Sunday
Jun102007

GRAND AM NEWS: TRG Wins Watkins Glen, Team takes Two fo Three Recent Events

Photo by John Thawley In GT action, Andy Lally and RJ Valentine welcomed Spencer Pumpelly to the No. 66 TRG GRC/Maxter Porsche GT3 and the team scored its second victory in three races. Lally passed No. 81 Synergy Racing EMC Mechanical/Gamewell Mechanical Porsche GT3 co-driver Richard Westbrook 23 laps from the end and beat Dirk Werner and the No. 87 Farnbacher Loles Motorsports Marquis Jet/IPC Porsche GT3 by 2.721 seconds. Lally drove two stints, and took over from Pumpelly during the final third of the race.

"It was absolutely wild out there; the GT class has just gotten so strong,” Lally said. “During the last few laps I was alongside two of the best Porsche drivers out there, passing Richard (Westbrook), who is a super driver, and then had Dirk (Werner) come up on me and battle until the very end. I grew up in New York so winning here and having my family watching really means a lot to me."

For Valentine, it was a fitting start to his weekend.

"I'm so happy about this win,” Valentine said. “Next to the Rolex 24 At Daytona, winning the six-hour is a major accomplishment. My teammates are priceless, and I couldn't have done this without them. Tomorrow is my 63rd birthday and God gave me the best birthday present today."

Pumpelly scored his first Rolex Sports Car Series class victory of 2007 after winning at Laguna Seca in KONI Challenge action.

"At one point I was trying to pass Bryce Miller and he ran me into the grass,” Pumpelly said. “I ended up losing six spots, but the car was so good that I was actually able to drive back through the field on the next lap. This was a great win. I love this track, I love these people. Thanks to TRG and (car owner) Kevin Buckler; he puts together a great team that really made today's win."

Werner, who assumed the point lead by 14 over Kelly Collins and Paul Edwards (207-193), combined with co-drivers Miller and Craig Stanton to lead 68 laps in the car. Werner filled Lally’s mirrors for a few laps before Lally pulled away. It was the sixth time this season a Farnbacher Loles Motorsports car has led the most laps of a race in 2007.

“I feel pretty good,” Werner said. “Before we stopped the last time, we were in seventh place, I think. I’m very confident with the result. We struggled a little bit during the race with the (setup) of the car. In the end, everything went fine. The (winning) TRG car was pretty fast and I couldn’t catch him because I was missing the aero. I think it’s a good result for us for the championship. If we work together like this in the future, then we can make the championship.”

Miller led a race-high 32 laps in GT competition, and drove two stints before handing the car over to Werner during the waning laps.

No. 07 Banner Racing/Banner Engineering Pontiac GXP.R co-drivers Collins and Edwards earned their third podium finish of the season after an eventful day. Edwards started the car, and made contact with Emil Assentato's No. 69 SpeedSource Mazda RX-8 in Turn 11 midway through the race, forcing a stop-and-go penalty. The team also suffered battery problems which caused the car to fall two laps behind.

“Well it was a great finish after all we went through,” Collins said. “The Banner crew did a great job to get the batteries changed and keep us out on the track. That and some excellent strategy to make up the two laps had our guys working hard in the pits all day. Paul ran some fast laps, setting fastest race lap in the last hour. Third is not bad for the tough luck that we had today.”

Fourth-place finishers were Westbrook and co-driver Steve Johnson in the No. 81 Porsche GT3, while GT Rolex 24 At Daytona co-winners Jean-Francois Dumoulin and Carlos de Quesada and Floridian Scooter Gabel earned fifth.

The Rolex Sports Car Series continues its season June 22-24 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio.

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