JOHANSSON AND WAGNER RISE ABOVE RAINY CONDITIONS TO REACH MONT-TREMBLANT PODIUM MONT-TREMBLANT, Quebec, Canada (May 22, 2005) -- Stefan Johansson put the finishing touches on a sensational six-hour drive with New Century Mortgage Chip Ganassi...
JOHANSSON AND WAGNER RISE ABOVE RAINY CONDITIONS TO REACH MONT-TREMBLANT PODIUM
MONT-TREMBLANT, Quebec, Canada (May 22, 2005) -- Stefan Johansson put the finishing touches on a sensational six-hour drive with New Century Mortgage Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates co-driver Cort Wagner to finish a career-best second today at the 6 Heures du Circuit Mont-Tremblant, Round 5 of the Rolex Sports Car Series.
As the green flag flew to signal the start of the Grand American enduro, the skies opened and saturated the 2.65-mile road course situated just north of Montreal. Polesitter and teammate Scott Pruett (no.01 CompUSA Lexus-Riley) cautiously moseyed out to the early lead with Johansson in tow and the two rooster-tailed their way through the first hour with superior Lexus power.
Johansson assumed the lead at the conclusion of the first hour when Pruett pit for fuel, and went on to pace the Daytona Prototype pack until trouble struck in the form of a nasty off course excursion that sent the Swede sailing nose-first into the tire barriers just prior to the two-hour mark. To his surprise, the car refired instantaneously, and he was able to continue on after the shunt with minor bodywork damage to the no.02 New Century Mortgage Lexus-Riley.
Johansson turned over the helm to Wagner shortly thereafter and the California native began what amounted to be the best stint of his Chip Ganassi Racing career. With the rain beating down, radio communication dwindling and the car falling out of balance, Wagner dug down and brought the 500hp Daytona Prototype up to second position at the four-hour mark before relinquishing the ride to Johansson for the final segment.
The caution flag unfurled over and over throughout the six-hour test of endurance as a result of heavy rains and ill-advised maneuvers, but Johansson was finally able to take advantage of drying conditions in the final hours and powered his way to a team-best finish of second for New Century Mortgage.
"It was a very eventful drive that's for sure," said Johansson. "After the big shunt I had in the lead, I thought the car would have been destroyed. I was just hanging on hoping that my legs were going to be alright. But those cars are incredibly durable. I just started it right back up, drove off, and believe it or not we didn't make one change to it after that. Toward the end we got into some contact with a few other cars which slowed our pace a bit. We were never able to fully recover to catch the eventual winner Andy Wallace."
Wagner's breakthrough day was proof that the 2002-2003 Rolex Series GT titlist is on the brink of scoring the team's first win, and can't wait to get his next shot at the six-hour title in Watkins Glen next month.
"It was a fun race, I just wish we could have had a little bit more for Wallace's car," said Wagner. "The New Century Mortgage team pulled together for a great six-hour run this afternoon and we came home with the best result of the season so far. It's awesome to get up on the podium with Chip Ganassi Racing. Hopefully we can climb one more notch at Watkins Glen."
Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Luis Diaz and Scott Pruett completed the podium with a third place finish in the no.01 CompUSA Lexus-Riley.
Fans of New Century Mortgage Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates can follow the no.02 New Century Mortgage Lexus-Riley all season long by logging onto the Rolex Sports Car Series website at www.grandamerican.com for free live timing, and keep up with the team's successes throughout the 2005 season by logging onto the official website at www.chipganassiracing.com for news, features, photos and much more. Next up for the team is the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen on Sunday, June 12 (Part I, LIVE, SPEED Channel, 10:00 am ET/ Part II, LIVE, SPEED Channel, 12:30 pm ET) at Watkins Glen International in New York for Round 6 of the Rolex Sports Car Series.