SONOMA, Calif. (July 21, 2001) -- Brian Simo ( ...
SONOMA, Calif. (July 21, 2001) -- Brian Simo (#88 Tommy Bahama-Qvale Mangusta) earned his first victory of the 2001 Trans-Am season this afternoon at the Wine Country 100 at Sears Point Raceway in Sonoma, Calif. Simo, who started on the pole, led the race from flag-to-flag. Paul Gentilozzi (#3 Johnson Controls Home Link Jaguar XKR), the current points leader, placed second today and retained his Drivers' Championship points lead. Simo finished the race 2.470 seconds ahead of Gentilozzi. The 40-lap, 100.8-mile race was part of the X-Factor Grand Prix of Sonoma.
"It was a fantastic day for us," said Simo. "I feel like this race was a turning point. We are going to give Paul (Gentilozzi) a run for his money and start getting points. This is a great race track, but you really have to be on your toes. It's a challenging track to set up the car for. You miss a little bit, you miss a ton here. You've got to get the car perfect and really be on your toes."
Gentilozzi, who started third, battled Simo early on in the race. "Brian had a look in his eye today," he said. "The only real chance we had at Brian today was early on in the first two laps. I seemed to have a better car at that point. Then we all established a rhythm and everyone was leaving space between each other. But then the yellow really hurt us. A lapped car got in between us which allowed Brian to pull away."
Boris Said (#33 Applied Computer Solutions-Panoz Esperante) came in third, the highest finish so far this season for the Panoz Esperante racecar. He also had the fastest race lap of the day with a time of 1:36.937. "It was good, clean fun out there today," he said. "We struggled the first couple of races with this car but I'm really excited now. I think it's going to be a winning car. It's as good as any car I've driven."
Anthony Lazzaro (#36 Motor City True Performance Parts-Dodge Viper) finished fourth in just his second Trans-Am race. Lazzaro, the 1999 Toyota Atlantic champion, is subbing for series regular Tommy Archer who is injured. Lazzaro, who started the race in eighth place, enjoyed his first time at Sears Point Raceway. "I love this track," he said. "It's definitely a driver's track."
Justin Bell (#40 Justin Bell GT Motorsport Experience Chevy Corvette), the current leader in the Rookie-of-the-Year points battle, had his best finish of the season today by coming in fifth. "I was very excited to return to this track. I haven't been here since my Barber Saab days in 1988," he said. "I was hit in turn 1 on the first lap and dropped back to last place, so I'm very happy to have been able to work my way all the way back up to fifth place." Bell started the race in seventh.
Simo's win today marks the first for his car, the Qvale Mangusta, making it the fourth different car manufacturer to win a race this season in the Trans-Am series. Other manufacturers posting wins in 2001 are Ford (Mustang), Chevrolet (Corvette) and Jaguar (XKR).
Gentilozzi retained his points lead with 162. Simo moved from fourth place into second place with 148 points. Johnny Miller (#64 AutomationDirect.com/Cutler-Hammer Jaguar) drops from second to third place with 147 points. Miller qualified fifth in today's race, but finished ninth.
The next race, round seven of the Trans-Am Series for the BFGoodrich Tires Cup, will be held at Portland International Raceway on August 4. The Tommy Bahama 125 is part of the Grand Prix of Portland and marks the first time the Trans-Am Series has raced there since 1995. The race will be broadcast live on Speedvision from 1-3 p.m. Pacific time.