Banner Engineering Pontiac GXP.Rs finish 3rd and 6th in Mid-Ohio Rolex Grand-Am GT race Lexington Ohio (June 24, 2007): The Banner Engineering Pontiac GXP.R of Kelly Collins and Paul Edwards finished 3rd in the Rolex Grand-Am Series GT race...
Banner Engineering Pontiac GXP.Rs finish 3rd and 6th in Mid-Ohio Rolex Grand-Am GT race
Lexington Ohio (June 24, 2007): The Banner Engineering Pontiac GXP.R of Kelly Collins and Paul Edwards finished 3rd in the Rolex Grand-Am Series GT race at Mid-Ohio today after a suspected flat tire prompted Collins to make an unscheduled pit stop which dropped the #07 Banner Pontiac GXP.R well back in the running order in the early going.
The #06 Banner Pontiac GXP.R of Leighton Reese and Tim Lewis Jr. finished in 6th after leading much of the middle part of the race when Tim Lewis got shuffled back to 7th from 3rd on the final restart of the race with 12 minutes remaining as the Banner Pontiac developed an under steer problem in the late going.
According to predetermined race strategy Kelly Collins was to stop in the pits during the first caution period and although that happened a bit earlier than expected Kelly pitted for a splash of fuel after the first lap when the course went full course caution on lap 2 to retrieve a Corvette stranded in a gravel trap.
Leighton Reese assumed the lead during that caution and held the lead until the next double yellow flags waved on lap 23 bringing Reese and the #06 Banner Pontiac into the pits for his early pit stop of tires and fuel.
Kelly Collins assumed the lead from 3rd position when Reese stopped and just prior to the subsequent restart Collins felt that something was terribly wrong with a tire as the #07 Banner Pontiac was driving erratically even under the reduced speeds of the caution laps.
With the race ruining flat tire at Lime Rock fresh on his mind Collins opted for the safe and sensible approach to the problem and headed down pit road for a tire change just as the field was taking the green on lap 26. The stop dropped Collins back to 17th.
"On the previous yellow I had not experienced any tire build up (a condition where the hot tires pick up loose rubber and debris while the cars circulate the track behind the pace car during a caution period)," Kelly Collins said of his unscheduled stop. "When they said one more lap to go the car suddenly started misbehaving horribly. The car was all over the place.
"I couldn't take the chance that a tire was going down. I would never take the car out of the lead but I did my usual routine to clean off the tires before the restart but the car was all over the place at 35 miles per hour so I made the decision to come into the pits," Collins said of his unscheduled stop.
There was nothing wrong with the tires save an overabundance of excess rubber which made it seem as if the tires had lost all traction.
"When I thought back on it the tow truck dragging the #81 Porsche back to the pits took the racing line forcing us to drive off line and into all of that loose rubber on the outside of the track," said Kelly with a slow shake of his head.
"The tire wasn't flat at all I just picked up a whole lot of loose rubber on the tire. I fell way behind the leaders and spent the rest of the race trying to make up ground."
Race winner Andy Lally reported having the very same problem during that restart as he said that his Porsche was almost undriveable for the first half a lap after that restart.
"Kelly (Collins) was in control of the race until he had to pit because of the tire build up and then with about an hour left the car developed a clutch problem that resulted in a little slippage coming out of the corners so that held us back at the end of the race," said Paul Edwards who took over for Collins in the #07 Pontiac.
"At the end of my stint I got held up behind Dumoulin's Porsche and I couldn't quite catch up at the end," Edwards said of the final laps of the race. "I don't know if it was electrical or the clutch or what it was but I didn't have any trouble shifting it the car was just slipping coming out of every turn. It slipped and then it would engage. It didn't seem to be getting worse so I just kept driving it.
"With everything that went on it still looked like we could have won that race if we didn't get held up behind Dumoulin's Porsche which was going to get a 10 second penalty anyway. Once I got past him I had a charge back to the tail end of the leaders but I ran out of laps. Of course I am not sure that I would have been able to get around them because they were rocket ships down the back straight.
"I'm still happy with the result. We are tied for the lead in the championship now and if we can tidy things up a bit we should be in contention and should get that elusive first win of the year."
Edwards closed up on the back bumper of the #70 Mazda in 2nd place but ran out of laps and had to settle for another 3rd place finish. The podium finish was the third in the last 4 races for Collins and Edwards who moved up into virtual tie with Dirk Werner with 223 points each in the driver's championship.
Leighton Reese took up the chase for the lead on that lap 26 restart and had to claw his way to the front first getting past the points leading Miller/Werner Porsche and then dispatching the #15 Mustang of Alex Tagliani 5 laps later. Reese then waged an epic battle to get past the #21 Pontiac GTO of Shawn Price.
For 12 laps Reese hounded Price as the GTO seemed to have more grunt down the only straight at Mid-Ohio but finally on lap 45 Leighton got a run out of the Keyhole turn, drafted the GTO down the straight and stuffed his Banner GXP.R down the inside of turn 5 to take the lead.
"He has the same chassis and motor as we do so you know it is a good car I just ground him down and eventually got by him," Reese said of his race with Price's Pontiac for the lead. "I think that my experience took over at some point because he bobbled and I got along the inside of him."
During this action Reese set the fastest race lap of 1:26.026 which held up until the 93 lap when Paul Edwards lowered the mark to a 1:25.704 on lap 93 (of 94) in an attempt to catch the leaders.
"We took tires and a full fuel load on that second stop and I really had a great car, it had a little push but my Banner Engineering Pontiac GXP was really hooked up for me today," Reese said. "I drove it through just about every car on the track ultimately and that was a lot of fun.
Reese pulled out a comfortable lead until eventual race winner Andy Lally in the TRG Porsche closed in on him to challenge for the lead. Reese held off Lally for several laps even though Lally's Porsche had fresher rubber but when the engine sputtered as the fuel tank was running dry Reese surrendered the lead and immediately pitted for tires, fuel and to get Tim Lewis into the Banner Pontiac.
"Andy was putting the pressure on and I was getting low on fuel and my rear tires were starting to go because it was at the end of a full stint," Reese said of his battle with Lally for the lead. "Ultimately he didn't pass me until we got a fuel bobble which means that we have three-quarters of a lap to go so I was coming in that lap no matter what!"
"Over all it was a good race we just didn't have things go our way today," Leighton Reese said of the race today. "I led a bunch of laps but that doesn't mean much when it is only halfway through the race. We'll be back and we'll get 'em next race!"
Fortunately for Collins a caution period came out on lap 69 allowing Collins to pit for tires, fuel and Paul Edwards. Edwards assumed the controls of the #07 Banner Pontiac GXP.R in 5th position. Edwards came close but he couldn't catch the race winner Lally or the runner up Mazda of Ham and Tremblay finishing in 3rd position by a short car length.