Mexico City: Southard Motorsports race report

Shane Lewis and Randy Ruhlman show well at Mexico City in No. 3 Southard Motorsports/Preformed Line Products Daytona Prototype MEXICO CITY (March 6, 2007) --Mexico City's Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez was the site on Saturday, March 3rd of Round...

Shane Lewis and Randy Ruhlman show well at Mexico City in No. 3 Southard Motorsports/Preformed Line Products Daytona Prototype

MEXICO CITY (March 6, 2007) --Mexico City's Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez was the site on Saturday, March 3rd of Round Two of the 2007 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Royal Crown Special Reserve. Sharing the Southard Motorsports Daytona Prototype driving duties were Americans Randy Ruhlman and Shane Lewis in the No. 3 Preformed Line Products Lexus Riley. The pair showed well, despite suffering some setbacks along the way, against the international field of drivers in the 250-mile road course race that went the full 100-laps without a full course caution.

Encouraged by a good first practice session at the 2.5-mile track, the team found themselves struggling for a setup by early Thursday afternoon. Ruhlman and Lewis, working along with team engineer Kris Mellon, tried to get the handling to improve and increase the straight-line speed of the car. The car got faster as they refined the setup, but with limited on-track time available, the team decided to use the qualifying session to gauge the changes. Shane Lewis was able to qualify the much-improved car in the tenth starting position.

As the 3:15 p.m. CT race began, Lewis had an excellent start and moved up quickly in the No. 3 Southard Motorsports/Preformed Line Products Lexus Riley, engaging in an exciting battle for seventh with the Mexican driver of the No. 01 TelMex Lexus, Memo Rojas. Television cameras followed closely, as the two exchanged positions several times before eventually falling into the rhythm of the race.

By Lap 21, Lewis called in to let the team know that no air was coming into the car, and the totally enclosed car was feeling hot. The team anxiously stood by ready to pit early if they needed to, and Randy Ruhlman began to get ready to take over the driving, even though the fuel window was still 15-laps away. Lewis fought the overheating challenge, and after the TelMex car had passed them both, continuing to battle the Red Bull car of Canadian Darren Law.

SPEED TV cameras followed the close battle for fifth through eighth, as the No. 3 car moved back into seventh place, ahead of the No. 29 Ruby Tuesday's car of 2006 Grand-Am Daytona Prototype champion Jorg Bergmeister of Germany. At Lap 39, Lewis moved up, suffered a setback on track, and dropped back to eighth place. Re-passing Bergmeister a dozen laps later, Lewis again set his sights on the Red Bull car of Law, eventually moving up as far as fourth place when a few of the leaders began to come into the pits.

Along with pit stops for new tires and full fuel, a driver change is mandated in the two and one-half hour Grand-Am race, and the race saw one flight of the world's top road racers get out of the cars and another equally talented group get in. With the fuel window beginning to close, a flurry of activity in the pits also saw the No. 3 car come in to make their stop. Unfortunately, things began to unravel for the No. 3 car during the pit stop.

Fuel, tires, and the driver exchange went smoothly, but as the crew tried to get the seatbelts hooked up during the green flag pit stop, the clasp became caught in the seat and precious time was lost getting them extracted and buckled. By the time the car got back on track, it had lost a lap and all its track position; in the flurry of activity to get the belts fastened, the air and water problems also did not get resolved. Able to deal with the heat and lack of water, but already a lap down, Ruhlman had no way to get back up front to contend. Driving the final stint of the 250-mile/100-lap race without incident, the No. 3 Southard Motorsports/Preformed Line Products Lexus Riley ended the day in fifteen place in the 38-car field of Grand-Am cars, just behind the factory Riley Pontiac driven by Belgian Marc Goossens.

-credit: sm

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Series Grand-Am
Drivers Shane Lewis , Marc Goossens , Randy Ruhlman , Darren Law , Memo Rojas