TEAM NEWS: Tafel Racing Has Tough Day at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca

Photo by John Thawley MONTEREY, Calif. (May 19, 2007) -- Tafel Racing team drivers had a tough go of it in today's Round Five of the Grand-Am Rolex Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve, as part of the U.S. Sports Car Invitational delivered by Luggage Express at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

Starting on the outside of row one, Eric Lux took an early race lead in his No. 74 Tafel Racing Rembrandt Charms Porsche GT3 Cup car. But, the team's early success would soon turn to frustration, as the No. 43 Corvette made contact with Lux on lap 11. As a result of the contact, Lux had to bring the No. 74 machine to pit lane to tend to a leak coming from the bottom of the car. The Tafel Racing crew immediately went to work to fix the problem. After several minutes on pit lane, the team decided to take car to the garage for repairs. The car would return to the track on lap 25 and make three trips around the 2.2-mile circuit before permanently retiring the car. Lux's co-driver Ian James would never get his chance in the machine as the car finished 22nd.

"We had a great start to the race," Lux said. "Tafel Racing gave us a great car and we ended up going to the front on the first lap. We got an early yellow and took advantage of that. We came in put on some new tires and fuel. We went back out and worked our way through traffic. Unfortunately, it was pretty aggressive going through some traffic. I really don't know what is going on in some people's heads. We were going through the last corner [Turn 11] and one of the Corvettes just absolutely punted me in the left rear tire. I don't know if that had anything to do with what happened to our car. However, we did have a gearbox problem and we had to retire from the race."

"Basically there was contact between the [number] 43 car and Eric," Tafel Racing crew chief Dave Fullerton said. "Eric was going into the last turn and the [number] 43 car came up on the inside and made hard contact with Eric's left rear. That ended up pushing the drive shaft into the transmission. Basically, the inside of the gearbox is now mashed up."

After qualifying ninth, the No. 72 Tafel Racing Porsche GT3 Cup was moved to the back of the field to start today's race because the team changed the motor prior to the start. Because the car started from the rear of the field, the team had driver Nathan Swartzbaugh pit on the first lap, as part of the team's overall race strategy. In the Grand-Am Rolex Series, all teams are required to pit within the first 45-minutes of the race. With that in mind, the thinking behind their strategy was they could pit on lap one without losing any positions and still have time to mount a charge late in the race.

This strategy appeared to be working as Swartzbaugh was in third a handful of laps and even led the race briefly just as a caution came out to retrieve a car from the Turn One gravel. Under the yellow, Swartzbaugh brought the car to pit lane for four Hoosier tires, fuel and driver change. At this point (lap 36), co-driver Andrew Davis got in the car and was in 11th-place when the race went green.

Because the timing of the caution, Crew Chief Mike Gue had Davis try to conserve fuel for most of his stint -- hoping to make it to the end of the race on fuel. Once the team was confident the car would make it to the end, Gue had Davis (who was running seventh at the time) try to catch the No. 43 for position with under 10 laps remaining in the race. Davis finally caught the No. 43 machine and attempted a pass in Turn 11 but could not complete it. Unfortunately, Davis slid wide into the Turn 11 gravel which subsequently ended Davis' day as they would finish four laps down in 17th-position.

"The strategy was to come in the first lap and pit," Swartzbaugh said of the team's early race strategy. "We started in last place anyway because we had to change a motor. There was no point to trying to gain too many positions early when you are going to have to make a stop in 45-minutes anyway. So, we got the stop out of the way quick, went back out and charged hard. And, while everyone was fighting in traffic, we were just cruisin'."

"I had to make something happen because I was being blocked by the car in front of me," Davis said of his Turn 11 incident. "We were racing for position. He checked up a little bit in the two corners before and then the [number] 85 car was coming up behind me. And, I had to make something happen. He [number 43 car ] kept moving me over to the inside and the car just would not stop. I was trying not to hit him, but we made contact. Unfortunately, it got the right front wheel and that was it for us."

The GT race from Laguna Seca will be televised, tape delayed, on May 26 on the SPEED Channel starting at 8:00 p.m. EDT.

Round six for the Rolex GT Series will be run next weekend at Lime Rock Park with the race going off on Monday, May 28.

The Tafel family horse, Street Sense, finished second by a nose in his quest to win the second leg of the Triple Crown at the Preakness today.

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