A Truly Memorable Memorial Day for SunTrust Angelelli Scores His 15th Career Rolex Series Win, Helps Taylor Get His First As SunTrust Racing Moves Into Second in the Championship at Lime Rock It was all in a day's work for veteran Max Angelelli...
A Truly Memorable Memorial Day for SunTrust
Angelelli Scores His 15th Career Rolex Series Win, Helps Taylor Get His First As SunTrust Racing Moves Into Second in the Championship at Lime Rock
It was all in a day's work for veteran Max Angelelli and his 20-year-old co-driver Ricky Taylor as the SunTrust Racing duo stayed out of trouble and benefited from a perfect race strategy to score their first GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series victory of the season in Monday's Memorial Day Classic at Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Conn.
At 9:30 a.m., today, Angelelli, Taylor and their fellow Rolex Series Daytona Prototype-class competitors officially hit the 1.5-mile, seven-turn road circuit nestled in the hills of northwest Connecticut for the first time in series history. By 4:50 p.m., the checkered flag waved to signal the end of today's grueling two-hour, 45-minute event, and a triumphant Angelelli was the first to cross the finish line to earn his 15th career Rolex Series victory and help his new co-driver for 2010 score the very first win of his career in just his 25th career start.
The race was grueling not only because of the fast-paced but tight, seven-turn layout that made passing the slower, GT-class competitors a constant challenge, but because of uncharacteristically warm, 84-degree temperatures that are certainly not typical in this part of the country at this time of year. Angelelli and Taylor not only managed to avoid the kind of trouble that afflicted a handful of their fellow championship contenders on this day, they spent every bit of their energy to work the SunTrust car into the lead on three separate occasions, and to keep it there for a race-high 95 of 174 laps thanks, in large part, to rock-solid strategy.
"I wasn't worried about the strategy because I never understand strategy to begin with," said a thoroughly exhausted Angelelli after getting out of the No. 10 SunTrust Ford Dallara of Wayne Taylor Racing, which crossed the finish line a comfortable 4.791 seconds ahead of the runner-up No. 8 Starworks Motorsports BMW Riley of Mike Forest and Ryan Dalziel. "I usually have no clue what's going on. I just drive. Simon (Hodgson, general manager) and Travis (Jacobson, technical director) and the whole SunTrust Racing team did a fantastic job of telling me my lap times and the pace I have to carry, and that really helped me drive through the field and stay in the lead. Ricky did a fantastic job again today. He won this race with me. We got a podium together at the last race (at Virginia International Raceway in Alton), and he got his first pole position at Barber (Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala.) the race before that. I crashed and ruined his pole position at Barber -- sorry! But now we have won a race, so we are going to continue our fight for the championship."
"This is just great," said Taylor about getting his first career win. "I really don't know what else to say. Driving for my dad, and driving with Max, it's definitely a dream come true. I'm really not surprised that we were able to do what we did today. I think it was just a matter of not making any mistakes. The SunTrust car's been fast every weekend. The team gives us a winning car every single weekend. I don't think, speed-wise, it was anything different today. It was just keeping out of trouble, a really good strategy, and controlling the race from the front."
Taylor started the day's festivities by qualifying third, but then was awarded the outside-front-row starting spot when the No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Racing Porsche Coyote of Antonio Garcia and Buddy Rice, which clocked the second-fastest lap in qualifying, failed technical inspection. Taylor got off to a clean start in the race and patiently dogged the polesitting Nic Jonsson in the No. 75 Krohn Racing Ford Lola for the first 20 laps. On the 21st lap, as the leaders were trying to make their way through a pack of GT-class cars, Taylor slipped past Jonsson and into the lead, which he held until pitting at the 43-minute mark for fuel, tires and driver change.
Meanwhile, on the opening lap of the race, the championship-leading No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates BMW Riley of Memo Rojas was out of contention before even getting through the fast, sweeping right-hand turn one. Rojas was forced off-course and into soft dirt that ripped the nose and front-mounted radiator right off the car, and that marked the end of its day. It limped around the track for 13 laps after attempts to repair the damage, but then was retired, in last place.
"This being such a short track, and the effect that has on how we play the traffic, I knew if I could get into the lead, I could manage the race from there and just run the pace that I wanted to," said Taylor of his opening stint. "I caught Nic Jonsson just when a GT car kind of killed his momentum, and I got around him. That was all I needed because all I really needed to do from there was to play the traffic and maintain my gaps and just hold him behind. My in and out laps -- that's when I really needed to push to get the gap for Max so he could get out of the pits in the lead. On the race start, I got lucky. I was hoping I wouldn't have to go into the first corner on the outside. I was able to slide in there behind Jonsson. Then I saw Rojas coming around the outside and I was thinking that was a big risk, considering where they are in the championship and everything. And then I didn't see anything after that."
Angelelli resumed in sixth place after taking over for Taylor at the 43-minute mark, 45 laps into the race. He broke back into the top-five 17 laps later with a pass of Terry Borcheller in the No. 9 Action Express Racing Porsche Riley that won the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona. He then got by Brian Frisselle in the No. 6 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley on lap 72 before making a fuel-only stop under yellow just four laps later. The sequence of stops, which also brought the three cars of ahead of him into the pits, enabled Angelelli to move back into the lead. He stayed there until lap 99, when the SunTrust team called him back into the pits for what they hoped would be the final fuel-and-tire stop of the day with a little more than an hour to go. Angelelli resumed in ninth after the green-flag stop but gradually made his way back to the front as the remaining competitors also had to fuel up for the run to the finish over the next 20 minutes. He was up to second, behind the No. 9 Porsche now driven by Joao Barbosa, after several of the leaders stopped under yellow. Angelelli stayed in close pursuit of Barbosa on the lap-123 restart, then moved past him into the lead for good on lap 126 with 40 minutes remaining.
Angelelli weathered two more restarts before the checkered flag flew, most notably the doggedly determined No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley of Oswaldo Negro behind him that made numerous attempts to get by the SunTrust car despite being a lap down.
"The heat was bad enough, but in the end, the No. 60 really killed me because I wanted to have him stay behind me and in front of the (lead-lap) cars that were trying to catch up to me," Angelelli said. "He (Negri) hit me three times. He was a lap down, so I don't understand it. But, because of that, I was done, physically. The pace I had to maintain, and for the amount of laps that I had to do it, that became the problem. Pushing, pushing, never time to relax. I knew I had to drive two hours today. And it was tough, hot, it was difficult. But, in the end, when you pull out a win like this, it's a relief. You forget how difficult it was. But it still was very demanding."
With the win, the SunTrust team moved from third to second in the championship after five of 12 events, now 21 points behind the leading Ganassi car, which finished second at the Rolex 24 and then reeled off three consecutive wins before today's 13th-place finish in the prototype class. The No. 59 Brumos Porsche of Darren Law and David Donohue is now third, seven points behind the SunTrust team.
"Could I have imagined we were going to be the winners today?" asked team owner Wayne Taylor, the three-time sports car racing champion who won an IMSA World Sports Car event at Lime Rock back in 1995. "Not really, because every time I feel positive about stuff, something bites us. We've been so unlucky this year. We've been fastest at every race but have just been able to get one podium before this weekend. But, I'll have to say Travis and Simon and the guys did an outstanding job today. There was not one mistake. The strategy was perfect. Obviously, it was a relief for Ricky to get his first win. And I'm sure Max is relieved because I'm sure he's tired of me beating on his head, and I'm sure he's okay and happy, now. And it's great to have him win, having won races with me, to now start winning races with Ricky. So, it's just a great result. Thanks to SunTrust and Toshiba, who have never wavered in their support of this team. When we're having dramas, it's so heavy and so hard to balance everything. I must say the guys have had their heads down and have been working flat out. Max drove a perfect race. Ricky drove a perfect race. The calling was perfect. We got a decent gain in the points. The (No.) 01 had a problem at the start. We're still a long way behind, but we've got seven races to go to see what more we can do. The biggest thanks go to SunTrust, which has supported this move for Ricky to come on board. I know, at the end of the day, they lead this program and they are always supportive of what we do, but I have to thank them so much. I just wanted to make sure I was doing the right thing. We've proven it a few times, now. Ricky's had a pole, a podium and today's win in the last three races. I have to thank them for allowing us to continue this unbelievable dream."
Round six of the 2010 Rolex Series schedule is Saturday's annual Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen endurance marathon at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International.