Jones and DragonSpeed Survive the Curse of Miller DragonSpeed survived a character-building week surrounding the fourth counter of the Patron GT Challenge by Yokohama series at Miller Motorsports Park near Salt Lake City, Utah. It was perhaps ...
Jones and DragonSpeed Survive the Curse of Miller
DragonSpeed survived a character-building week surrounding the fourth counter of the Patron GT Challenge by Yokohama series at Miller Motorsports Park near Salt Lake City, Utah. It was perhaps inevitable that the Santa Monica-based outfit would eventually encounter a rough patch following its smooth run so far this season.
First came the breakdown of the team's tow vehicle, whose terminal engine failure was diagnosed by the local dealer just late enough to prevent its use for Utah. Team manager Elton Julian had one day to cobble together a rig made up of a rented box van pulling DragonSpeed's old box trailer.
In Thursday testing, driver Nick Jones' first experience of the 3.05 mile venue was stymied by a chronic oil leak which defied all efforts by the assembled brains of Porsche Motorsport to find a cure, despite the team removing the engine. Friday was no better, with oil still spewing even as Jones improved his lap times. The DragonSpeed crew again pulled the motor, but a fix remained elusive and it was decided to restrict Nick's running in qualifying on Saturday morning. The 29-year-old Californian did well to cut another second from his previous best in just four laps to end up 13th of the 17 Gold Cup entries.
With the engine looking unlikely to last the 45-minute race distance, DragonSpeed faced the possibility of scratching from both Utah rounds until the ever-resourceful Julian approached 2009 Gold Cup champions Snow Racing, making a one-off return to the Patron series at their home circuit. A deal was quickly struck to rent Melanie Snow's 2007 car, although making this raceworthy meant the hard-working DragonSpeed crew of Julian, Tim Valencia, and Chris Ohanian having to fit the front bumper, radiator, exhaust, and rear bumper from their own 2008 model.
Released from the pitlane as the field was heading for turn two, Jones pushed his unfamiliar mount hard to reel in the pack, and went on to gain eight places and claim ninth in class before the race finished early under yellow. DragonSpeed looked poised to salvage a respectable points haul from the weekend until struck by one more blow: a paddock incident landed Nick in the track medical center and prevented him from starting the second race. Despite missing three of eight Patron races to date, Jones holds on to ninth place in the series standings with 39 points.
"It was very trying and frustrating for everyone," said Jones. "Miller is a great circuit and it's a shame we never got the chance to show our true pace. The team were epic all weekend trying to sort the problem on our car and then getting the Snow car perfectly prepped. They made it possible for me to just go for it in the first race, so it was doubly disappointing that I couldn't deliver for them in race two."
"We had it all this week -- every possible hurdle motorsport can throw at you came our way!" said Julian. b^0x001cI'm very proud to say we passed each test with flying colors and never lost our cool or confidence. Well done to Nick for rewarding the team's efforts with a storming drive in race one."
GT3 Cup: World Speed Motorsports Utah event notes
Lites: Series feature - Bennett and Inspire Motorsports' future