Finlay Motorsports Drivers Memo Gidley and Michael McDowell score the team's best result to date, coming from three laps down to finish 4th Finlay Motorsports drivers Memo Gidley and Michael McDowell pulled off a near miracle in the rain...
Finlay Motorsports Drivers Memo Gidley and Michael McDowell score the team's best result to date, coming from three laps down to finish 4th
Finlay Motorsports drivers Memo Gidley and Michael McDowell pulled off a near miracle in the rain at Mont-Tremblant, falling to 32nd place, three laps down on the leaders, after a first-lap incident, then -- through a combination of mistake-free driving, flawless pit stops and a clever race strategy -- recovering to bring the #19 Air Force Reserve / Make A Wish / Commercial Defeasance Dinan-powered BMW Riley Daytona Prototype home in 4th place
This is the best result the team has enjoyed so far in the 2005 season, and boosted Finlay Motorsports' placing in the championship points battle from 10th to 7th. The race was won by the team of Milka Duno, Andy Wallace and Jan Lammers.
The Finlay Motorsports team's Rolex Sports Car Series 6 Heures du Circuit Mont-Tremblant got off to a slippery, rain-soaked start with Gidley starting 6th but -- blinded by spay from the cars ahead -- sliding off-course in turn 4 of the first lap. The car was not seriously damaged, but did require two pit stops to install a new windshield. Returning to the race, Gidley was still effectively driving blind from a combination of condensation on the windshield and water leaking into the cockpit where the new windshield did not seal completely.
"It was without a doubt two of the most miserable hours of racing I've done in a long time," said Gidley. "The crew gave me a squeegee during a pit stop and I was trying to clear the windshield with one hand while driving with the other. For a while there we were running laps ten seconds slower than the leaders because we couldn't see the track, and that's how we got three laps down. Things were looking pretty grim when I handed the car over to Michael, but he did a great job keeping out of trouble and we were able to pull it all together when the rain stopped and the track started drying out in the last two hours."
McDowell endured a similarly dismal first stint, blinded by spray and finally resorting to counting -- one-one thousand, two-one thousand -- to try and get some feel for the distance from one corner to another.
"You couldn't see a thing until you finally got to the corner and the red and white curbing showed through the spray. We finally decided that trying to go fast in those conditions was impossible, and just cruised around at a reasonable rate of speed until the rain stopped... if you call a hundred miles an hour in the rain a reasonable rate of speed."
Working together, the drivers and team were able to put together a strategy that saw Gidley get back on the lead lap on lap 148, just before he pitted to hand the car over to McDowell for the final time. With slicks on the car and conditions varying between dry and light sprinkles, McDowell was able to pick off first one car then another, moving from 6th to 4th in half a dozen laps. With time running out in the 6-hour, 188-lap race, he brought the car home for the team's best finish of 2005.
"This was such a tremendous effort by the whole team under extremely difficult conditions, and I congratulate them all on a job well done," said Finlay Motorsports team owner Rob Finlay. "No racing team is ever satisfied with 4th place, but under the circumstances, this feels like a victory. We're a very new team, just five races old, but in those five races I think we've established ourselves as a serious contender, and we'll be taking steps in the coming weeks and months to raise our game to an even higher level."
The Finlay Motorsports team's next opportunity to excel will come June 9 - 12 at the legendary Watkins Glen International Raceway when both of the team's cars will see action. Gidley and McDowell will again co-drive the #19 Air Force Reserve / Make A Wish Foundation / Commercial Defeasance Dinan-powered BMW Riley Daytona Prototype in Sunday's Sahlen's Six Hours of the Glen, while McDowell and Rob Finlay will team up in the #60 Commercial Defeasance / Make A Wish / Air Force Reserve BMW M3 in Saturday's Chemung Canal Trust 200 Grand Am Cup race.