Jet/IPC/Recaro Porsche GT3 for Farnbacher Loles Motorsports. It was the third consecutive top-four class result for the Farnbacher Loles team, which is in its first full Rolex Series season. The No. 87 machine finished fourth in the Rolex 24, and teammates Leh Keen and Dominik Farnbacher came home second in class from Mexico City. It was the first Rolex Series podium result for Werner and Miller.

"The last few laps were outstanding," Werner said. "I'm happy personally because I learned how to drive from Wolf Henzler, and to beat him now is really crazy. The car was so good, and the tactics we used were awesome. We fell all the way to the back when Bryce had the cut tire, so to come all the way back is just awesome. Hopefully we will celebrate tonight because this is mine and Bryce's first podium."

Fourth-place went to Henzler and Eric Lux in the No. 74 Rembrandt Charms/Tafel Racing Porsche GT3. Lux led five laps midway through the race, while Henzler took over after their pit stop and ran as high as third before Werner snatched that position away. The final top-five position went to Farnbacher and Keen in the No. 85 Shoes for Crews/Recaro Porsche GT3, and was the final car on the GT lead lap.

NOTEBOOK

Daytona Prototype race-winners Bill Auberlen and Matthew Alhadeff and GT runners-up Andy Lally and R.J. Valentine earned the "SunTrust Improve Your Position Awards." Auberlen and Alhadeff came from 15th on the grid to win the race, while Lally and Valentine finished second in GT after starting 16th in class... The top-three finishers in the Linder Industrial Komatsu Grand Prix of Miami were powered by different engine manufacturers. BMW claimed its first victory since the 2005 season finale at Mexico City, while Pontiac finished second and Lexus finished third. A fifth-place performance by Hurley Haywood and JC France in the No. 59 Brumos Racing Porsche Riley made it four different engines in the top five. Pontiac leads Lexus, 99-93, in the engine manufacturer standings... While Mazda picked up its second consecutive Rolex Series GT victory, a second-place run by Porsche enabled to German marque to retain the lead in the GT manufacturer standings. Porsche leads Mazda by three points, 99-96.

-credit: grandam

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Juan Pablo Montoya
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing , Krohn Racing , SpeedSource