Grand-Am Cup Teams Ready for Mid-Ohio Twin 200s. LEXINGTON, Ohio (June 27, 2003) -- The Grand-Am Cup Series had its first official practice sessions at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on Friday for this weekend's Mid-Ohio Twin 200s. The TPC Racing ...
Grand-Am Cup Teams Ready for Mid-Ohio Twin 200s.
LEXINGTON, Ohio (June 27, 2003) -- The Grand-Am Cup Series had its first official practice sessions at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on Friday for this weekend's Mid-Ohio Twin 200s. The TPC Racing #18 Porsche GT3 Cup turned the quickest time in the opening day of practice with a 1:32.056 lap at 88.303 mph.
The Honda of America Racing Team, which fields both the #00 and #69 Acura RSX-S entries, will try to defend its 2002 Sport Touring I victory on Saturday afternoon in the 200-mile Sport Touring race. The team's #69 Acura was quickest in the Sport Touring I class today with a 81.485 mph in 1:39.759.
"The car is handling pretty good. We are really pleased. We just keep whittling away at stuff, changing things and trying stuff," said Pete Halsmer, who finished second last weekend at the wheel of the #00 Acura in The Glen Sport Touring 250. "One of the interesting things that we've gotten a chance to play with more here and some of the other tracks is the difference between the two cars. They built the cars the same, but the two cars are different. We keep trying to figure out why that is. We haven't figured it out yet. And I don't think I'm in the faster car. I hopped in the other car at the end of the session and went a half second quicker. We don't know what the deal is. The other car just reacts better. It just does things better than the other one."
One of Halsmer's top competitors in the Sport Touring race will be Don Salama, who helped pilot the TC Kline #12 BMW Z4 to its first win in last weekend's rain-soaked race. "We haven't proven yet that our cars are able to win a race in the dry, but we've gotten better. The last three races have been two rain races and one dry, and we kind of had some bad luck in California (in the dry) otherwise I think we would have been competitive there," said Salama. "We haven't prove ourselves in the dry yet, but hopefully we will this weekend though. (My co-driver) Steve Pfeffer loves this track and he's fast here. I like the track too. We had some fast times this morning, but you never know."
Another Sport Touring I team that has proven to be a major contender this season is the SpeedSource #68 Porsche Boxster. After struggling with its ST I Boxster program for two years, while its Grand Sport Porsche entries flourished, SpeedSource and driver Scott Schlesinger has finally been able to turn its luck around.
"We are real fortunate this year .We tried every little combination with suspension of the car. We seemed to have finally gotten it right. The car's got much better handling now than it had the last couple of years. We were chasing our tails trying to get this thing to handle. That has made a world of difference," said Schlesinger, who has scored two victories as well as a podium finish in the last three races. "The lap times this year compared to the last couple of years are substantially better and has put us as a contender at the top of Sport Touring I. That's really all we needed. I don't think it should have taken this long, but better late than never. Now we are just trying to keep this thing going."
The Grand-Am Cup Series Grand Sport teams will take center stage on Sunday at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. After finishing fourth last weekend at The Glen, points leaders Jean-Francois Dumoulin and Robert Julien are looking for a trip to Victory Lane this weekend.
"We are feeling really confident. Randy (Pobst) is going to come back, I think, for Sunday. (He and Michael Levitas are) our main competitors right now, so we are going to have to work very hard to win this one. We need to be ahead of those guys and get a little bit better lead," said Doncaster Racing #119 Porsche driver Dumoulin.
A 14th-place finish by Doncaster's other entry - the #7 Porsche - caused drivers David Lacey and Greg Wilkins to slip in the point standings, but the team is confident they can bounce back. "Last year we were in a similar situation. In fact here at Mid-Ohio we had a DNF due to technical failure and we managed to finish third in the championship that year. Our strategy is to finish on the podium for the remainder of the season. There are a couple of guys in the championship hunt that are going to miss a few races, so our strategy is consistency, and high points finishes are going to be real important," said Lacey.
A pair of Ohio-based teams will be among the Grand Sport II competitors vying for a spot in Victory Lane on Sunday. The father-son duo of Joe and Wayne Nonnamaker, which currently leads the GS II driver point standings, is from Canton and will help pilot Planet Earth Motorsports pair of Porsches.
Schutemaker Motorsports, of Cincinnati, will also run in the GS II class and will be looking for its first win with the team's #35 Nissan 350Z. The team was quickest in its class during Friday's practice session with a 1:36.812 lap at 83.965.
"The car is good. We've tested here before, so we know what the car is going to like and what it's going to need," said Michiel Schuitemaker, who will partner with BJ Zacharias in the Nissan. "It's also just fun to be at Mid-Ohio with Grand-Am Cup. It's always exciting, but being at our home track makes it more exciting with all the people. Friends are driving up from Cincinnati. It's extremely exciting to be here. It's a quick open track. We know the track well. It should be good for us. We can always hope (to get our first win here), but we'll see."
Qualifying for both of the Mid-Ohio Twin 200s will be held on Saturday beginning at 11 a.m. The Sport Touring race will get underway at 1:55 p.m. on Saturday and the Grand Sport race is schedule to begin at noon on Sunday.
Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course is located approximately halfway between Columbus and Cleveland, off Interstate 71. For event information and tickets, call 1-800-MID-OHIO or visit www.midohio.com.
For more information about the Rolex Series and Grand-Am Cup Series, visit www.grandamerican.com.