SpeedSource GT RX-8 Wins Homestead to Extend Points Lead in Rolex Sports Car Serie s (03/28/2007) - Two fingers held high atop the podium almost said it all for the SpeedSource ...
SpeedSource GT RX-8 Wins Homestead to Extend Points Lead in Rolex Sports Car Serie s
(03/28/2007) - Two fingers held high atop the podium almost said it all for the SpeedSource Mazdaspeed RX-8 team as they celebrated season win number two at Homestead-Miami Speedway in the March 24 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Linder Industrial Komastu Grand Prix. With a gamble on pit strategy, Nick Ham and team owner Sylvain Tremblay clinched the GT class victory with a slim one-tenth second lead.
In its first full season of competition, the rotary-powered GT RX-8 has zoom-zoomed to the top of the charts, holding a strong points lead in both the driver and team championship. But that is not the team's focus. As Tremblay noted, "We have worked so hard to get where we are, to achieve the level of excellence needed to win in this series. Now we know the spotlight is on us, and we have to work even harder to stay on top."
During the 90-lap event, which included numerous yellow flags, pit strategy proved as important as performance on the track. Team Technical Director David Haskell made the calls from pit lane. "We knew tires would be key in our race strategy," commented Tremblay, "and Dave made a gutsy call to pit and change tires only once. While it gained us time, I really had to focus on conserving the tires. At the end I wasn't sure I could stay ahead of cars with fresh tires."
In the closing minutes of the nail-biter race, No. 70 lost the lead to the No. 66 car under braking. Regaining the lead again, using a DP car as a pick in the banking, Tremblay held on to take checker 3 laps later. "This helps make up for the bitter defeat last year, when we lost by about the same margin than this year's victory," said Tremblay.
SpeedSource had tested earlier on the same track, and crew chief Matt Martin commented on the team's pre-race work. "The testing we did in the beginning of the year at Homestead really gave us a good starting setup going into the weekend. Not having to tweak the car too much gave us time to work with the drivers on managing the tires through a long stint." On the one-stop race, Martin said, "If you asked me with 40 minutes left in the race 'was it the right call' I would have looked at you with a very concerned face. But in the end it was."
For the No. 69 car, a 16th place finish dampened the spirits of the entire team. The FXDD-sponsored car driven by Nick Longhi and owner Emil Assentato started in a solid 8th place, but went a lap down on a long pit stop, with no chance of regaining their race-best 4th position. Said Tremblay of the No. 69 car's day, "The long pit stop and getting caught by the pace car ruined the race for the #69 FXDD and I feel horrible that we took a podium away from those guys -- we will make it up. The 16th place does not show all the hard work and great driving Emil and Nick did." Added crew chief for the No. 69, Marty Kintzi, "Overall the weekend was bittersweet with the victory of the No. 70. The No.69 was running strong in every session. The car was set up for a podium run; unfortunately, the race did not have an outcome we wanted. During an early caution we had an opportunity to capitalize on. We wanted fresh tires, driver and fuel to give us a good chance at the podium, but we had difficulty with the driver change which extended our pit time. The safety car crossed start/finish before we did and so we went down a lap. The crew and I were all very disappointed for the No. 69 car. Our goal at SpeedSource is always to win races with every car we run. We will learn from this weekend and come back stronger at VIR."
Staying up front in the highly competitive Rolex Sports Car Series puts the team on the road for more than just race weekends. To maintain their competitive edge, the team is testing at Homestead, Daytona, and Barber - all in the space of 7 days. As the team gains momentum, Tremblay is also focused on growing his program. "We have a great package, and expect to be able to announce our work on chassis nos. 003 and 004 for other teams." Excluding the chassis, which comes from Riley Technologies, and the Downing Atlanta built carbon fiber body panels, all the remaining fabrication happens on-site at SpeedSource. Looking ahead Tremblay adds, "We're also taking orders for chassis no. 005 and beyond."
While the team pursues more success, Tremblay is quick to mention his gratitude for support from Mazda and rotary enthusiasts. "The level of support and enthusiasm we get from fans everywhere is overwhelming. >From all points in the country, Mazda fans and racers celebrate with us and I'm very happy to bring home this win for them."
And the points lead? Tremblay added, "The championship is always the focus, but we're still in the 'early days' and we just have to focus on our job of winning races for Mazda. The points will take care of themselves."