SunTrust Racing's Angelelli, Magnussen Score Another Podium Finish at Mexico Third-Place Performance Despite Early Race Penalty Moves Team Within Three Points of Championship Lead Max Angelelli and Jan Magnussen overcame an early race ...
SunTrust Racing's Angelelli, Magnussen Score Another Podium Finish at Mexico
Third-Place Performance Despite Early Race Penalty Moves Team Within Three Points of Championship Lead
Max Angelelli and Jan Magnussen overcame an early race drive-through penalty and power steering trouble the latter half of the event to give the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Riley of Wayne Taylor Racing its second podium finish in two Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series races this season at Saturday's Mexico City 400K.
Today's third-place finish matched SunTrust Racing's season-opening performance at the Rolex 24 At Daytona in January and moved the team to within three points of the championship lead after two events. It was the seventh top-five finish in a row for the Angelelli-Magnussen driving combination, dating back to last year's victory at Laguna Seca Raceway in Monterey, Calif. In their only other race as a duo -- last April's Grand Prix of Long Beach -- they finished eighth.
In today's 100-lap affair at the historic Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez -- the 2.5-mile former Formula One circuit in the heart of downtown Mexico City -- Magnussen started from the sixth position and made short work of getting by the No. 39 Cheever Racing entry and driver Christian Fittipaldi, then the No. 01 Ganassi Racing With Felix Sabates car of local favorite Memo Rojas. By the end of the first lap, Magnussen held down the fourth position and stayed there for the next 30 laps, chasing the pole-sitting Krohn Racing Pontiac of 18-year-old driving phenom Colin Braun, the No. 99 Gainsco/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac of Jon Fogarty, and the No. 05 Luggage Express/Team Sigalsport Pontiac of Bill Auberlen.
Then came the fateful incident deemed "avoidable contact" by series officials as Magnussen and Auberlen were running nose-to-tail. Magnussen broke loose slightly enough entering Turn Four to send his left-front into the right-rear of Auberlen's car. Auberlen's car began smoking and he was called into the pits to inspect the rear of his car. Meanwhile, Magnussen was issued a drive-through penalty, which he served on Lap 43, dropping him from third place to fifth, one lap down to the leaders.
"We had a good start, going from sixth to fourth on the first lap," said Magnussen, the Formula One, Champ Car and sports car racing veteran from Denmark. "After that, I was just trying to maintain the pace of the 05. The first and second place cars (of Colin Braun and Jon Fogarty) were going away from us a little bit, but still I was able to keep up with the 05 car. Toward the middle of my stint, I had a problem going over the bumps into Turn Four and, unfortunately I lost the car a little bit and hit the back of the 05 and I got a drive-through penalty that didn't help our effort today, for sure. The drive-through cost us 20-25 seconds. It was something I certainly did not intend to do. It's a shame, but other than that, it was a good race. Max did a great job in the car. We finished third, which is the second podium finish for us this year. It's good for the points and I'm happy for the whole team."
On Lap 46, just three laps after serving the drive-through penalty, Magnussen pitted for fresh tires and fuel and turned the SunTrust Pontiac over to Angelelli, who resumed in ninth place, still a lap down. Almost immediately, Angelelli radioed to his crew that he was having trouble with the power steering. Despite his ongoing attempts to remedy the situation in the cockpit via instructions radioed from the pits, the power steering eventually went away completely. His arms growing tremendously weary with the completion of each and every lap, Angelelli persevered and managed to fight his way back to a top-three position, some 50 seconds behind the front-running Gainsco and Krohn cars now driven by Alex Gurney and Max Papis, respectively.
"It was a difficult race for me because we lost the power steering right away (after the driver change)," Angelelli said. "I was really struggling. You know Grand-Am is a really tough series. You have to be flat out all the time in order to keep up with the leaders. This weekend turned out to be pretty difficult. But we came back with third place and I think that is good for us in the championship."
Gurney and Papis put on a stellar battle for the lead in the closing laps. They diced back and forth several times before Gurney gained the final advantage of Lap 97 as Papis slid off track in the bright green Krohn Racing car while leading. It was the first Daytona Prototype-class victory for Gurney and Fogarty. Papis managed to hold onto second place, with Angelelli third.
The podium finish was not only the second in a row for SunTrust Racing this season, it makes newly formed Wayne Taylor Racing 2-for-2 in podium finishes since its formation during the offseason.
"Every time we go to a race, we want to win. But to come away from only our second race as a team with our second podium finish is a good result," said team owner Wayne Taylor, who co-drove with Angelelli, Magnussen and four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon to the third-place finish at the Rolex 24 in January, and who co-drove with Angelelli to the series championship in 2005. "As much as we are driven to win races, we have a championship to think about, and championships are really difficult to win. You really need to gain maximum points at every event. So, for us, two races and two podiums in light of the incredibly competitive nature of this series is an accomplishment. We had a car that could have won today, but we had issues that kept us from doing that. The penalty certainly cost us and it was very unfortunate. But Jan's a professional and we are professionals, and we must take what we get and move on to the next one. Fortunately, we ended up with a result everyone at SunTrust Racing can be proud of."
The unofficial points standings now show SunTrust Racing with 60 championship points, just three behind the championship-leading No. 01 Ganassi Racing With Felix Sabates team, which was victorious at the Rolex 24.
The next stop on the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series tour is March 24 at the Homestead (Fla.) Miami Speedway, Round 3 of 14 on the 2007 schedule.