Lime Rock: Matt Connolly Motorsports preview

Going to Lime Rock with Momentum on their side Matt Connolly has made a conscious effort this season to elevate his program to be a consistent front runner within the ever popular Rolex Sports Car Series. Getting...

Going to Lime Rock with Momentum on their side

Matt Connolly has made a conscious effort this season to elevate his program to be a consistent front runner within the ever popular Rolex Sports Car Series. Getting off to an exciting start by signing Italian Driver Diego Alessi to lead the way, and then signing another to partner him for the season, Matt was overjoyed and the difference was evident immediately. The lineup showed it's abilities at the Daytona test days being the fastest of the almighty Pontiac's, then doing so again qualifying in P5 for the 24 hours. Since then, with his co-driver taking another opportunity across the pond, Diego and the MCM team has had to shuffle a host of potential co-drivers into the #21 GTO-R to find that perfect chemistry.

Going into the Laguna Seca round, many didn't know who this new driver, Ryan Phinny was, even MCM's driver source in P1 Groupe had little to no information about this young driver with no sports car experience to date. MCM did have one thing, a very strong "take my word for it" from one of the best in the sport in Joey Hand. Connolly stated, "Enough said, let's see what this kid can do". Phinny, with family in tow, was unsure of the early results and of the transition in his career from open wheel to sports cars as his pace didn't come straight away, and that is something the young Mr. Phinny wasn't used to. The team kept instilling the confidence in him that the car will do what he needs it to, just go after it. From the last practice to the Qualifying, just one hour later, something clicked in Ryan, and took more than 3 seconds off his best time up to that point to start the car in 10th position. That qualifying kept alive MCM's streak of qualifying in the top 10 in each event in the 2008 racing season.

Ryan only got better once the green flag flew, and the entire team, his parents, his many local guests, and most notably his co-driver took notice as the local driver took the #21 entry up to fourth before a blown right rear would send him spinning down the corkscrew. Limping the car back and having to overshoot the pit box due to poor lane location, the team replaced the right rear while topping him off, and sent Ryan back in almost the exact same position behind the three GT class leaders, but now a full lap down. The team did not put their heads down in a "here we go again" attitude, but instead chose to rise above and tell the first time Rolex driver to push hard, get our lap back and don't get passed. Connolly states: "Ryan's performance was quite impressive. He showed great judgment in traffic and car feedback. After an unscheduled pit stop we were a lap down, he got us back on the lead lap, what more could you ask for?"

Not only did Phinny get the team back on the lead lap, but in fact was running faster than the entire GT field on nearly bare tires by the end, and was running in P2 when he came in to turn the car over. Of the drive Phinny states: "It was a fantastic opportunity driving for Matt in the #21 Pontiac powered GTO-R. The race went much better than expected we were running quite fast." Again hampered by the pit box, and loosing an estimated 7 seconds per stop by having to be pulled back into the box each time, Alessi stepped into the car and reentered the field in P12. Diego, knowing the team has been on the verge of great finishes all season, wasn't to be stopped. He began picking off the competition straight away, pushing steadily through the GT field up to a finishing spot in P4 at the end. An excited Diego exclaimed, "Finally we had a nice race! Our car was very effective all weekend, and Ryan did a beautiful job despite the flat tire in the middle of his stint. Thanks to Ryan's persistence and a great job by the team to manage the yellows, we managed to come back onto the lead lap. With the time remaining, and a problem with the brake pedal late we were not able to take advantage of the Mazda's off to overtake the final podium position."

This might have been the shot in the arm the team really needed and the tone of whole unit was unanimous. "I am sure in Lime Rock we can improve on this result, I like the fast corners and our car should be really effective there. Also with a quick team mate such as Ryan, I am even more confident" states Alessi. Ryan adds "I'm looking forward to teaming up with Diego Alessi for Lime Rock, I believe that we can do much better also".

-credit: mcm

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Joey Hand , Alessi Diego , Matt Connolly , Ryan Phinny