Sunday
Apr292007

TEAM NEWS: Banner Pontiac finishes on Podium at VIR Grand-Am Race

Photo by John Thawley Danville Virginia (April 28, 2007): Kelly Collins and Paul Edwards survived a wild off course excursion to bring their #07 Banner Engineering Pontiac GXP.R onto the podium in today’s GT race for the Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve here on the rolling hills of VIRginia International Raceway. Tim Lewis and Leighton Reese finished 12th in the #06 Banner Pontiac GXP.R.

“It was mentally tough because I was basically keeping pace with the leaders and Baas was being, well ridiculous,” said Kelly Collins who qualified the #07 Banner Pontiac GXP.R in 5th position and started the race. “Once he went a lap down let us go and follow behind us. Don’t be blocking us. He let the leaders go past but not us! I actually got by once by making a real risky move into turn ten but he just drove right back by me down the straightaway the Porsches have so much more straight line speed that we do.

Us turned out to be both Collins, in 5th position at the time, and Andrew Davis in the #72 Porsche. Davis had a wild spin trying in vain to dive past Baas into turn 1 leaving Collins to try to solve getting past Baas’ Porsche. The result was that the lead trio of cars drove away and the pack of cars behind Collins caught up so that Kelly had to deal with the eventual race winning Porsche of Bryce Miller.

The situation got worse as the rear tires started to go off. Kelly got wide at turn 14 and slid off the track going into turn 15 and bounced his Pontiac GXP all the way down the grassy hill until he reached the start finish straight.

“Basically I had already reported in (to the crew over the radio) that the rear-end had gotten soft,” Collins said of his off course excursion. “The rear tires were already going off and I let my guard down and I slipped the car off the road and got sideways. It just drifted me off the track and when I touched the grass and off I went! It went off straight but I just couldn’t slow down in the grass!”

The trip down the hill was a rough one as the #07 car bounced and tore up the turf on the rough terrain but the rugged Pontiac escaped relatively unscathed as Kelly collected the car on the pit straight and calmly drove down pit lane for a pit stop that he was scheduled to make within a couple of laps anyway!

Collins, almost a full lap down after the early stop, rallied the Banner Pontiac back to 6th position and turned the car over to his co-driver Paul Edwards on lap 46 and Edwards took up the chase to the front once again setting the fastest lap of 1:56.303, for the Banner Pontiac on lap 49.

Edwards was able to catch and dive past the #69 Mazda in an out braking maneuver into turn 1 for 4th position and advanced to 3rd place a few laps later but had nothing for the two leaders (Werner’s Porsche and Tremblay’s Mazda) as there were no caution periods in the race to erase time lost early on.

“Third was awesome for us,” said Paul Edwards after the race. “The Banner Pontiac seemed to hold onto itself pretty much to the end. It was good, actually, it was a lot better than it has been and third gives us some momentum right now.”

“Our crew did another fantastic job this weekend,” said Leighton Reese team owner and driver of the #06 banner Pontiac GXP.R which finished 12th today. “The cars were really well prepared and they didn’t have any problems during the race. The whole team came together and we got a decent podium finish out of it.

“I think that good is coming down the road because this team is just going to get more and more competitive! I am really looking forward to the rest of the season!”

Tim Lewis qualified 10th for the race and started in the #06 banner Pontiac GXP.R and in the early going was running in the top ten in 7th, 8th and 9th at one point or other but an spin dropped Tim back several positions.

Lewis made his mandatory pit stop within the 45 minute window for fuel and rear tires only but Tim felt that was a mistake saying, “We probably should have changed all four tires because the fronts went off pretty quickly. Towards the end it was getting pretty awful out there.”

The loss of traction prompted Lewis to spin again but he continued without incident.

“I pretty happy with how it went,” Lewis said of his drive today at VIR. “I made some rookie mistakes out there but didn’t hurt anything so I did OK.”

For additional information about the Banner Engineering Pontiac GXP.R race cars and the Banner racing Team go to their website at www.LeightonReese.com .

The Grand American Road Racing Association, which operates and sanctions the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve and the Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series, is the premier road racing organization in North America. The 15-race 2007 Rolex Series schedule and the 12-race KONI Challenge Series calendar will deliver professional sports car racing to key markets throughout North America. All 2007 Rolex Series events will be televised in the United States and Canada on SPEED and distributed globally through ESPN International. With title sponsorship support from Rolex Watch USA and presenting sponsorship from Crown Royal Special Reserve, the Rolex Series showcases emerging and legendary drivers from around the globe and thoroughbred racing machines from the industry's leading constructors and the world's top automobile manufacturers. Learn more about Grand-Am at www.grand-am.com.

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