TEAM NEWS: Reese and Lewis Jr drive Banner Pontiac GXP.R to Grand-Am GT Classic win at Lime Rock

Photo by John Thawley Lakeville Connecticut (May 28, 2007): Leighton Reese and Tim Lewis Jr. drove the perfect race in their No. 06 Banner Engineering Pontiac GXP.R to win Monday’s Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve Grand-Am GT Classic here at Lime Rock Park. Kelly Collins and Paul Edwards fought back from adversity and being a lap down to finish 4th in the No. 07 Banner Engineering Pontiac GXP.R.

The Banner Racing Team, coming off a disappointing race at Laguna Seca where both Banner Pontiacs had the speed to win but did not, traveled across the country to win their first of the season in the tough GT Class of the Grand-Am Rolex Series. The Banner Pontiac GXP.Rs took the lead in the early stages of the two and a half hour race on the demanding 1.53 mile Lime Rock track and stayed there for the duration to score their first win of the 2007 season.

“This win is really big for me and Tim but more importantly is is huge for Pontiac and our sponsors like Banner Engineering, Host.net, Mobil 1, Las Vegas Bike Fest, Shock Doctor, and Forgeline,” Leighton Reese said of the win at Lime Rock. “It shows that we can win and it will build the confidence of the entire Banner Racing Team for the rest of the season!”

“I couldn’t be happier right now,” said Tim Lewis Jr. of Boca Raton Florida. “My first win and the first win of the year for the team. It was a great effort. I know that the Banner team is an excellent team and the people behind it do an excellent job and they are very professional and they really made me step up my game. They really helped me along and helped me get to where I am now. I have to thank them.

"The car was as good in the race as it was in practice. Leighton kept it at the front the whole beginning of the race and that put the pressure on me."

“I can’t tell you how proud I am of Tim Lewis Jr.,” Leighton Reese said proudly of his young co-driver! “He is just so consistent. He comes to these tracks he has never seen before and keeps sneaking up on the lap times. He never puts a wheel wrong and by the time the race comes around he is usually faster than me.

“I feel’s great after coming here for 20 years to finally win at Lime Rock. First of all I just love coming to Lime Rock, my sister lives here and it is like my half-home track. I just love it. It takes me back to my ASA days because this is just a backwards circle track.”

Kelly Collins, of Newport Beach California, and Leighton Reese, of Minnetonka Minnesota, started the race in their matching Banner Engineering Pontiac GXP.Rs in the 3rd and 4th positions.

After pacing themselves in the early going and after a multi-car crash on lap 34 brought the leaders in for fuel and tires Collins took the lead on lap 53 and by 56 Reese was up to second. At that point the Banner Pontiac GXP.Rs were leading and controlling the race as they pulled out a gap on the field as Collins set the fastest lap of the race of 54.303 seconds at that point.

“The car was excellent,” said Leighton Reese said of his early race strategy. “In the early going I was just trying to maintain track position without burning the tires off the car. I was being a bit conservative but being so early in the race I wasn’t going to push it.

“I watched Nick Ham’s tires go off and he was getting loose and the Farnbacher car was jumping all over the place getting loose and my patience paid off. On the restart the car was stickered up and I made a pretty darned good pass on Lux on the inside of big bend. It was probably one of the better passes I have ever made!”

Unfortunately the lead wouldn’t last long for Collins as a front tire picked up a puncture on the debris strewn track and Collins relinquished the lead to Reese as he headed to the pits for tires and fuel on lap 59.

“I almost went off in the down-hill,” said Collins after turning over the controls of the #07 Pontiac GXP.R to Paul Edwards. “I was gonna die if I stayed out there another lap!

“With the two crashes that were down in turn 1 there was debris, carbon fiber, fiberglass and sharp pieces of metal all over the race track and they never cleaned up any of the debris! They should have taken an extra lap and cleaned the track! We had the race under control and this is a shame.”

Reese slowed the pace from the lead to help Edwards get back on the lead lap, who didn’t need much help as Paul and the #07 Banner Pontiac was the fastest car on the track! This allowed the second place #30 Pontiac of Staveley to close up behind Leighton’s GXP.R as Paul Edwards rocketed back to the lead lap on lap 71.

Leighton Reese held the lead until lap 82 when Reese got balked by a lapped car in the downhill turn leading onto the front straight and Drew Staveley assumed the lead in his #30 Pontiac GXP with Reese content to follow in 2nd place until the final pit stop.

“I didn’t want to lose that much time to Staveley but I got caught up behind a Corvette in the fastest part of the track and had to check up,” Reese said. “I was actually gaining on his again when we finally pitted again.”

On lap 91 the course went caution to put out the too hot Mustang of Alex Tagliani bringing the leaders in for their final stops as Tim Lewis took over the #07 Banner Engineering Pontiac GXP.R during the fuel and tire stop. Paul Edwards took fuel and tires only using the tires on which the #06 had qualified.

The stage was set as the Banner Racing crews got Lewis out in the lead and Collins out of the pits in 5th and in view of the leaders. When the course went green again on lap 100 the top 5 were Lewis, the Porsches of Farnbacher and Henzler, the #30 Pontiac of Pavan and Paul Edwards in 5th.

On the restart Tim Lewis, of Boca Raton Florida, drove like a 20 year veteran easily holding the lead while Paul Edwards dove low into turn one making a move on Pavan’s Pontiac in the inside while Patrick Long was trying to pass Pavan on the outside.

Three wide into turn one at Lime Rock almost never works and all three cars bounced firmly into each other flattening a tire on Long’s Porsche and spinning Pavan’s Pontiac. Edwards received a drive through penalty, which he served on lap 112 dropping Paul back several positions and costing him a lot of track position.

“He (Pavan) left a gap for me so I thought he was letting me by,” Edwards said.

The race went caution for the final time on lap on lap 102 to retrieve the stalled Porsche of Carlos De Quesada.

When the race went green for the duration on lap 111 Tim Lewis, undaunted by the talent behind him, once again held form and with the poise of a veteran extended his lead as Henzler and Farnbacher battled each other for 2nd and 3rd.

“I was really worried about the Mazda on the restart because I was worried that he would challenge me into turn one,” Lewis said of the two restarts. “Fortunately I was able to keep him behind me and put some distance on the field. I just concentrated on putting in consistent and fast laps. Joe and Kyle from Banner did a great job setting up the car up all weekend.”

The final 29 laps went smoothly for Tim Lewis, who led the most laps in the race at 46, as he flawlessly drove the #06 Banner Engineering Pontiac GXP.R to the win as he extended his lead to over 8 seconds and held it to 7 or 8 seconds to the checkered flag.

“It seemed like it took five minutes,” Tim Lewis said of his last lap. “I saw the white flag and I just tried to keep it quick and keep it on the track. That was one of the best laps of my life that is for sure.”

Paul Edwards drove hard to get his #07Banner Engineering Pontiac GXP.R up behind Wolf Henzler, who had lost 2nd to Farnbacher, but Paul couldn’t find a way past Wolf’s Porsche on the final laps settling for a hard fought 4th place finish.

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