Lime Rock: GT round six preview

Grand-Am Rolex Series GT Point Leaders Edwards, Collins Looking for Third Victory of 2008 Monday at Lime Rock Pontiac shooting for five straight Rolex GT victories, all-time class lead in manufacturers DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 20, 2008) --...

Grand-Am Rolex Series GT Point Leaders Edwards, Collins Looking for Third Victory of 2008 Monday at Lime Rock

Pontiac shooting for five straight Rolex GT victories, all-time class lead in manufacturers

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 20, 2008) -- Kelly Collins said after Saturday's win at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca it isn't the right time to be talking about the championship, but any time is right to be talking about victories. In next Monday's Lime Rock Classic 250 at Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Conn., the sixth race on the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 GT schedule, Collins and his No. 07 Banner Racing Banner Engineering Pontiac GXP.R co-driver Paul Edwards will be shooting for their third class win together of the 2008 season (SPEED, Live, 2 p.m. Monday, May 26).

Collins and Edwards are coming off their second GT win of the season in the RumBum.com 250 at Laguna Seca, when Edwards drove past Sylvain Tremblay after the SpeedSource team owner and co-driver Sylvain Tremblay slipped off the track in the famed Corkscrew turn and got sideways at the bottom of the hill with under two laps remaining. Edwards and Spencer Pumpelly took first and second away from Tremblay, and Edwards pushed the No. 07 to first at the checkered flag. Collins and Edwards also won March's GAINSCO Grand Prix of Miami at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and lead Pumpelly and Tim George Jr. by nine points (154-145) in the driver standings.

Now, Collins and Edwards look for that league-leading third victory at the same 1.53-mile, seven-turn track which the team's sister No. 06 Banner Racing Banner Engineering Pontiac GXP.R -- then driven by Leighton Reese and Tim Lewis Jr. -- won a year ago. Lewis has moved to another Pontiac GXP.R., the No. 72 from the Autohaus Motorsports stable.

"The Pontiac has won the race the Lime Rock race last two years, the Banner No. 06 last year and the GTO.R in '06," Edwards said. "There are more Pontiacs on the grid this year, so it should be another good weekend. The Banner car has been reliable. The Banner crew has done a great job preparing the cars...from race to race. We should be at least a second-and-a-half faster than last year. This is about average from the other circuits we have run on the new Pirelli tires.

"In the pits the guys have consistently had the fastest stops," Edwards continued. "This makes us really strong. We will also need the right strategy. We need to keep it clean on the track and in the pits. It will be nice to have a GT-only race. I miss those. Last year we had five. We will make the most it."

Leading into this race, Reese has been the only constant in the No. 06 this season. He finished a season-best third at Homestead-Miami Speedway with Jan Magnussen. But this weekend at Lime Rock, the Minnesota native will fill the team owner role only as Magnussen and Ron Fellows will try to defend the No. 06 Pontiac's victory.

Pontiac will be shooting for its 50th Rolex Series class victory this weekend after taking five of 10 to start the season, including four straight in GT. The other Pontiac to win, the No. 57 Stevenson Automotive/BryanMark Financial Pontiac GXP.R with co-drivers Robin Liddell and Andrew Davis, won the Mexico City 250 and the Bosch Engineering 250 at Virginia International Raceway.

Meanwhile, others look to break that streak. Pumpelly and George drive the No. 67 TRG Porsche GT3, one of four cars the series' most successful teams in terms of victories has brought. George -- who at one time called Greenwich, Conn. home -- currently leads the MESCO Building for the Future Rookie of the Year and Bob Akin standings. Bryce Miller of Hoboken, N.J., will team with rookie Ted Ballou in the No. 66 Porsche GT3, while 2006 race co-winner Andy Lally and Bryan Sellers will join Braintree, Mass., veteran RJ Valentine in the No. 68 Porsche GT3. Craig Stanton, who also leads the Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series Grand Sport driver standings, and John Potter will drive the No. 65 TRG Mike Wiegele Helicopter Skiing Porsche GT3.

Another Porsche-powered team, Farnbacher Loles Racing, has its home base in Danbury, Conn., though its race shop is near Atlanta, Ga. Defending series champion Dirk Werner and fellow German Dominik Farnbacher will drive the No. 87 Porsche GT3, and Eric Lux and Leh Keen will drive the No. 86 Porsche GT3. Lux and Keen have two straight top fives.

SpeedSource's two-car effort suffered a disappointing race at Laguna Seca but looks to return to the forefront again at Lime Rock. Rolex 24 At Daytona winners Tremblay and Nick Ham were in position to win in the No. 70 Mazdaspeed/Castrol Syntec Mazda RX-8 until Tremblay slipped off the track, while Emil Assentato's No. 69 FXDD Mazda RX-8 retired early in the race. Assentato's season-long co-driver Jeff Segal didn't drive due to the car's retirement, but will be back in the car when practice begins Friday.

Other teams competing at Lime Rock will be the No. 21 Matt Connolly Motorsports P1 Groupe/Barbetti Pontiac GTO.R of Diego Alessi and Ryan Phinny, who finished fourth at Laguna Seca; the No. 30 Racers Edge Motorsports Playboy Mazda RX-8; No. 35 Phoenix Performance Inc. Corvette; No. 40 Hyper Sport Mazda RX-8; the Nos. 42 and 43 Team Sahlen Corvettes; and the No. 72 Autohaus Motorsports Pontiac GXP.R.

Friday's practice is scheduled to start at 10 a.m., with qualifying at 11:30 a.m. and the 164-lap or two-and-three-quarter hour Lime Rock Classic 250 at 2 p.m. Saturday.

RACE SPECS

- This is the sixth race for the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 GT class. The race is the only Rolex Series GT-exclusive race this season.

- The green flag for the race is scheduled to fly at 2 p.m. ET Monday, May 26. The race will air live on SPEED (Leigh Diffey -- Play-by-Play; Dorsey Schroeder, Calvin Fish -- Analysts; Brian Till, Chris Neville -- Pit Reporters).

- All cars must make a mandatory pit stop prior to the 45-minute mark in the race, and each driver must complete 30 minutes of the race in order to earn points in their respective standings.

- The 2007 Lime Rock Park race winners were Leighton Reese and Tim Lewis Jr.

ROLEX SERIES GT WEEKEND SCHEDULE (ALL TIMES EASTERN)

- Friday: Practice (10:00-10:30 a.m.); Practice (1:25-2:05 p.m.)

- Saturday: Practice (9-9:35 a.m.); Qualifying (11:30-11:45 a.m.)

- Monday: Practice (9-9:10 a.m.) Race (2 p.m.; 164 laps/250 miles or two hours and 45 minutes)

2008 IN REVIEW

It's been all Pontiac in the last four races on the Rolex Series GT calendar, as the power plant has won with two different teams in the past four events. Kelly Collins and Paul Edwards have finished no worse than seventh this season, and with two of those four Pontiac victories own a nine-point advantage (154-145) in the driver standings. Robin Liddell and Andrew Davis have also won in a Pontiac GXP.R. Rolex 24 At Daytona co-winners Sylvain Tremblay and Nick Ham, who run fulltime, took the Mazda to victory lane. Consistency -- four podiums to be exact -- has kept TRG's Spencer Pumpelly and Tim George Jr. only nine points out of the tie for the lead.

NEWS & NOTES

- Native Sons: Several Rolex Series drivers call New England home, while one driver more specifically is from The Constitution State. Tim George Jr. (Greenwich) is one of several Grand-Am drivers this weekend born in Connecticut, while others either born or residing in the Northeast include Bryce Miller (Hoboken, N.J.), Andy Lally (Northport, N.Y.), RJ Valentine (Braintree, Mass.) and Emil Assentato (Locust Valley, Mass.). Farnbacher Loles Racing's shop was formerly in Danbury, Conn. before the team moved to Atlanta; however, the organization still has a base in Danbury.

- New Team Debuting at Lime Rock: Phoenix Performance Inc. will debut its Corvette at Lime Rock this weekend with three drivers set to take action. Andrew Aquilante, a Penn State University mechanical engineering student, helped build the Corvette, and will share the wheel with John Heinricy and Don Knowles.

- Lally Returns to Action This Weekend: Former Rolex Series GT driving champion Andy Lally will return to road racing this weekend with TRG and the No. 68 Porsche GT3. Lally won the driving title in 2006 and earned five GT victories in 2007 before moving to the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series fulltime this season. Lally finished on the podium of the 2008 Rolex 24 At Daytona, his most recent start with the series.

- Starting up Front Has its Privileges in GT: Starting up front is the right place to start, at least for drivers in the Rolex Series GT class. Sylvain Tremblay, Kelly Collins and Andrew Davis have all started in the front two rows in their co-victories in 2008. The furthest back any of them have started was fourth.

MILESTONES

- Pontiac Approaching Class Win Record: With five class victories this season, Pontiac is tied with Porsche for all-time class wins with 49. Porsche has not won in either Daytona Prototype or GT in 2008. A win for either would give them the elusive 50th win.

SELECTED PRE-RACE DRIVER QUOTES

JAN MAGNUSSEN (No. 06 Banner Racing Banner Engineering Pontiac GXP.R): "I'm really looking forward to being back in the Pontiac GXP.R with Ron (Fellows). I understand the car was really good last year at Lime Rock, so I'm looking for a good result. Last year I enjoyed the layout of Lime Rock; for a road circuit, it has the potential for some big penalties for small mistakes. It's a driver's circuit, real old school."

ANDREW DAVIS (No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Stevenson Automotive/BryanMark Financial Pontiac GXP.R): "The Pontiac GXP.R will be the car to beat at Lime Rock. The circuit really plays into the strong points of the car, and I was pleased to see that we will be running on the original layout again this year. Although the event at Laguna Seca was disappointing for us, we learned quite a bit that will help us improve for this weekend's event. We are going to focus on optimizing the setup as quickly as possible to ensure that we make the most out of the available track time. From there, we will simply focus on the things that led the Stevenson Motorsports Pontiac GXP.R to victory lane twice last month. With the hard work ethic displayed by the crew, we are confident that we can return to our winning ways. The race strategy for the race this weekend is always a bit tricky due to the sub-one minute lap times. It's just not possible to make a full service pit stop under green flag conditions without losing a lap. Also, the quality of drivers in the GT class normally lends to a race with less cautions than our combined races. Pit strategy is one of the things we do best at Stevenson Motorsports, so I hope that will favor our No. 57 Pontiac GXP.R."

TIM LEWIS JR. (No. 72 Autohaus Motorsports Pontiac GXP.R): "I was able to win there last year. We hope to have a strong showing, but we have had a lot of bad luck so far this year. It gives me a lot more confidence coming to a race we won last year. Autohaus is getting a good handle on the car and we should be strong. It would be nice to win the last professional race there before they reconstruct the track. Everyone will be faster there than last year with the new tires. We have to be on our game with strategy and in the pits and on the track. If you go down a lap you are in trouble. There is no Lucky Dog rule this year for making up a lap. The team has to be mistake free."

ERIC LUX (No. 86 Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche GT3): "I enjoy racing at Lime Rock because of the history of the circuit and the people who come out to watch the races. It is such a historic circuit and to still be racing on it today is an awesome feeling. To be honest, it is not a circuit that I really enjoy, though. My style of racing suits longer, more high-speed circuits, and Lime Rock is far from that. I have to adjust my driving style a bit to work with the circuit, but that worked for me last year when Wolf Henzler and I were able to secure a third-place finish. I am planning on approaching this year's race the same way I did last year and hope for the best! I am not sure what Leh Keen thinks of the circuit, but he is an excellent driver and our job is to do the absolute best that we can with what we are given. That being said, I would be surprised come race day if the 86 Farnbacher Loles Porsche is not up front."

DIRK WERNER (No. 87 Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche GT3): "The Lime Rock race is like a home match for the team, as they have a shop not far from the track in Danbury, Conn. So we are all motivated to show a good performance there. The track looks easy on the track map, but the turns are tricky because of the changing track surface and the bumps. I'm also looking forward to this race because we are racing without the prototypes. That makes it a bit easier, and the GTs get more attention."

-credit: garra

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Paul Edwards , Jan Magnussen , Ron Fellows , Robin Liddell , Emil Assentato , John Heinricy , Kelly Collins , Calvin Fish , Leighton Reese , Andy Lally , Dorsey Schroeder , Sylvain Tremblay , Spencer Pumpelly , Andrew Davis , Alessi Diego , Craig Stanton , Matt Connolly , Don Knowles , Bryan Sellers , Nick Ham , Tim Lewis , Wolf Henzler , Bob Akin , Lehman Keen , Eric Lux , Dominik Farnbacher , Dirk Werner , Ted Ballou , Tim George Jr. , John Potter , Andrew Aquilante , Bryce Miller
Teams Stevenson Motorsports , Team Sahlen , SpeedSource