Nastasi/James Win VIR 200; Taylor/Angelelli on Pole for VIR 400 Alton, Va. (October 8) -- Ian James of Kissimmee, Fla., and Tom Nastasi of Stamford, Conn., teamed up to win the Grand-Am Cup Series' season-ending VIR 200 at VIRginia International...
Nastasi/James Win VIR 200; Taylor/Angelelli on Pole for VIR 400
Alton, Va. (October 8) -- Ian James of Kissimmee, Fla., and Tom Nastasi of Stamford, Conn., teamed up to win the Grand-Am Cup Series' season-ending VIR 200 at VIRginia International Raceway on Saturday afternoon in wet and treacherous conditions.
For James and Nastasi, driving the No. 5 Blackforest Motorsports Ford Mustang GT, the win at VIR was a perfect bookend for their season, having won the season opener at Daytona International Speedway in February.
In a race that was plagued by intermittent heavy rain and punctuated by numerous spins and caution periods, James and Nastasi persisted to take the checkered flag first, albeit behind the pace car as a crash in the closing laps put the 3.27-mile VIR circuit under a full-course caution. Finishing second was the No. 28 Race Prep Motorsports Porsche 996 of Spencer Pumpelly of Mason Neck, Va., and Craig Stanton of Long Beach, Calif., and in third place was the Multimatic Motorsports Ford Mustang GT of David Empringham and Scott Maxwell, both of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
The third-place finish by Empringham and Maxwell was sufficient to clinch the drivers', team and manufacturer championship for the two drivers, Multimatic and Ford, respectively. This was the first season for the factory-supported Ford Mustang GT effort in the Grand-Am Cup's GS class, and the result was five wins in 11 starts. The car was developed by Ford Racing Technology and is available through Ford Racing Performance Parts as a complete "ready-to-race" package for the Grand-Am Cup Series.
For Nastasi, the rain in today's race was no problem. "I love driving in the rain," he said, "and I hoped it would rain the entire time. I drove the first stint and just kept the car on course, so that Ian could get in it and bring it home for us. He did that today and we just had a powerful Mustang today. It's amazing that we were able to win the first race of the season and cap off the season with a victory here today."
James was also all smiles after the race. "I'm really happy," he said. "The Ford ran really strong today. Tom got at it and had fun for a little while there and put me in the car in a good position. We really never had a challenge at all; it was fun."
In the ST class, Karl Thompson of Toronto, Ontario, Canada and series debutante Daniel Herrington of Winston-Salem, N.C., took first place with a 16th-place overall finish in their No. 06 Compass/360 Racing BMW Z3. Second in class, finishing 18th overall, were Scott Schlesinger of Golden Beach, Fla., and Ken Dobson of Indianapolis, Ind., in the No. 68 SpeedSource Mazda RX-8. Will Turner of Newburyport, Mass., and Don Salama of Boston, Mass., took third in class with a 22nd-overall finish in their No. 95 Turner Motorsport BMW M3.
A seventh-in-class finish was enough to clinch a second consecutive ST class driver's championship for David Haskell of Plantation, Fla. Haskell and teammate Sylvain Tremblay of Coral Springs, Fla., co-drive the No. 70 SpeedSource Mazda RX-8, and had previously clinched the ST class team championship. Today's second-in-class result by Schlesinger and Dobson clinched a second consecutive manufacturers title for Mazda. Haskell and Tremblay shared the driver's title last year, but this year finished 1-2 in points as a result of Tremblay having to miss one race.
Earlier in the afternoon, qualifying for Sunday's Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series VIR 400 was cancelled due to the rainy conditions. As a result the grid will be set by team points and championship leaders Wayne Taylor of Altamonte Springs, Fla., and Max Angelelli of Italy will start from pole. Taylor and Angelelli, who co-drive the No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac/Riley, currently enjoy a 39-point lead over the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus/Riley of Scott Pruett of McMinnville, Ore., and Luis Diaz of Mexico City, Mexico, which will start second. Filling out the second row will be the No. 4 Howard-Boss Motorsports Pontiac/Crawford of Elliott Forbes-Robinson and Butch Leitzinger and the No. 66 Krohn Racing/TRG Pontiac/Riley of Jorg Bergmeister and Max Papis. The GT class pole is held by the No. 65 TRG Pontiac GTO.R of Marc Bunting and Andy Lally, who will start 25th overall in the 48-car field.
In qualifying late Saturday for the Cooper Tires Formula Ford Series, championship leader Jay Howard of Basildon, Essex, England took the pole for Sunday's first of two races with a lap at 2:09.092/91.191mph. Qualifying second was Alan Sciuto of Orange, Calif., with Joey Foster of Cornwall, England posting the third-fastest time.
The Porsche Club of America held a sprint race on Saturday morning, a 10-lap affair won by Mark Hupfer in a 2004 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup. John Ellis was second in a 1999 Porsche 911 GT2 Evo, followed by Rene Robichaud in a 2002 Porsche 911 GT3 RS. The PCA will run a 60-minute enduro-format race on Sunday.
An unfortunate byproduct of the wet weather was the cancellation of the inaugural VIR 400 Pro/Am Celebrity Kart Challenge, in which 10 lucky fans were to race karts on VIR's Plantation Valley Kart Track against Grand-Am racers, VIR and Grand-Am staff members and media guests. The track was too wet to stage a safe race on both Friday and Saturday, so the event was regretfully cancelled. The 10 fans who won the lottery to compete in the event will be awarded free three-day tickets to next year's VIR 400.
The weekend will conclude on Sunday with two races for the Formula Fords, an enduro race for the Porsche Club of America and the featured attraction, the VIR 400 for the Rolex Series, which will begin at 1:00 pm.
Tickets for Sunday's VIR 400 will be available at the gate, priced at $50. VIR is a family-friendly facility, where children 12 and under are admitted free with a paying adult. Spectator camping is available.
VIRginia International Raceway is a multi-purpose road racing facility, located on the Dan River between Danville and South Boston, Va., and just north of historic Milton, N.C. In addition to its 3.27-mile natural-terrain road racing circuit (designed to be operated as two autonomous, full-service courses), VIR is the cornerstone of VIR Club, America's first motorsports country club; the VIR Raceplex Industrial Park; the VIR Gallery, which is a sales showroom for high-end collector and racing cars; the VIR Safety and Security Institute, which provides specialized training for U.S. Government and military groups; The Lodge at VIR, a 27-room hotel overlooking the track; and the Oak Tree Tavern, a full-service restaurant located within the circa-1840 Plantation Clubhouse.
VIR made history from 1957 to 1974 and is doing so again. The renovated original circuit has 17 challenging turns and 130 feet of elevation change. In addition to spectator events, the track is also available to rent for testing, driving schools and club days.
For more information, visit the track's website at www.virclub.com or contact VIR at 434-822-7700. For more information on the Grand American Road Racing Association, visit their website at www.grandamerican.com.