Pontiac Wins With Daytona Prototype At Mid-Ohio GRANDAM

Pontiac Wins With Daytona Prototype At Mid-Ohio GRANDAM

25.06.2006: Pontiac Wins With Daytona Prototype At Mid-Ohio GRANDAM

#12 Lowe's Fernandez Racing Pontiac Riley Scores First Rolex Series Victory; TRG GTO.Rs Finish Second and Third to Extend Podium Streak to 15

Starting from the back of the grid, the #12 Lowe's Fernandez Pontiac Riley of Adrian Fernandez and Mario Haberfeld took first place overall in a Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series race that finished under caution and called with still three laps to go. The #12 car, driven by Fernandez on the final stint, was already leading the pack when a GT-class battle between Paul Edwards in the #64 TRG/iRise Pontiac GTO.R and Joey Hand in the #21 BMW M3 took a turn for the worse. Hand's car left the course on the back straight at high speed and nosed into a ditch, causing it to flip approximately eight times. Hand emerged from the car on his own but was transported by air to a nearby hospital. The EMCO Gears Classic was called under caution, allowing the #12 Pontiac to finish first in the Daytona Prototype (DP) class and the #64 and #65 GTO.Rs to finish second and third in GT.

"This is a totally new environment that we are used to; different cars, different competition and different rules that we are learning," said Fernandez. "The car was quick all weekend in the rain and dry.We had old tires at the end and we still could manage to stay in front. We had to take a chance on the fuel; we've done it before - we have experience in saving fuel. I was. driving slower and we needed yellows and that happened at the end."

At the end, Max Angelelli in the #10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley passed Jörg Bergmeister of the #76 Ford Riley and Alex Gurney of the #99 GAINSCO/Blackhawk Racing Pontiac Riley when the #21 BMW crashed. He crossed the finish line second and initially the team was awarded that position but after review, Grand American officials decided that the pass was made under a yellow flag. Second place was then awarded to Bergmeister and teammate Colin Braun and the #99 GAINSCO team of Gurney and Jon Fogarty moved to third. Angelelli and teammate Jan Magnussen therefore were moved back down to fourth, much to the dismay of the team.

"From my point of view we had a good race car but this track is very, very difficult to pass on," said Magnussen, who was just returning from a win at Le Mans in a Corvette C6.R. "When you get stuck behind someone, even if you are faster it's hard to get by. For a short while there we thought we were going to be second but that's just how it is sometimes."

Gurney and Fogarty, however took the ruling with pleasure as it put them on the podium again, now the third time in four races. They were also the second-highest Pontiac (four out of the top five spots).

"Right after the start I was able to fall into second place and was comfortable behind the #23 Porsche," said Fogarty. As the stint wore on the car was getting better and better and at the first yellow we decided to top-off on fuel. Whether or not that was the right decision, it's hard to say. I was able to work myself up to the lead for quite a while. The car kept getting faster, unfortunately our stints kept getting cut short by yellows. We didn't have an opportunity to fight during the end.but we're happy for another podium again."

Another two podiums were also scored by the #64 and #65 TRG GTO.Rs, making it 15 consecutive races where at least one of them finished on the podium (in many cases both did). Paul Edwards and Kelly Collins in the #64 machine finished second and Marc Bunting and Andy Lally of the #65 car were right behind in third. Edwards was going for first when the aforementioned incident with Hand came about, and the melee allowed the #72 Porsche of Wolf Henzler and Robin Liddell to slip by and nab the lead. First place was awarded to the #72 car when the race was called, but the strong finish by the GTO.Rs keep Pontiac in the lead in GT manufacturers points.

"Coming out of the Keyhole, Hand had a bad run coming out," said Edwards. "I was up alongside about halfway up his car and he kept coming across. The track ran out and I was off the gas but we touched and he went a bit sideways. He went in to the grass and hit a huge dip and launched. I watched the whole thing in my mirror with a sinking feeling."

"Truthfully, aside from the incident that happened which we don't know a whole lot about, we had a good car and we're happy to be on the podium again," added teammate Collins. "Sometime's there's contact and sometimes there's not, sometime's there's unavoidable contact and we can't judge that right now. As far as the performance by the Pontiac, I think that we were doing a great job; Paul did a fantastic job and I did my job to get the car where it needed to be. All three cars were fighting very violently for the lead and when they're going that tight and that fast, sometimes bad things happen. It's unfortunate but it's a dangerous sport and everyone kind of takes everything for granted. I just hope Joey's okay."

The latest report from the hospital was that Hand was awake, alert, and not complaining of injuries. He will be held for precautionary X-rays and will no doubt be sore tomorrow.

The Rolex Series travels this week to Florida where the next round takes place (at Daytona International Speedway). The race takes place on Thursday, June 29 at 7:00 p.m. EDT and will be televised live on SPEED TV. Immediately following the race is the IROC series race, where Max Angelelli of the SunTrust team will compete against the world's best.

DP provisional results:

1 12 Pontiac Riley Fernandez/Haberfeld
2 76 Ford Riley Bergmeister/Braun
3 99 Pontiac Riley Gurney/Fogarty
4 10 Pontiac Riley Angelelli/Magnussen
5 4 Pontiac Crawford Wallace/Leitzinger
6 89 Pontiac Riley Figge/Dalziel
7 60 Lexus Riley Patterson/Negri
8 58 Porsche Fabcar Donohue/Law
9 6 Lexus Riley Constantine/Borkowski
10 5 Ford Crawford Finlay/Valiante

GT provisional results:

1 72 Porsche GT3 Cup Henzler/Liddell
2 64 Pontiac GTO.R Collins/Edwards
3 65 Pontiac GTO.R Bunting/Lally
4 17 Porsche GT3 Cup Wilkins/Lacey
5 06 Corvette Reese/Gaffney
6 80 Porsche GT3 Cup Murry/Keen
7 21 BMW M3 Hand/Gleason
8 66 Porsche GT3 Cup Zacharias/Valentine
9 74 Porsche GT3 Cup Lux/James
10 56 Corvette Beachman/Fitzgerald

-Steve Smith-
photos Grandam

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25.06.2006 / MaP

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