SEBRING, Florida - (Friday, March 16, 2001) Both Dick Downs and G. J. Mennen finished on the sidelines before the end of the race as the Trans-Am Series for the BFGoodrich Cup raised the curtain on it's 2001 season this afternoon at Sebring ...
SEBRING, Florida - (Friday, March 16, 2001) Both Dick Downs and G. J. Mennen finished on the sidelines before the end of the race as the Trans-Am Series for the BFGoodrich Cup raised the curtain on it's 2001 season this afternoon at Sebring International Raceway. Downs, who had qualified his #16 Simple Green Chevrolet Camaro in 34th place in his Trans-Am debut, lost his gearbox on the first lap and was the first driver to retire from the field, being scored 39th. Mennen had a much better race in the #6 MotorCheck/Onkyo America Chevrolet Camaro, but finished a lowly 33rd after clobbering the Turn 15 wall two-thirds of the way through the event.
"I feel badly for the team," noted Downs, who had gained a tremendous five seconds per lap in qualifying over what he had been running in the previous practice to easily make it into the field in his first attempt. "They were very nice to me, and worked very hard to give me a good car. I wish I could have given them more for their efforts."
Mennen started 11th and got a great start to cross the line in seventh at the end of the first lap. "I just totally went for it at the start," said Mennen. "I kept going further and further inside, and got a lot of people." His forward charge in the new Vanquish RS2M chassis, designed and built in the Victoria Motorsports shop, was slowed after just three laps, though, when the rear windshield blew out of the car. The resulting aerodynamic drag caused Mennen to slowly slip backwards as the race wore on.
Late in the race Mennen dropped a wheel over the curbs as he and Bob Ruman went side-by-side through a corner. Two turns later, Mennen's car failed to turn as he entered the high-speed Turn 15, and he careened off course and hit the barriers hard. Though shaken, he was able to get out of the car and was soon back in the pits, unharmed, thanks in no small part to the fact he was wearing the HANS safety device, to protect his head and neck.
"I think both of our guys did a good job," commented team co-owner Frank Cioppettini. "The day just didn't end up as well as we'd hoped for. We'll just head on back to our shop in Mooresville, NC, fix the cars and move on to Long Beach. I think we'll have some surprises up our sleeves for people there."
Round two of the Trans-Am Series for the BFGoodrich Cup will be Sunday, April 8, at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.