Bunting & Lally Extend Points Lead with Victory in Rolex GT Series Challenge LAKEVILLE, Conn. (May 29, 2006) -- In the first Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve event at Lime Rock Park since 2001, No.
Bunting & Lally Extend Points Lead with Victory in Rolex GT Series Challenge
LAKEVILLE, Conn. (May 29, 2006) -- In the first Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve event at Lime Rock Park since 2001, No. 65 TRG/F1 Air Pontiac GTO.R co-drivers Andy Lally and Marc Bunting turned in a dominating performance en route to their second victory of the season in the Rolex GT Series Challenge.
The key to victory for the No. 65 team came on Lap 19 of the 163-lap race, when Lally took over for Bunting in the cockpit of the No. 65 machine under full-course caution. The team originally planned for Boston native RJ Valentine to also log a driving shift at his home track, hence the reason for the early pit stop. However, Valentine elected to forego his stint in favor of getting Lally into the car.
Lally caught and passed teammate Kelly Collins in the No. 64 TRG/iRise Pontiac GTO.R on Lap 83, and Collins brought the No. 65 machine onto pit lane at the end of the same lap to turn the car over to co-driver Paul Edwards. The early switch allowed Lally to build a lead of more than one lap, and without needing to make a driver change, Lally was able to retain the race lead after his final pit stop of the day on Lap 107. He went on to win by 11.449 seconds over Edwards.
"I can't thank this team enough," said Lally. "The track really suits these Pontiacs and our team really nailed the setup. Even at the end of the race when our tires were starting to wear, the car had really good balance and our strategy really played out well. This crew and this team has just done so much to get us to the top step of the podium, and it feels good to extend our points lead."
With the victory, Bunting and Lally extended their lead in the GT driver standings to 17 points, 314-297, over No. 72 NEC Porsche GT3 co-drivers Robin Liddell and Wolf Henzler at the halfway point in the 13-race GT class season. The Memorial Day victory for the No. 65 duo follows a triumph in the VIR 400 last month, and was the fourth-consecutive top-two finish for the co-drivers. It was also their sixth podium result in seven races this season.
"The plan was always for me to come in during the first caution flag," said Bunting. "I tried to run as steady a race as I could and hand the car off in good position. It is my first time on the top step of the podium here at Lime Rock and it doesn't get better than this."
Collins, who started from the front row, led the first 82 laps before surrendering the lead to Lally and the No. 64 car to Edwards. It was the sixth consecutive top-four performance for Collins and Edwards, a run that included victories at Phoenix International Raceway, Homestead-Miami Speedway and Mexico City.
"This is a very tight track and these Pontiacs ran such a good race," said Collins. "The No. 65 team had a strategy that worked perfectly, and the fans here got to see a great race. This was one of the biggest crowds we've had all season. I want to thank all of the fans that came out here to keeping up the Memorial Day tradition here at Lime Rock."
It was the second consecutive 1-2 finish for the TRG team and the third time that the California-based team has swept the top-two positions this season. The performance also moved Collins and Edwards to within one point of Liddell and Henzler in the championship standings.
"This TRG/iRise team has worked so hard this year," said Edwards. "They always put us in a good position to be near the front of the pack and they did it once again today. We've been on a pretty good roll here lately and hopefully we can keep that up."
Henzler and Liddell completed the podium with a third-place run. Whereas the No. 65 and No. 64 teams had a relatively easy run to the front of the field, that was not the case for the Tafel Racing duo. Henzler originally qualified on the pole position, but post-qualifying technical inspection revealed that the car's ride height was too low and the No. 72 machine was forced to the back of the starting grid.
From the start of the race, Henzler steadily worked his way forward, running as high as second place at one point before handing over the controls to Liddell in a pit stop on Lap 80. It was the sixth-consecutive top-four performance for Liddell and Henzler, who earned their first victories of the season in the Road & Track 250 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca earlier this month.
Vic Rice and Tommy Riggins put together a stellar drive in the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette to finish a season-best fourth after starting ninth. The result earned the Rice and Riggins the SunTrust Improve Your Position Award for its five-position improvement from start to finish. The fourth-place run eclipses the duo's previous best run of sixth in the VIR 400.
David Murry and Leh Keen rounded out the top five in the No. 80 Shoes for Crews/Synergy Racing Porsche GT3. It was the duo's sixth consecutive top-eight result and its best result since finishing second in the Mexico City 250 at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in March.