First Endurance Races in Grand-Am Cup Series History to Determine Championships at VIR DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (October 4, 2006) -- The Grand Sport (GS) and Street Tuner (ST) machines from the Grand-Am Cup Series will descend upon Virginia ...
First Endurance Races in Grand-Am Cup Series History to Determine Championships at VIR
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (October 4, 2006) -- The Grand Sport (GS) and Street Tuner (ST) machines from the Grand-Am Cup Series will descend upon Virginia International Raceway this weekend for the first six-hour endurance races in series history to decide the driver, team and engine manufacturer championships in Round 10 of the 10-race 2006 schedule.
The events--Saturday's Wheel Enhancement GS Enduro presented by EMC Mechanical and Sunday's Bill Black Chevrolet Street Tuner Six-Hour Enduro--will be the second visit of the season to the 3.27-mile, 17-turn southern Virginia circuit for each class. The GS and ST cars contested a 200-mile, combined class event in April, which was won overall by Blake Rosser and David Murry in the No. 33 Playboy/Unitech Nissan 350Z and by Eric Curran and Jamie Holtom in the No. 01 Clearscada/GM Performance Division Chevrolet Cobalt in the ST class.
Much has changed, however, since the spring. Points leader Anders Hainer didn't win his first race of the season until Labor Day Weekend at Miller Motorsports Park, but the Swede has been the mark of consistency lately, finishing inside the top-five positions in each of the last six races. This weekend, he will share the No. 97 Under Armour/Turner Motorsport BMW M3 with road racing veteran Boris Said and team owner Will Turner.
Just seven points behind Hainer in the GS point standings are No. 81 Wheel Enhancement/Synergy Racing Porsche 997 co-drivers Patrick Long and Brent Martini (228-221). The duo has posted eight-straight top-10 finishes, including a victory at Trois-Rivieres in August. The No. 81 machine finished eighth at VIR in April.
Sitting in a tie for fifth in the GS standings is Andy Lally and Spencer Pumpelly, who share the No. 49 Marcus Motorsports Porsche 997. Lally, the 2006 Rolex Series GT co-champion, drove to victory with Pumpelly in May at Phoenix International Raceway. With 210 championship markers, the No. 49 co-drivers are still mathematically eligible to win the crown.
Also still in contention are No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M3 co-drivers Bill Auberlen and Chris Gleason. The No. 96 machine scored its first victory of the season on Memorial Day at Lime Rock Park, but a string of bad luck lately has all but eliminated the duo, who currently sits seventh in points with 199. American hotshoe Joey Hand joins the duo in the No. 96 car this weekend.
When Curran and Holtom scored the Street Tuner class win at VIR in April, it marked the beginning of a five-race, four-win stretch for the No. 01 machine. Heading to this weekend's finale, the Georgian Bay Motorsports team is all but eliminated from the championship picture, as three-straight finishes of 18th or worse have opened the door for the competition and left Holtom and Curran 29 points out of the championship lead.
Taking advantage of the No. 01 machine's misfortune has been the No. 95 Turner Motorsport BMW 330i, shared by Turner and Don Salama. The mark of consistency in 2006, the No. 95 machine has posted top-five finishes in eight of the first nine races, including the last seven, highlighted by a victory at Miller Motorsports Park last month. Turner, who will be pulling double-duty this weekend, has the opportunity for a clean sweep, winning the ST driver title while having his No. 95 BMW and No. 97 BMW win their respective team championships.
Also coming on late has been the No. 27 Bill Fenton Motorsports Acura RSX-S of brothers Hugh and Matt Plumb. After opening the season with a runner-up performance at Daytona International Speedway, a series of problems at VIR left the duo with a 33rd-place class finish. Since Phoenix in May, however, the No. 27 machine hasn't finished lower than fourth, posting five podium results. With 242 championship points, the Plumb brothers find themselves 11 points in arrears of Turner and Salama.
Two-time defending ST team champions SpeedSource are fifth in points heading into this weekend's finale with 299 markers. Drivers Sylvain Tremblay and David Haskell--who dominated the class the past two seasons--have yet to visit Victory Lane this season, despite seven top-seven class finishes. With 24 points separating the No. 70 duo from Turner and Salama, Haskell--the 2005 ST driver champion--and Tremblay will need help to repeat.
Looking for a breakthrough victory to cap a successful 2006 campaign will be No. 12 Performance Motorsports BMW Z4 co-drivers Jason Potter and David Tuaty. The No. 12 machine has posted top-10 finishes in all nine races this season, with best results of third at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in May and Barber Motorsports Park in July. Potter and Tuaty are 28 points behind the points leaders.
Also worth noting this weekend are the tight battles in both classes for the 2006 engine manufacturer's championship. In the GS class, Porsche holds a five-point advantage over BMW (286-281), while in ST, Acura's lead over Chevrolet is a scant two points. BMW could also reign supreme among the Street Tuner cars, sitting in third with 271 points.
Thursday will serve as an open test day at Virginia International Raceway, with cars turning official laps beginning early Friday morning. The Wheel Enhancement GS Enduro presented by EMC Mechanical will take the green flag on Saturday, October 7 at 3 p.m. ET, with the Bill Black Chevrolet Street Turner Six-Hour Enduro deciding the ST championships beginning on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET.