Sears Point: Southard Motorsports Thursday report

Bizarre Fire Temporarily Sidelines Southard BMW-Riley at Infineon Team Looks to Get No. 3 Back in Show for Shane Lewis and Craig Stanton SONOMA, Calif., August 25, 2006 -- In a bizarre sequence of events the No. 3 Truechoice/PAP-Parts.com ...

Bizarre Fire Temporarily Sidelines Southard BMW-Riley at Infineon
Team Looks to Get No. 3 Back in Show for Shane Lewis and Craig Stanton

SONOMA, Calif., August 25, 2006 -- In a bizarre sequence of events the No. 3 Truechoice/PAP-Parts.com BMW-Riley sustained substantial fire damage in yesterday's first practice for the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve Sonoma 250. Due to the damage, the Southard Motorsports entry will miss the remaining practice sessions today as the team works to make repairs to the Riley chassis and Dinan-built BMW V8 powerplant. However, owners Steve and Martha Southard anticipate having drivers Shane Lewis (Jupiter, Fla.) and Craig Stanton (Long Beach, Calif.) back on course here at Infineon Raceway for this afternoon's qualifying session at 5:15 PM (PT). That is just over 24 hours after the devastating fire occurred.

The fire took place midway through Thursday's first practice session. As Stanton drove the car up the hill into turn-one of the 2.52-mile track, the left-rear wheel nut broke, throwing the 2005 Rolex Series GT Class Champion into a spin. With the loose rear wheel the car was unable to move once Stanton brought it to a stop in the grass just off the track. The car had suffered no damage due to the spin. However, a combination of dry conditions and the hot exhaust system caused the grass to ignite. The fire quickly spread to the carbon fiber bodywork of the car. Before corner workers could reach the red, white and blue machine, it had suffered serious damage from midway of the engine cover back. Stanton had exited the car before the fire started and no one was hurt in the blaze. Repairs to the No. 3 include a new engine and gearbox, new wiring, exhaust, several new rear suspension components, the replacement of the whole rear cowling/bodywork, undertray and rear wing. The front of the machine, including the cockpit area, was undamaged.

The team hopes to use today's 15-minute qualifying session to check the repairs and work on setup for tomorrow's 250-mile sports car race. Lewis, who has not raced at Infineon for several seasons, will drive in the qualifying session. Final corrections will be made in the last practice session at 8:45 AM on Saturday. The race is scheduled for 3 PM, Saturday afternoon. SPEED Channel will air the race on Sunday, August 27 at 3 PM (ET).

The Southard team has earned two podium finishes this year in the Daytona Prototype class. The first third-place came at the Long Beach Grand Prix where Lewis was joined by Bill Auberlen (Redondo Beach, Calif.). Stanton joined the team for another third at Phoenix International Raceway.

Quote:

Shane Lewis, Driver: "This is so hard to believe. We came to this race with high expectations. For this to happen, well, it's devastating. While something like this can really bring a team down, I have never seen the Southard crew more determined. I'm not sure how this car can be put back together in time. But if anyone can do it these guys will. I'm just asking for all our fans and supporters to keep their fingers crossed. This is how fairytale endings start... right?"

-credit: southard motorsports

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Shane Lewis , Bill Auberlen , Craig Stanton