Defending Grand-Am KONI Challenge GS Champs Segal, Thornton Give Automatic Racing First Victory at Lime Rock Segal holds off hard-charging Pumpelly by 2.302 seconds; winning duo tied for point lead LAKEVILLE, Conn. -- Last year, Jep...
Defending Grand-Am KONI Challenge GS Champs Segal, Thornton Give Automatic Racing First Victory at Lime Rock
Segal holds off hard-charging Pumpelly by 2.302 seconds; winning duo tied for point lead
LAKEVILLE, Conn. -- Last year, Jep Thornton and Jeff Segal won the Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series Grand Sport championship without winning a single race. Monday, the pair combined to give Automatic Racing its first victory, steering the No. 09 BMW M3 to win the two-and-a-half hour Grand Sport race before a sun-splashed crowd at the traditional Memorial Day race at historic Lime Rock Park.
Segal, driving with a unique "subway station" paint scheme, passed the No. 5 Blackforest Motorsports BMW M3 of Tom Nastasi on Lap 70, and led the final 71 laps to win the Round 2 of the 2008 season. As a result, Segal and Thornton moved into a three-way tie for the point lead with Fresh >From Florida 200 co-winner Craig Stanton. All three drivers have 63 points, with Stanton's Lime Rock co-driver Jon Miller nine points in arrears.
Finishing second, 2.302 seconds back, was the No. 39 TRG Motorsports Porsche 997 of Spencer Pumpelly and Duncan Ende. Pumpelly passed James Gue for the runner-up position with 10 laps remaining. Bret Seafuse started the third-place JBS Motorsports Ford Mustang GT.
The finish was not without drama. The No. 09 Automatic Racing car ran dangerously low on fuel during the final laps, and team officials said the car could not go another lap without running the tank dry.
Stanton and Miller corralled fourth place in the No. 83 BGB Motorsports Porsche 997. Rounding out the top five was early race leader Kris Wilson and Lonnie Pechnik in the No. 25 C-Max/Unitech Racing Porsche 997.
Polesitter Bryan Ortiz led the opening 43 laps in the No. 97 Turner Motorsport BMW M3 before Darren Law took the lead on Lap 44 in Big Bend in the No. 19 Motorsport Technology Group BMW M3. Kris Wilson, who started second in the C-Max/Unitech Racing Porsche 997, followed Law for second, and then passed him to take the lead on the downhill Turn 6.
The first caution waved moments later for an incident involving Jack Roush Jr. in the No. 59 Rehagen Racing Ford Mustang GT, who sustained suspension damage while passing a slower car and then went off course and went into the wall in the following turn.
Wilson, who had built up a seven-second lead, turned the car over to Pechnik in the pits, but fell to the back of the pack when the fueling rig malfunctioned.
Turner Motorsport was seeking its third consecutive GS victory at Lime Rock, with Bill Auberlen and Chris Gleason combining to win both previous races. Auberlen and Matt Alhadeff finished ninth after losing ground on a penalty for a pit lane violation in the No. 96 BMW, while the No. 97 of Ortiz and Don Salama finished 12th after a pair of on-track incidents.
Thornton and Segal averaged 85.662 mph, as three cautions slowed the 140-lap race for 13 laps. Segal led the final 71 circuits, Ortiz led 44 laps, Wilson 16 and Nastasi nine.
Saturday, Jamie Holtom and Eric Curran combined to win the Grand-Am KONI Challenge Street Tuner race in the No. 01 Georgian Bay Motorsports Chevrolet Cobalt.
The next action for the KONI Challenge will be June 15 at Mosport International Raceway, with both classes running simultaneously.
NOTES & STATISTICS
- This is the first career KONI Challenge Series victory in any class for Jeff Segal and Jep Thornton of Automatic Racing.
- This is the first career KONI Challenge Series victory in any class for Automatic Racing, the 2007 Grand Sport champion. Automatic Racing had previously finished a team best second on several occasions.
- This is the first BMW victory of the season and fourth in the past five races, dating back to last season. Only Porsche -- with Craig Stanton and Tim Traver -- has won during that streak (Daytona, 2008).
- BMW has now won three straight KONI Challenge Series GS races at Lime Rock Park. Turner Motorsport won in 2006 and 2007. Two-time defending race winner Bill Auberlen finished ninth. Don Salama, who joined with Bryan Ortiz, took the checkered flag 12th, one lap off the leader's pace. Ortiz led 44 laps of the race, the second most of any driver.
- This is the second straight runner-up finish for Spencer Pumpelly in the KONI GS race at Lime Rock Park. Pumpelly teamed with Peter Ludwig in last year's race. This season, Pumpelly teamed with Duncan Ende.
- JBS Motorsports scored its first ever KONI Challenge Series podium finish. The team had previous notched fourth-place finishes on several occasions. James Gue ran as high as second before Pumpelly passed him in the final 30 minutes of action. Gue shared the car with Bret Seafuse.
- Though BMW finished first, Porsche dominated the top five, taking three of those positions. Joining Pumpelly and Ende were Stanton and Jon Miller in fourth in the No. 83 Porsche 997 and Lonnie Pechnik and Kris Wilson in fifth in the No. 25 Porsche 997. Defending Rolex GT champion Dirk Werner also took sixth in the No. 38 Porsche 997 that he shared with Mike Piera.
- Four drivers led the 140-lap race. Ten cars finished on the lead lap.
JEP THORNTON (Team owner/driver, No. 09 Automatic Racing Engine Studios/Imported Car Store BMW M3): "This is my eighth season, and finally to get a win. We won the championship last year, and we didn't win a race or lead a lap. Last year was about consistency, and Jeff (Segal) has been bugging me all winter that we've got to win a race. So we finally got it under my belt, and it feels great. In my stint, the start was chaos. We haven't raced since January and everybody was chomping at the bit. I had a little contact with Joe Foster, but everybody settled down, and we got in a groove. Once that happened, some of the backmarkers were difficult to pass and tough to get by them. I started eighth and came in fifth, had a great little dice with Peter Ludwig. Then I handed off to Jeff."
JEFF SEGAL (No. 09 Automatic Racing Engine Studios/Imported Car Store BMW M3): "Joe Varde is a smart guy, and he didn't tell me how much fuel we had left. He told me we should be ready for the stumble, and they were having me save fuel for quite awhile, which is pretty tricky here. There are not a whole lot of places where you can lift off the gas. But it was close. The car was real good. Spencer (Pumpelly) has been around a long time, and it would have been a tough battle in another couple of laps. We were sort of out of tire, but the car was great, the guys got me out in front and it was an easy cruise from there. When I got by Tom Nastasi, I was under the impression we were in third and I was behind Dirk Werner, who was driving the wheels off the BGB Porsche. About 20 minutes later, they told me I was in the lead. I'll take it any way I can get it."
JOE VARDE (Team Manager, No. 09 Automatic Racing Engine Studios/Imported Car Store BMW M3): "I love this place. This is like coming home. Great place. We had no gas left - that was the last lap it was going to run."
DUNCAN ENDE (No. 39 TRG Digi Trust Group/Adam Polishes Porsche 997): "It was a pretty eventful stint. I lost a bunch of track position in the opening laps. I got tucked in behind the wrong person at the start and people got by me on the outside for the left-hander. I was held up by a bunch of BMWs for most of my stint. I was faster but anywhere where it mattered. Finally I got by, and then I got hit by another of the BMWs after he had brake trouble passing somebody behind me. That gave me a flat tire, but there was no major damage. We made a quick stop, but made it up the next time it went yellow."
SPENCER PUMPELLY (No. 39 TRG Digi Trust Group/Adam Polishes Porsche 997): "We did have something for the winning Automatic car, at least from what they were showing, but in their defense, they did a great job and didn't have to go any faster to win the race. Who knows? If I put on some pressure, they might have been able to throw in a couple of good laps and open it up. Our car was excellent today. The Gue battle was an odd deal because we had a few cars that were multiple laps down who went out of their way to make it tough for us to go by. Finally, one of the cars got black flagged, and I think Grand-Am made the right decision. It's so tough to pass here, and when you have people who are not in the race making it harder it's even tougher. We've got to keep having good finishes to get back in the championship hunt."
BRET SEAFUSE (No. 37 JBS Motorsports Ford Mustang GT): "It's been a long time in coming for the podium. James and I ran together last year and came close a few times. We had a good points finish, but couldn't make that podium after coming close a couple times. Glad to be on the bottom of the podium, but we're looking to get to the top. We had a great run today. I had one little mistake out there. The team did a great job. We're definitely a family and friend team -- mom, dad, wife and a bunch of friends and they do a great job for us all the time and we couldn't do it without them. James did a great job, ran his who stint under green."
JAMES GUE (No. 37 JBS Motorsports Ford Mustang GT): "I had a great battle with Spencer (Pumpelly) and Craig Stanton was up there as well for awhile. Unfortunately, we got into some lapped traffic and that packed everything up. With about 10 laps to go I made a tiny mistake and Spencer got underneath me. Once he got by me, I didn't have anything for him but I think I might have been able to hold him off if there was no traffic. This track isn't thought of as a strong Mustang track, and to get on the podium for the first time with JBS is a great result for us."
TOM NASTASI (No. 5 Blackforest Motorsports BMW M3): "I didn't realize that the pass by Jeff Segal was for the lead. I don't ask -- I keep passing cars. I love this car. It is the ultimate driving machine. It's a lot easier to drive than the Mustang. It's suited for this track. We changed the setup from qualifying, threw something at it blind, talked to the previous owner of the car to see what worked best for it, and it worked (well). We still have some issues with it, but it's much better than it's been. We stayed out, and we pitted under the third yellow. I didn't want to pit under green. Thank God we came in when we did, because it went green after that."
BILLY JOHNSON (No. 18 Motorsport Technology Group BMW Z4): "The car was awesome. To finish 14th the very first time the car's been out -- just shaking out the bugs -- was very, very good. We ran competitive times. We were running sixth but had to pit for fuel near the finish."
DARREN LAW (No. 19 Motorsport Technology Group Porsche 997): "We had a real good race. We ran top three for the first part of the race. We got a little out on strategy and fell back, but we definitely had a top-five car."