GRAND AM NEWS: Werner and Miller Score First Career Grand-Am Rolex Series Win in VIR 400

Photo by John Thawley ALTON, Va. (April 28, 2007) – After running near the front of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve GT class throughout the early portion of the 2007 season, No. 87 Marquis Jet/IPC/Recaro Porsche GT3 co-drivers Bryce Miller and Dirk Werner broke through for their first career Rolex Series victory in Saturday’s VIR 400.

On Lap 53 of the 76-lap race, Werner passed GT points co-leader Sylvain Tremblay in the No. 70 Mazdaspeed/Mazda RX-8 in Turn 13 and claimed the lead from his Farnbacher Loles Motorsports teammate Dominik Farnbacher in the No. 85 Shoes for Crews/Recaro Porsche GT3 when Farnbacher pulled into the pits for his final stop at the end of the same lap. Werner then fought off challenges from Farnbacher before the No. 85 machine was forced to retire, and pulled away from Tremblay to win by 5.501 seconds.

“During the second pit stop, the team did a very good job, and suddenly we were in front of these guys,” Werner said. “I think I could have closed up a little bit, and I think my teammate could have been very fast at the end if he were in the car. I have to say I’m sorry I kicked a little dirt up near the end of the race in front of Dominik, or we could have had a first and second for the team. The team did a very good job though. It’s the first time the team is doing a full season, and we have great guys, I have a great teammate, and we’ll look forward to the next race.”

Miller drove the opening stint of the race before pitting on Lap 22, just inside the race’s 45-minute mark, owing to a new Grand-Am rule requiring all teams to make one pit stop within the first 45 minutes. While it was the first victory in Rolex Series competition for Miller and Werner, it was the second Rolex Series victory for the Farnbacher Loles team, which claimed the GT class win in the 2005 Rolex 24 At Daytona.

“With the new 45-minute rule, I still had quite a bit left in myself by the time we pitted,” Miller said. “We had a good car, and by the time we switched out, we had a pretty good pit stop that gave Dirk a good advancement. Dirk drove a very measured and calculated race – a very smart race – and was able to establish an advantage over the Mazdas, and most importantly hold that advantage over them until the end.”

Tremblay’s co-driver Nick Ham, led a race-high 28 laps before turning the Mazda RX-8 over to Tremblay, but the teammates came up short in their bid to claim their third consecutive GT class victory. However, the triumph enabled the duo to maintain its lead in the GT point standings which is now a margin of 18 points, 128-110, over Werner.

“We just didn’t have the speed to catch them,” said Tremblay. “I got by one of them when he came out of the pits, taking advantage of their cold tires. But the speed of the Porsches was really one of our biggest concerns. They did a great job with the setup and the straightaway speed. We did the best job we could with the package we had, but the championship is what we’re all after. We’re happy with second. I hate to lose, more than anyone else in this room, but the big picture is that we got some good points.”

“The car was very good,” Ham added. “It’s something we’ve worked very hard on—to get the car drivable—and we’ve been able to develop some confidence. I enjoyed following Wolf (Henzler) there at the start, and was just happy to be able to sit back there and wait. He made a mistake at the top of the S’s and I got by him, and unfortunately we had slight contact and I think he went off. It was a good stint. We pitted, took advantage of the new rule, stayed in the car, and just tried to get to the point when I could hand the car over to Sylvain and let him do his work and bring the car home. He did a good job; the whole team did a fabulous job. It was a good result for Mazda.”

For the first time since the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona, No. 07 Banner Engineering Pontiac GXP.R co-drivers Paul Edwards and Kelly Collins earned a podium result with a third-place run. Collins and Edwards battled back from an early off-course excursion by Collins to record its best result since finishing second in class in the Rolex 24.

“It was a good result,” Edwards said. “The car is definitely stepping forward at each race track. It’s better, but we don’t want a third to be a win for us; we want a win to be a win for us. We’ve got to work toward that, and we have a couple of weeks to prepare for that. Congratulations though to the Mazda and the Porsches; I think we’ll be where they’ve been soon.”

“It feels really good to be back on the podium with the Banner Racing,” Collins contributed. “Believe it or not, this feels like a win for us. I had the car off today, but luckily, with the new pit stop rule in the first 45 minutes, it just worked out perfect timing. They left me in the car to fix what I started. We did what we could and were very consistent, and the car was definitely reliable for the excursion I had today.”

Nathan Swartzbaugh and Andrew Davis picked up their best result of the 2007 season to date with a fourth-place outing in the No. 72 North South Machinery Porsche GT3 for Tafel Racing. Davis also led one lap. Greg Wilkins and Dave Lacey continued their consistent season with a season-best run of fifth in the No. 17 MineStar Solutions/Tim Horton’s Porsche GT3. Wilkins and Lacey have now finished inside the top nine in all three of their starts this season.

Keen and Farnbacher started at the tail of the field after failing to take a qualifying time, but were in the top five by the first round of pit stops, and had taken the lead when Werner and Tremblay pitted. The No. 85 car, which scored the event’s fastest lap time with Farnbacher behind the wheel, was challenging for the point again when it got off course slightly, leading eventually to a ruptured radiator. With coolant leaking onto the track, Farnbacher was forced into the pits, and the team retired a few moments later.

« TEAM NEWS: RUBY TUESDAY CHAMPIONSHIP RACING TEAM TO START FROM BACK OF FIELD FOR VIR 400K | Main | GRAND AM NEWS: Braun Breaks Track Record En Route to Third Career Rolex Series Pole at VIR »

Reader Comments

There are no comments for this journal entry. To create a new comment, use the form below.
Editor Permission Required
You must have editing permission for this entry in order to post comments.