Pontiac Grand-Am Teams Ready For First Trip To Montreal Pontiac Teams In Contention For Two Championships Pontiac Daytona Prototype (DP) and GT teams are ready to take on Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve in Montreal Canada for round 11 of the Grand-Am...
Pontiac Grand-Am Teams Ready For First Trip To Montreal
Pontiac Teams In Contention For Two Championships
Pontiac Daytona Prototype (DP) and GT teams are ready to take on Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve in Montreal Canada for round 11 of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve to be run on August 3.
The racing circuit sits on a man-made island in the St. Lawrence River. The track is steeped in Formula 1 racing history and will see the likes of the Grand-Am Rolex Series DP and GT sports cars for the first time. The 2.71-mile, 15-turn track is known for its slow Casino Turn and the very tight last combination of turns, often catching over-anxious competitors against the wall. The event will be especially challenging with the teams forced to unload, practice, qualify and race to an abbreviated schedule. The two-hour-and-thirty-minute race will also see the DP and GT cars running together.
GAINSCO and their No. 99 Pontiac Riley continue to be the team to beat. Drivers Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty are starting to talk championship. The duo has spent the last nine races coming back from a 22nd place finish at the Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona. The Texas based team is the hottest DP team in the series. The car has never started worse than second and boasts a seven race pole streak leading to six wins on the season with four races remaining. The team has been able to maximize the performance attributes of their Pontiac/Riley combination to nearly dominate the DP schedule. However the pair trail leading DP points driver Scott Pruett by 11 in the drivers championship chase.
"I have raced there twice in Atlantics, finished second and won the last time I was there," Fogarty said. "I think Alex has been there twice as well. Montreal is a good circuit for me. It will certainly be different in the DP car with the long straights and big braking zones. In the past, the track wasn't used very often, now it is being used at least three weekends a year. There are a few guys who have been there before, but I think we have the only driver pairing with Montreal miles. It is a definite advantage, especially with the limited running that we will have. It is going to be a mad rush to get setup and get ready to get on the track. Our engineer, Kyle Brannan, has also been to the track before and has engineered cars for the circuit. So it looks good for us again."
Wayne Taylor's SunTrust Pontiac team has been able to remain at the top of the points chase, despite having three different co-drivers for team leader Max Angelelli. Angelelli will once again partner Jan Magnussen.
"I'm really looking forward to this weekend," Angelelli said. "We had a good test at Barber (Motorsports Park in Birmingham) the day after the race. I really don't have any idea what to expect. I've been to the circuit three times in the past, looking after drivers in the Formula 1 race. But I never even had time to walk around the circuit, so we are totally in the dark. It's a good thing that I like surprises. On paper, I believe the closest thing to the Montreal circuit is Long Beach. It has long straight-aways and tight corners. We have a good package for that. We always have a good package. I do know, it's a good quality track and we will be running with the GT cars, so it will be a very exciting race."
The No. 11 SAMAX Pontiac Riley sported new colors from sponsor Eldorado Casino and Resort at Barber Motorsports Park. Hopefully the new livery will help motivate Canadian driver hero Patrick Carpentier to return the car to the front of the DP pack at his race. Early in the season the Florida based team was a consistent top five car. New to the seat in the last two races, Kris Szekeres will once again partner Carpentier.
"This will be a home race for me," Carpentier said. "It is a fun place to race and there is always a really big crowd. I haven't been there in three years, the last time was with Champ Car. I have finished second and third, so there is no problem to get motivated and I am very familiar with the track. It will be a busy weekend for me, but it will be fun. The DP car will be very different. This track is all braking. We will have to manage the braking zones and get off of the turns fast. It should be a lot of fun with this car on the Montreal circuit."
Jim Mathews and Marc Goosens will be looking to the Montreal circuit to get back on track. The duo had a DNF at Barber eight days ago with their Riley-Mathews Pontiac Riley.
"Well, we have a 50-minute and a 60-minute session on Thursday before getting to qualifying on Friday," Goosens said. "Then a half-hour final practice session. So before we get to the race we do have some track time. Also I think a tight schedule is never easy to work around when you need more track time to set up the car. But especially for the team, the mechanics, it's much harder to get the car ready between sessions. Obviously traffic is always an issue. Whether it will be tough to handle with the GT cars in Montreal, I don't know, as I've never been there. Montreal is a new circuit for our series, from what I've seen for example on TV, it's a matter of finding the right combination of straight line speed and the right downforce level for braking and handling through the chicanes."
Tracy Krohn, owner and driver of Krohn Racing, was partnered with a new driver, Max Papis at Barber Motorsport Park. Papis and Krohn combined for a ninth place finish at Barber Motorsport Park eight days ago.
"I have never seen the track except on a simulator, so my impression from watching the F1 race was that it was very fast and not real wide with some very heavy braking zones as well," Krohn said. "This track shouldn't be any harder than Watkins Glen and I won at The Glen the first time I raced there, albeit with more track time! Having the GT cars on the track will probably be a bit of an advantage, since it could be a bit slower with drivers learning the track and hence the leaders will have to spend more time in traffic and that should slow down the overall pace. I am going to assume the most important segments will be the heavy braking zones as it appears they lead to rather substantial straight-aways." Kelly Collins and Paul Edwards in the No. 07 Banner Racing Pontiac GXP.R are fresh off of their first win of the season. The two GT points contenders, currently second, are looking to capitalize on the seasons last two GT races after a DNF at Iowa Speedway two races ago.
"Never been to Montreal before, but I love the French Canadians," Collins said. "I am looking forward to running a new track with a lot of history. Paul and I, with the help of the engineers, can arrive and get to speed really quickly at a new track, like we did at Iowa. A lot less track time at Montreal, so that should be an advantage for us. The Mazda and Porsche have great drag racing speed off of the corners and down the straights, so same old cat and mouse. We have to go for maximum points and the championship, we have to be thinking win in these last two races!"
Leighton Reese and Tim Lewis Jr. have been a consistent top GT finisher in their No. 06 Banner Racing Pontiac GXP.R. The combination of seasoned veteran Reese and newcomer Lewis has resulted in a win and four top five finishes this season.
"I have been to the race, but never driven there," Reese said. "It is a notoriously wicked track, the walls have magnets in them. Whether F1 or Champ Car, a lot of cars seem to end up in the walls. We need a successful weekend to say in the championship hunt. A hurry-up schedule is a challenge for the crew and drivers, but we are up for it. The last turn eats a lot of cars. It is even tough on the video simulator. Some big names have piled it into the wall in that last turn, Reese won't be one of them."
-credit: gm racing