The Racer's Group Pontiac GTO.Rs have been a cut above the rest of the GT class this season, winning five times overall and taking another dominant victory at Lime Rock Park. The ...
The Racer's Group Pontiac GTO.Rs have been a cut above the rest of the GT class this season, winning five times overall and taking another dominant victory at Lime Rock Park. The #65 F1 Air GTO of Andy Lally and Marc Bunting took the spoils, after moving into the lead when their team car pitted. The win extended Lally and Bunting's points lead to 17 over the Tafel Racing #72 NEC Porsche of Wolf Henzler and Robin Liddell, who were again baffled at the Pontiac's pace on the short tracks. Much of today's victory for the Pontiac however was attributed to two key off-track decisions.
Henzler took his class-leading fourth pole of the season but the car failed post-qualifying tech inspection, as stewards discovered his ride height was too low. The German would start on the back row. The #64 iRise Pontiac of Kelly Collins and Paul Edwards inherited the pole and led for a majority of the race. Bunting pitted under the day's only full course caution, with the idea of turning the car over to reserve driver R.J. Valentine for a stint on his home circuit. Valentine deferred to Lally, who would run for the remainder of the race. The caution came as a result of class rookie John Angelone spinning and collecting the MineStar Solutions Porsche driven by Canadian Greg Wilkins, who damaged his radiator and stalled at turn one. Once the race restarted the yellow never flew again and it was simply a matter of which Pontiac would win.
Collins led until he pitted on lap 83, handing his car over to Edwards. Lally assumed the lead and strung together a series of flying laps that put everyone but his teammate one lap down. Therefore when Lally stopped for fuel on lap 106, he had enough of a gap to emerge in front of Edwards and cruise to victory, his second of the season. "This was a super track for us," he said afterwards. "I have to thank R.J. and Marc for setting this car up because I didn't get much practice time. This team is gelling so well and this Pontiac GTO.R is running great."
Collins and Edwards took second, completing the second straight and third overall 1-2 sweep for TRG. "There was less traffic out there today," Collins commented. "It's a race - we didn't have the DPs to disrupt us today." Henzler and Liddell made it to third, following a sterling opening stint from Henzler that saw him improve from 17th to 4th by the time he pitted. Liddell passed the Stevenson Motorsports Corvette for 3rd, but was unable to pose any threat to the Pontiacs. "It was dismal in one respect with the weight reduction," Liddell said. "The GTOs were even more competitive. Right now, we don't have any more left in the tank."
Liddell was referring to a pre-race weight reduction that was, in his opinion, supposed to level the field. The BMW M3s and Porsches had 75 pounds removed and older Porsche 997s had 25 taken off, but the Pontiacs didn't have a reduction as they have the heaviest minimum weight of 2,800 pounds. The Porsches can be as light as 2,200 pounds. The bruisers may be heavy, but they are also the team to beat at the moment.
The aforementioned Stevenson Motorsports entry, running on a tighter budget than the podium finishers, scored their best run of the season in 4th with veteran drivers Vic Rice and Tommy Riggins. David Murry and Leh Keen in the Synergy Racing Porsche completed the top five. There will be no rest for the weary however because on Saturday the Rolex Series returns to action, with the Daytona Prototypes as well as the GT cars competing in the Sahlen's Six Hours at the Glen.