Mexico City: Shane Lewis race report

Shane Lewis Fights Epic Battle in Mexico City MEXICO CITY March 5, 2007 -- The ability of a driver to look deep within himself and draw out the last tenth of a second or brake later into a turn is what sets the masters from...

Shane Lewis Fights Epic Battle in Mexico City

MEXICO CITY March 5, 2007 -- The ability of a driver to look deep within himself and draw out the last tenth of a second or brake later into a turn is what sets the masters from the students. Shane Lewis (Jupiter, Fla.) showed once again at this weekend's Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Mexico City 400k that he is among the masters. The multi- time winner of Grand-Am sanctioned events put on a driving display of speed, precision and focus in his stint behind the wheel of the No. 3 Preformed Line Products/TrueChoice Motorsports Lexus-Riley in the second race of the 2007 Daytona Prototype season. Despite an impressive run as high as fourth, a long driver change at the race's midpoint would drop the Southard Motorsports entry to 15th overall at the finish. That did little to diminish the enthusiasm that the fans heaped-upon Lewis and the Steve and Martha Southard-owned machine following the race.

The highlight of the race for Lewis, and for many of the fans at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City, was the multi-lap battle between his red, white and blue Powell Ohio-based car and three of the top finishers in the 2006 Daytona Prototype championship. First it was Lewis closing on hometown favorite Memo Rojas in the No. 01 Chip Ganassi-owned Lexus-Riley, a car the Mexican shares with 2006 Series runner-up Scott Pruett. The two then caught the storied sports car team of Brumos Racing and driver Darren Law. Then, as the three battled, last year's class champion, Jorg Bergmeister got into the thick of the fight. The battle for position by the four talents drew constant attention from the spectators in attendance and those watching the live SPEED Channel broadcast from home.

Despite a faulty cool-air hose that had broken on lap three of the event, Lewis continued to ignore the rising temperatures inside the closed-cockpit machine to challenge for position, lap-after-lap. However, it would eventually be a by-product of the hose that would temporarily break-off the battle. Without fresh air being pumped into the system, the sealed helmet that usually provides lower temperatures for the driver, began to act as a barrier to let the carbon dioxide out of the lined helmet. With his usual single-mindedness to gain the next position overpowering his bodies desire to pull in to have the hose fixed, Lewis continued on. He opened his visor but with a chin and nose guard in place limiting the proper exchange of gasses, it provided little relief from the CO2 now beginning to fill his lungs. So, while continuing to put pressure on Rojas and stem-off the attack of Series champ Bergmeister, Lewis clawed at the nose piece ripping it from his helmet. The slight distraction caused Lewis to lock his front brakes in a tight chicane sending him momentarily off course.

Now breathing fresh, but hot, oxygen, Lewis again took pursuit, catching and again challenging the other Riley chassis. Each would temporarily gain the edge in traffic with Lewis making a dogged, late-braking maneuver to gain the spot on the Brumos Porsche- powered entry in traffic. The quartet, which would occasionally drop to just two or three in constant contact, would eventually have the spectacular battle decided by pit stops.

Lewis, who had started tenth, brought the Preformed Line Products Lexus in for service by the Southard crew in fourth-place- the highest the team has run thus far this year- and relinquished the ride over to teammate Randy Ruhlman (Greensboro, N.C.). While the team performed an excellent stop for fuel and tires, the latch for the lap belt on the racing safety harness was trapped under Ruhlman. The team worked to reposition in the tight confines of the cockpit losing substantial time. This was further exasperated by the need to repair the hose that was to pump ambient air from the car's roof into the specially equipped helmet. Once complete, Ruhlman rejoined the fray but the No. 3 was not able to reclaim its earlier position finishing 15th, three laps down.

The third round of the 2007 season will take place on March 24th at Lewis' home track, Homestead-Miami Speedway. The 400k race will start at 8 pm. The 2.3- mile road course, a favorite of Lewis, utilizes portions of the oval and the infield to create one of the most tightly contested Daytona Prototype battles each year.

Shane Lewis: "Now that's racing! It was a great battle with Darren, Memo and Jorg. I knew Darren and Jorg were going to fight me hard but clean. What I didn't know was what to expect from Memo since he was not only fighting to win but also fighting for the honor of all the Mexican fans. It's amazing we never traded paint once between the three of us. That's what real road racing is all about. A race between professionals that every fan and competitor will never forget. It's really a shame that we had a problem in the pit stop and couldn't get Randy out in time to capitalize on our position. He did a great job out there trying to get ever position back."

-credit: slr

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Shane Lewis , Scott Pruett , Randy Ruhlman , Darren Law , Jörg Bergmeister , Memo Rojas