By Pat Jennings - Motorsport.com Lexington, OH - Two-time Trans-Am champion Paul Gentilozzi totally dominated Saturday's Trans-Am Series race at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. In doing so, Gentilozzi led every lap of the race to record...
By Pat Jennings - Motorsport.com
Lexington, OH - Two-time Trans-Am champion Paul Gentilozzi totally dominated Saturday's Trans-Am Series race at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. In doing so, Gentilozzi led every lap of the race to record his fourth win of the season and collect his third consecutive victory at Mid-Ohio. In addition, his win captured the Manufacturer's Championship for Jaguar. And if all of that was not enough for the wily Trans-Am veteran, Gentilozzi also turned the race's fastest lap.
"This was just a spectacular event," Gentilozzi exclaimed. "It's special for me because the first road race I attended was here [Mid-Ohio]. And the first time I raced here, I cleared out part of the woods and they had to get me out with a chain saw."
Despite the fact that Gentilozzi all 45 laps of the race, 1998 FIA GT champion Justin Bell may have driven the best race of the day. Bell, who started fourth, passed Tony Ave for third in the race's opening laps. But several laps later, a hard-charging Boris Said passed Bell to take over third place. Subsequently, Bell faced stiff challenges from Ave and Michael Lewis for fourth. Lewis eventually grabbed fourth from Bell as Ave continued to hound Bell for fifth. As these three battled for third, Said closed on Tommy Archer for second.
After the third caution flag of the race, Said snatched second from Archer while Ave slowed on course. This moved Bell back into the top-five. A couple of laps later, Bell made it a three-way fight for fourth with Lewis and Leighton Reese. Two laps after he moved into fourth, Bell caught a fading Archer for third. At this point, Bell set his sights on Said for second. And four laps later, Bell was finally able to work his way around Said on lap 40 after making several attempts to wrestle second place from an aggressive Said. But that was the end of it for Bell, as he was unable to mount a serious challenge to Gentilozzi for the lead.
Bell's finish was his best of the season. "I had a good start, and I was running with them [the leaders] for a while," Bell explained. "At first, I was wondering what tires everyone was on because they didn't seem to be the same as mine. When I finally got around Boris [Said], he immediately gave me a little bump to say 'you got me, but there's a reason you got by me.'"
After the race, Said, who finished third, gave his own impression of his on-track dice with Bell. "I got a little hot today, and didn't want to see those yellows. Congratulations to Justin; he got by me, we rubbed a little and traded some paint, but that's what the Trans-Am Series is all about."
The race was not with out its share of controversy, however, as 2000 Trans-Am champion Brian Simo was black-flagged at the start for passing before the field received the green flag. After answering the black flag, Simo rejoined the field in 28th position. Eventually, Simo managed to bring his Qvale Mangusta home in fourteenth.
Reese brought his Corvette home in fourth, while Lewis rounded out the top-five.
Gentilozzi's convincing win enabled him to pad his points lead over teammate Johnny Miller.