TURNER BMWs NAVIGATE WILD NEW JERSEY TRAFFIC THUNDERBOLT RACEWAY, Millville, NJ (September 5, 2008) -- The Turner Motorsport BMW team raced in New Jersey last weekend, on a brand-new track, and returned home with the fastest race lap and another...
TURNER BMWs NAVIGATE WILD NEW JERSEY TRAFFIC
THUNDERBOLT RACEWAY, Millville, NJ (September 5, 2008) -- The Turner Motorsport BMW team raced in New Jersey last weekend, on a brand-new track, and returned home with the fastest race lap and another podium finish in the Koni Challenge GS class. The Speed Channel will have the broadcast of the race this Sunday at 2:00pm ET.
Thunderbolt Raceway is brand-new, on the fringes of Millville Airport in southern New Jersey. It was the first professional race weekend on the 2.25 mile course. Turner Motorsport led the way in the first official practice session. The #96 Motul Lubricants/StopTech Brakes BMW M3 earned the top time in Practice. But the new track soon began to show some shortcomings that would ultimately impact the Turner team's efforts for the win.
Both of the Turner Motorsport M3s started inside the top ten in the GS class - the #97 H&R Springs/Nova Derm/OCG/GoToPuertoRico.com M3 with Don Salama behind the wheel starting in fifth and the #96 M3, driven by Matt Alhadeff starting in the tenth spot. In the ST class, Matt Bell led the charge in the H&R Springs/Borla Exhaust BMW 330i from fifteenth.
The 250-mile endurance race started off on Sunday morning. It was apparent early on that dusty conditions would contribute to multiple cautions as cars going off the course would scatter dust and debris on the racetrack. It would also create a cloud over the track, hampering visibility. Other than the five full-course caution periods, smaller incidents had an effect on nearly everyone in the 64-car field.
Bryan Ortiz in the #97 Turner Motorsport M3 was the victim of just such an incident when he was forced to make a pit stop to change a tire flattened by contact with another car. Ortiz and Salama would end up sixteenth-place. The #97 M3 didnt leave empty-handed, however, as Salama had the fastest race lap for the second time in the last three races.
Securing their third podium finish of the year was Bill Auberlen and Matt Alhadeff in the #96 Turner Motorsport M3. Alhadeff moved the M3 up through traffic smartly, taking fourth place by lap 21, before handing the reins over to co-driver Auberlen. Because of full-course cautions, Auberlen only had a 25-minute window at the end of the race to challenge the leaders for the race win - and had to pass quite a few slower cars to get to them. It was a well-deserved result that could have been sweeter if the race were just a bit longer.
In the ST class, Matt Bell and VJ Mirzayan in the #95 H&R Springs/Borla Exhaust 330i were quickly running up through the field. With the season winding down, the two are in the hunt for valuable Championship points. The Turner team was taking few chances with the strategy and made the call to pit the car for fuel. However, the rest of the ST cars took the gamble to run the entire race on one tank of fuel. It paid off well for them, helped by the caution periods, but the Turner team had to settle for fourteenth place. Had they not pitted for fuel, or if the race had run longer, they surely would have been contenders for the race win as the #95 car's fastest time was among the fastest of the entire race.