TEAM NEWS: Banner Pontiac GXPs Qualify 4th and 12th At Homestead

Photo by John Thawley Homestead Florida (March 23, 2007): Kelly Collins, of Newport Beach, California, qualified the #07 Banner Engineering Pontiac GXP.R in 4th position in the GT Class for Saturday’s Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve Linder Industrial Komatsu Grand Prix of Miami here at Miami-Homestead Speedway.

Collins’ time of 1:21.164 was 8 tenths of a second off the GT pole winning time recorded by the Keen/Farnbacher Porsche. Kelly will start the race and share driving duties with his usual co-driver Paul Edwards. Collins and Edwards are defending champions of this event winning last year in a Pontiac GTO.

“The Banner Pontiac GXP was good, the best it has been today and for the little time we got in yesterday,” said Kelly Collins who qualified the #07 GXP.R.

Collins improved on his earlier time set before the Homestead course went full course caution to retrieve the #24 GT car from a gravel trap only 3 laps into the qualifying session. All of the cars went into the pit until the course was cleared.

“The caution didn’t hurt us that much,” Collins said of the interrupted session. “I was able to go out and improve my earlier time by a couple tenths when we got back out. After that the times just fell off.

The Banner Racing team continued to see the same tire issues encountered during testing here at Homestead back in December where the rear tires were wearing at an accelerated rate.

“We are having problems with our rear tires going off,” Kelly reported. “The prototypes aren’t having any trouble but our Pontiacs and most of the GT cars are having trouble keeping the rear tires under the cars. The best you will get (in terms of lap times) will be on the first lap and a half. After that the rear tires start to fall off and once they go off they stay off.”

“The Homestead track is a little unique in that it feels like there is very low grip but it is very tough on tire wear,” said team owner Leighton Reese. “It is really challenging for the race engineers to get a handle on it. I could definitely see us making two stops for rear tires.”

“It could be a two stop race,” agreed Collins of the team’s pit stop strategy for tomorrow’s race. “I could see doing two stops or more, it all depends on when the cautions come out. We will definitely be putting on new sneakers every chance we get. On the rears that is!”

Tim Lewis Jr. of Boca Raton Florida qualified the #06 Banner Pontiac GXP.R, which he will share with Leighton Reese in tomorrow’s race, in 12th position with a best lap of 1:22.483 when Tim came back out onto the track after the full course caution period.

“Tim caught up to a Porsche and had to pass him on the outside on his best lap,” Reese said of Lewis’ qualifying run.

The GT cars qualifying in positions 5 through 14 are all within 1.3 seconds so the competition in tomorrow’s race should be very tight.

“Our 12th starting position will be fine for the race,” Reese said. “Our Banner Pontiac actually got better even thought the track got more slippery! We are right smack in the middle of the GT field so ought to be an awesome race!”

Round 3 of the Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve Linder Industrial Komatsu Grand Prix of Miami is scheduled to take to the Miami-Homestead Speedway at 2:00 PM ET on Saturday March 24th 2007. The race, which can be seen live on SPEED TV, is scheduled for 400 Kilometers (109 laps) and has a time limit of two and a half hours.

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