Johnson, Thomson Win Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series Street Tuner Race With Last-Lap Pass at Mosport BOWMANVILLE, Ontario, Canada (June 17, 2007) -- Billy Johnson passed Trevor Hopwood on the final lap of Sunday's Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series...
Johnson, Thomson Win Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series Street Tuner Race With Last-Lap Pass at Mosport
BOWMANVILLE, Ontario, Canada (June 17, 2007) -- Billy Johnson passed Trevor Hopwood on the final lap of Sunday's Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series Street Tuner (ST) race at Mosport International Raceway, giving himself and co-driver Karl Thomson of the Kensai Racing team their series-leading third victory of 2007. The final circuit was the only lap Johnson or Thomson led during the 89-lap, two-and-a-half hour race in their No. 76 Compass360.com/Skunk2/Hawk Brakes Acura TSX.
Johnson, who ran third with five laps remaining, charged past Pierre Kleinubing in the No. 86 BMW Classic-Plano BMW Z4 when the Brazilian ran out of fuel, and drove past Hopwood in Turns 8 and 9 on the 10-turn, 2.459-mile track as the two made contact coming to the checkered flag. The pass marked the 13th and final lead change of the race.
"That was a long race," Johnson said. "We had a good car all day but on the last restart -- when we were fifth -- I went off in Turn 2 and was much closer to the wall than the track. That scare pretty much dropped us to last but I just started ripping off consistent laps in the 1:35s range and drove back through the field."
Johnson closed on Hopwood as they took the white flag and set up his winning move exiting Mosport's legendary Turn 5 complex.
"On the last lap I was right behind the BMW on the front straight and the Turner guys do a good job on their set-up but nobody could get out of Turn 5 faster than we could all day in our Kensai Acura," Johnson continued. "I got side-by-side with Trevor on the back straight and we came together. We touched and I was about 45 degrees sideways at 120 mph through there on the straight. I held on to it and was able to get by, and now the championship is going to be even closer."
The victory also gave the host country another Canadian winner in Grand-Am KONI Challenges Series competition, as Canadian Scott Maxwell and American Joe Foster captured Saturday's Grand Sport (GS) win. Johnson, of California, and Thomson, of Toronto, won the season opener in January at Daytona International Speedway and last month's race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
"With a win at Billy's home track of Laguna (Seca), it was important for me to get one here at home," Thomson said. "This is a tough track that rewards consistency and commitment and that is exactly what we did here today. The last lap battle with the (No.) 95 could not have been scripted any better. The entire Kensai team did a phenomenal job and gave us a great car; without their dedication none of this would have been possible."
Thomson and Johnson are now within one point (164-163) of leaders Hopwood and Adam Burrows. Hopwood, sharing the No. 95 Turner Motorsport BMW 330i with Burrows, gave the car a solid second-place finish after the BMW led 11 laps. Seeking their first victory of the season, Burrows was among the lead trio through the first round of pit stops, as he battled with front row starters Eric Curran and Dan Allen.
Hopwood took over for Burrows on Lap 26 and ran in the top five the remainder of the race. He and Kleinubing staged a strong battle in the race's final 45 minutes, swapping the lead three times in a five-lap span. When Kleinubing fell to the sidelines out of fuel, Hopwood appeared to have it wrapped up until Johnson started his surge.
"I was able to hold him (Johnson) off up until Turn 5 on the last lap and we came out of there side-by-side," Hopwood said. "We raced hard and came together and we both got sideways but Billy gathered it up better than I did and that closed the deal for him. We were right there and we definitely touched but it was just good, hard racing. No hard feelings."
Co-drivers Shane Lewis and John Schmitt were due to drive the No. 22 HART Red Line Oil Honda Accord during the race, but transmission woes during qualifying forced the duo into their "parts car," the No. 92 machine. Despite starting last, the HART Honda squad persevered to an improbable third-place finish. The No. 22 car was scheduled to start in the front half of the field.
"This car was a last minute entry and we were still working on it 30 minutes before the race," Lewis said. "We blew the tranny on our main car and Grand-Am let us enter this one but we had to start from the back, dead last. This isn't really a back-up car, it is our parts car but we put it together and just went out and raced. Attrition, strategy and hard work all paid off today."
Curran, who started on the pole and led three times for a race-high 25 laps, stayed out through the second round of pit stops as the Georgian Bay team chose to keep him in the No. 01 SCADAPack Chevrolet Cobalt. Co-driver and former race winner Jamie Holtom got in on Lap 49 and also ran in the top five, slipping back to seventh before moving back through the field to finish fourth.
Beau Buisson and co-driver Taz Harvey gave Kensai Racing two cars in the top five as they piloted the No. 75 Compass360.com/Skunk2/Hawk Brakes Acura TSX to fifth. Previously, the car hadn't finished better than 17th in the year's first five races.
Kleinubing's BMW wasn't the only car which ran out of fuel near the end. Quebec driver Nick Wittmer was running second to the BMW in the final 10 minutes of the race when he slowed in his No. 31 i-MOTO Racing Acura/Cobalt Friction Acura TSX due to lack of fuel. Wittmer and co-driver Glenn Bocchino were credited with ninth.
Allen, who also led 18 laps early in the No. 69 SpeedSource Mondial Forwarding/Freedom Harley-Davidson Mazda RX-8, and co-driver Jose Armengol finished eighth.