VIR: Race report

Angelelli and Taylor Take Closest Victory in Rolex Series History in VIR 400 Presented by SunTrust ALTON, Va. (October 3, 2004) -- In the closest finish in Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series history, No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Riley...

Angelelli and Taylor Take Closest Victory in Rolex Series History in VIR 400 Presented by SunTrust

ALTON, Va. (October 3, 2004) -- In the closest finish in Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series history, No. 10 SunTrust Racing Pontiac Riley driver Max Angelelli held off a late charge from the No. 01 CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley of Scott Pruett and Andy Wallace in the No. 2 CITGO Howard-Boss Motorsports Pontiac Crawford to win Sunday's VIR 400 presented by SunTrust. Angelelli's 0.87-second margin of victory was the narrowest in the five-year history of the Rolex Sports Car Series.

Angelelli took over the seat of the No. 10 machine from co-driver Wayne Taylor on Lap 43 of the 77-lap race and took the lead on Lap 53 when Wallace made his final pit stop. Following a full-course caution period for a Lap 60 incident involving Oswaldo Negri Jr. in the No. 6 Michael Shank Racing Lexus Doran, the No. 81 Rx.com/G&W Motorsports BMW Doran of Cort Wagner and the No. 66 The Racer's Group Porsche GT3 RS of Ian James, the race was restarted on Lap 66 and the stage was set for a fight to the finish.

While Angelelli pulled out to a healthy advantage, Pruett and Wallace engaged in a fierce battle for second, and their teammates, Luis Diaz in the No. 02 CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley and Butch Leitzinger in the No. 4 Howard-Boss Motorsports Pontiac Crawford had a similar fight for fourth place. However, a light rain began falling on the circuit in the waning laps and the shower coupled with slower traffic enabled Pruett to catch up to Angelelli with three laps remaining.

On the final lap, Wallace caught the top two drivers as well, but neither he nor Pruett were able to improve his position and Angelelli beat Pruett to the stripe, with Wallace a mere 1.036 seconds behind the winner in third place. The result was the closest finish in Rolex Series history, topping the event at Road America on July 8, 2001 when the No. 27 Lista Doran Racing Judd Ferrari of Mauro Baldi, Fredy Lienhard and Didier Theys beat the No. 20 Dyson Racing Team Ford Riley & Scott of Dorsey Schroeder, Elliott Forbes-Robinson and Rob Dyson to the finish line by 1.602 seconds.

It was Angelelli's fifth consecutive podium finish and moved him into fifth place in the Daytona Prototype driver standings despite the fact that he missed the EMCO Gears Mid-Ohio Road Racing Classic in August due to a scheduling conflict. It was the third win of the season for the No. 10 team, and was their first triumph since taking the Paul Revere 250 presented by Brumos Porsche in July.

"I think this is the best race we have had so far this year," Angelelli said. "At the end of the race, I was very cautious because I didn't want to make a mistake. For me it was enough just to be in front. I didn't care about the gap; I just wanted to be in front. I was really careful and very conservative."

The win moved Taylor--who started second and led 16 laps during his stint--to within five points (297-292) of Pruett and his co-driver, Max Papis, heading into the final two races of the season. Wallace is fourth in the Daytona Prototype driver standings with 284 points.

"We still trail Pruett and Papis for the driver's championship, but we've brought it down to five points," Taylor said. "It's going to go down to the wire. Clearly with the points championship there isn't enough gain. We still need to win two more if they are going to finish second. It's still going to be tough but we did what we had to do. I think this is one of the best races we've won this year. At the end it got close, but you have to win by a second to win, so it doesn't matter."

For Pruett and Papis, the runner-up finish was their sixth top-two result in 10 starts and came on the heels of the team's ninth pole position of the season. While they saw their points lead shortened further today, the result did help the teammates put a disappointing 10th place result in the Miami 250 two weeks ago behind them.

"This was a wild race," Pruett said. "It's a difficult track -- it's not as conducive to the Lexus as our next race at Barber. The CompUSA guys did good, the Lexus guys did good. The car didn't miss a beat all day. It was pretty interesting all day with that rain -- sometime it was light and sometimes it got real heavy. It was literally touch and go. Angelelli did a great job. We were just right on each other the last stint. It was a great day."

"It was a fantastic race," Papis added. "Today was good. We were in front at the start and created a big gap with the No. 10 car. It was a great battle, unfortunately we didn't win. With two races to go, we are in the lead for the points championship, and that's what matters the most."

For Wallace and co-driver Milka Duno, today's performance was their second-consecutive podium finish after winning the Miami 250. Overall, it was Wallace's fifth podium of the season and he remains a factor in the points chase, as he trails Papis and Pruett by 13 markers and Taylor by eight points.

"We should be really happy, but if you finish third in a race of three cars to the end, I'm not very happy with that," Wallace said. "But, it was a good race as all the races have been this year. The last 10 laps with the three cars together, it could have gone any way. The rain at the end made it very exciting. I really can't wait until the next race."

"It is great," Duno contributed. "It was a very hard race and very competitive. I was defending my position -- I knew which ones were quicker and which ones I could pass. It's important because we and others are racing for points and the championship. I did what I was supposed to do -- go, go, go. I spun because there was a blown engine in front of me, but we didn't lose time or a lap. It's fantastic -- we are on the podium."

Leitzinger and Forbes-Robinson brought the No. 4 Howard-Boss Motorsports Pontiac Crawford home in fourth place for their sixth top-five result of the season and their second in-a-row after a third place run two weeks ago. Despite a late-race pit stop, Diaz and co-driver Jimmy Morales finished fifth for their second straight top five result and their fifth of the season in the No. 02 machine.

AUBERLEN PADS GT POINTS LEAD WITH SEVENTH WIN OF THE SEASON

After entering the race with a one-point lead in the GT driver standings over his Prototype Technology Group teammate Boris Said, Bill Auberlen returned to his winning ways in the VIR 400 presented by SunTrust. Auberlen and his No. 21 PTG BMW M3 co-driver Justin Marks beat the No. 22 PTG BMW M3 of Said and Joey Hand to the line by more than one minute to claim the class victory.

"It's good for BMW," Marks said. "I was a little disappointed after the last race. We should have won the race but unfortunately the engine let go. The conditions were tough today and they changed a lot. The car performed well with all the conditions and the pit stops were good. The team did a good job and this is a great way to rebound."

It was Auberlen's seventh class triumph of the season, and he now leads Said by four points, 313-309, heading into next weekend's Rolex Series penultimate round at Barber Motorsports Park.

"We had some trouble in qualifying, which is rare, but the team made some adjustments and we went almost a second faster," Auberlen said. "The track was wet and Justin had to avoid an accident. I was biting my nails, but it came out OK and we'll just keep winning."

The driving trio of Emil Assentato, Stephen Earle and Joao Barbosa equaled their best GT finish of the season by bringing the No. 33 Scuderia Ferrari of Washington Maserati Light GT home in third place. They previously finished third in class in May's 6 Heures du Circuit Mont-Tremblant.

Miami 250 GT winners Kevin Buckler and Tom Nastasi finished fourth in the No. 67 The Racer's Group Porsche GT3 RS, while Virginia's own Spencer Pumpelly and Mark Greenberg wound up fifth in the No. 77 Porsche GT3 RS for VIR-based G&W Motorsports.

LEVITAS AND POBST TAKE SECOND-STRAIGHT SGS WIN

For the second-straight race, No. 36 TPC Racing Porsche GT3 Cup co-drivers Michael Levitas and Randy Pobst claimed the Super Grand Sport (SGS) class victory, finishing slightly more than six second ahead of their teammates in the No. 38 Porsche GT3 Cup, Marc Bunting and Andy Lally. It was the class-leading fourth victory of the season for Levitas and Pobst and was the seventh class podium of the season for the No. 36 machine.

"You never know what's going to happen on this track," Pobst said. "I saw a puff of smoke and I had to drive through the grass. I think it's fantastic because every lap was like qualifying. Andy Lally is a heck of a driver and he's on our team. It just had to be all we had to win. It was very satisfying."

The win allowed Levitas--who is also the owner of TPC Racing--to cut his points deficit to co-leaders Bunting and Lally to 16 points, 313-297, with two races remaining.

"The No. 36 Porsche of Pobst and Levitas -- we are there," Levitas said. "We're not back, we're there. The crew did an incredible job today, the pit stops were flawless. It really makes the job easier when the crew and the car are working so well."

After missing the podium two weeks ago in the Miami 250, Bunting and Lally returned to the podium with their second-place result today. It was the duo's ninth class podium finish in 10 starts this season. Cory Friedman and Leh Keen filled out the podium with a third-place run in the No. 14 Autometrics Motorsports Porsche GT3 Cup for their best results of the season.

Gene Sigal and Harrison Brix brought home the No. 04 Grease Monkey Racing Porsche GT3 Cup with its third-straight top-four result with a fourth-place showing today, and John Littlechild and Jean-Francois Dumoulin made it three TPC Racing cars in the SGS top five with a fifth-place performance in the No. 37 Porsche GT3 Cup.

-garra-

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About this article
Series Grand-Am
Drivers Andy Wallace , Milka Duno , Butch Leitzinger , Boris Said , Didier Theys , Scott Pruett , Fredy Lienhard , Bill Auberlen , Joey Hand , Rob Dyson , Mauro Baldi , Stephen Earle , Emil Assentato , Randy Pobst , Elliott Forbes-Robinson , Luis Diaz , Kevin Buckler , Andy Lally , Max Angelelli , Dorsey Schroeder , Tom Nastasi , Joao Barbosa , Justin Marks , Michael Levitas , Jimmy Morales , Mark Greenberg , John Littlechild , Oswaldo Negri Jr. , Marc Bunting , Chip Ganassi , Gene Sigal , Harrison Brix , Lehman Keen , Cort Wagner
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing , Autometrics Motorsports , Dyson Racing , Doran Racing