Tafel Racing Duo Scores GT Class Win at Mid-Ohio After Late-Race Drama

Tafel Racing Duo Scores GT Class Win at Mid-Ohio After Late-Race Drama

25.06.2006: Tafel Racing Duo Scores GT Class Win at Mid-Ohio After Late-Race Drama

In a race that saw numerous lead changes and tight nose-to-tail racing, a Lap 97 incident that left the race leader end-over-end on the back straightaway and the No. 72 NEC Porsche GT3 in the lead gave Tafel Racing co-drivers Wolf Henzler and Robin Liddell the GT class victory in Saturday's EMCO Gears Classic presented by KeyBank.

With only a few laps remaining in the two-hour and 45-minute timed event, class leader Joey Hand--in the No. 21 Matt Connolly Motorsports BMW M3--was being pursued closely by No. 64 TRG/iRise Pontiac GTO.R and Henzler in the No. 72 machine. The No. 64 machine made contact with the right-rear of Hand's car, sending the No. 21 BMW into the grass and along for a wild ride, flipping end-over-end numerous times before coming to rest on its roof near the outside retaining wall.

The incident allowed Liddell to pass both machines as the full-course caution came out, and the Scot was the first GT car to cross the finish line as the race ended under full-course caution. It was the second-consecutive victory for the No. 72 team, as Henzler and Liddell were victorious earlier this month in the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen. It is the third victory of the season for both Liddell and Henzler, who scored their first win of the season at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca last month.

"This win isn't nearly as exciting as the one at Watkins Glen," said Liddell. "As a driver, you never want to win because of an accident. In one way, I was looking for opportunities to pass either car, but on the other hand, I had to be patient for a potential mistake. It was definitely getting real tense out there, as we were nose-to-tail for a while. I just hope that Joey is OK. He drove a great race."

Henzler qualified the machine second on the class grid, and pressured polesitter Hand throughout the opening stint, eventually passing him for the lead on Lap 5. The German pitted for the final time on Lap 77 and handed the No. 72 car over to Liddell with the lead.

"I must say that this is not a very good way to win a race," said Henzler. "The team did a good job as always, and they had a very good car for us. It's definitely not the way a driver wants to win a race, and I just hope that Joey is all right, and comes back real soon."

Edwards and co-driver Kelly Collins wound up second for their seventh podium finish in the last eight feature races. Collins started the No. 64 machine sixth in class, but quickly worked his way up to the front during his stint. Edwards took over on Lap 43, and drove in the lead pack throughout his final stint.

"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. "Sometimes there's contact and sometimes there's not, sometimes 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."

Points co-leaders Andy Lally and Marc Bunting wound up third in the No. 65 TRG/F1 Air Pontiac GTO.R for their sixth-straight top-four finish. Bunting started the machine fifth, but an untimely caution during the race's midpoint caught the team a lap down to the lead pack. Lally maintained the pace of the leaders throughout the race's final hour, and brought the car home with a five-point lead for himself and Bunting over Liddell and Henzler in the GT driver standings (372-367) with nine of 13 races now complete.

Dave Lacey and Greg Wilkins finished fourth in the No. 17 Minestar Solutions/Tim Horton's/ SAMAX Porsche GT3, the duo's best class finish of the season. The tandem's previous best result of the year was seventh, coming in Round 2 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Leighton Reese and Tim Gaffney finished fifth in the No. 06 Banner Engineering Chevrolet Corvette.

- Grandam -
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25.06.2006 / MaP

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