04/22/00 - When the Hybrid Team arrived at noon on Saturday for the 200 mile sports car race that evening, they where informed that they would be given ten minutes on the track but had to be ready to roll out in one hour. This was anticipated...
04/22/00 - When the Hybrid Team arrived at noon on Saturday for the 200 mile sports car race that evening, they where informed that they would be given ten minutes on the track but had to be ready to roll out in one hour. This was anticipated as the car was delivered with the appropriate fuel and tires to go directly from transporter to track.
The session was shared with two other competitors who must have had hard luck on Friday in order to be given this opportunity as well. While the teams Lozano Brothers / Ford engine was exceptional right out of the trailer, this was not the case for the Judd powered Riley & Scott for Irv Hoerr. "The first few laps of this ten minute session I noticed that Irv was on the rev limiter a lot. My first thought was that I hope it holds up, I have one more driver to put in my car to establish an acceptable lap time" said Rod Everett, Team Owner of the Hybrid Team. "My next thought after his engine blew up five minutes into the session was to warn my driver of oil on the track hoping it was not in a critical corner". That teams engine change prior to the race along with the #12 Ferraris qualifying time disallowed made for an interesting starting grid with three very fast Prototype Sports Racers starting from the back.
Mark Simo started the race in the #17 Hybrid entry and managed to proceed as the team had planned. On around lap twelve, the first of eventually two full course yellow cautions appeared and Simo was third behind the Pace Car. Five laps later the race went green and Simo began lapping at a qualifying pace. A battle had developed with the #12 Ferrari and #27 Ferrari/Judd once clear of the #20 Dyson entry.
Everett declined comment when asked what the race strategy was enabling them to go to the front of the pack in such short order only saying; "we may have to repeat this another day".
At the first pit stop the Hybrid Team was running fourth and had a car for the podium. Trouble struck however, during the stop when the air jack failed to operate. One of the high pressure regulators had a leak while with quick thinking of crew chief Angel Escobar, the team switched a wheel gun hose for the air jack hose and completed the stop with Escobar handling both front and rear inside tire changes. "Angel may only stand five feet and two inches but he stands much taller in the minds of those who know him, especially me" said Everett. "He never lets us down and always seems to pull off something miracles when the pressure is on".
Chris Bingham stormed out of the pits on fresh Yokohama tires to finish the race on. Within five laps he too was managing a qualifying pace and in the process picking off one position at a time. A great battle now emerged between Bingham and the Lola/Ford of John Fields. While Bingham had the upper hand, he continued forward. With laps clicking away at a rapid pace, the Hybrid Teams Riley & Scott / Ford was nearing a fuel stop window. Bingham was instructed that he is clear to pit at any sign of a caution. After completing his first lap on reserve fuel and due to come in the next, the second full course caution appeared and Bingham was on his way. "Timing could not have been better" said Everett. "We needed this to assure not to loose a position on this short one and a half mile, fifty six second per lap circuit". The Hybrid Team short pitted taking on only a few seconds of fuel to complete the remaining eleven laps of the race.
After some thought and calculating, the Hybrid team had determined that had they not had the pit stop trouble early on, third position possibly second would have been achieved. Nevertheless, fifth place is certainly acceptable all considered. "We earned some points, have a check coming and obliged some commitments that we have made" said a team spokesperson.
With only one hour between the end of the three hour sedan race prior to the beginning of the 200 mile Sports Car Race, there was a lot of confusion up and down pit lane. None of the Sports Car Teams where allowed to setup their pit equipment and fueling towers until after the previous race. In the Hybrid Teams case, the team occupying the pit stall assigned to them had won the three-hour race and those crew members went directly to the podium ceremonies. Understandable however, this left the Hybrid crew members in a bit of frustration. All the teams where frantically building the pits well after the start of the race. "They had about forty minutes on the Hybrid Team which may have cost them a podium finish", said a team spokesperson. "The equipment was placed and built so late that the first stop came before any of it could be tested.
Mark Simo; "Our car was one of the best on the track. I could drive it anywhere, which is what we set it up to do considering where we had to start. Rod and I discussed the possibility of a lot of off line overtaking. This car was on rails and the engine was really strong".
Chris Bingham; "We knew all along we would do well and no one on the team ever questioned or doubted the ability we have. Even coming to Phoenix only to race (No practice of qualifying). There is so much confidence in the Hybrid team, and it showed with how well the car was working today right out of the trailer. I honestly don't know how they do it. I'm grateful though, that I am their driver".
Rod Everett; "Chris (Bingham) and Mark (Simo) are a delightful combination. They compliment each other and produce consistently quick laps on the track while taking care of the Yokohama tires which proved beneficial as the competition had problems with theirs (Blistering). Not us! Chris never makes a mistake and when I need him to step it up, he manages to find away. Mark has only driven for us in two events however; he has established himself as a competent and competitive Prototype Sports Car driver. They are both going to be championship contenders in this business. I can only hope that they never become the competition to Hybrid R&D".