Sunday
Jun242007

TEAM NEWS: Cincinnati's RJR Racing Group Runs as High as Fourth and Finishes Ninth In Its First Rolex Series Race Ever Sunday at Mid-Ohio

Photo by John Thawley LEXINGTON, Ohio, June 24 - The new team did just fine.

Many new race cars don't do well in their first race, and many new teams have

some growing pains. Neither applied to the RJR Racing Group's first Rolex

Series race ever, however, as team owner/driver Rene Robichaud, lead driver BJ

Zacharias, crew chief John Wright and the rest of the Cincinnati-based team

finished ninth in the Rolex GT race Sunday at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course

after running as high as fourth.

Their brand-new Porsche GT3 Cup No. 96 was sitting under a tarp in a showroom

a month ago, but it ran like a champion Sunday in its first race, which was

televised on SPEED.

Robichaud qualified 18th, got a good start, and immediately dipped into the

pits on lap one to get the mandatory pit stop within the race's first 45

minutes out of the way. Others did the same, and Robichaud was quickly up to 11th

place. He ran consistent laps, kept the car out of any incidents, and he was

in 12th place on lap 22 when he pitted for four Hoosier tires, fuel, and

Zacharias to take over under a full-course yellow when Milton Grant's Porsche came

to a halt along the 2.258-mile road course.

Zacharias began his charge in 19th place on the restart on lap 26 with one

hour and 45 minutes left in the two-and-a-half-hour race. Five laps later he

was in 14th, running between brothers Wayne and Will Nonnamaker, and setting the

team's fastest lap with a 1:26.451 for an average speed of 94.028 miles per

hour.

He was still the meat in the Nonnamaker sandwich by lap 40 but he had

advanced to 12th place by then, and he kept consistently moving up. With an hour and

three minutes left he vaulted to ninth on lap 53 as some of the drivers ahead

of him pitted, and three minutes later he was seventh, running between Wayne

Nonnamaker and Kelly Collins, who was driving the pole-winning Pontiac.

He moved into sixth shortly thereafter, and he got fifth on lap 68 when a

wheel hub broke on the third-place Porsche driven by Ian Baas.

The event's fourth caution flew two laps later when Shawn Price stopped on

the course. The restart on lap 75 didn't go smoothly, and although Zacharias

moved up to fourth, he later received a stop-and-go penalty for allegedly

advancing his position before the green waved. The team contended that he had just

moved over so he wouldn't hit the car ahead of him in the melee, but the

penalty was imposed and effectively cost the team five positions. Zacharias had

drifted back to ninth on the scoreboard by lap 80, and he was still in that spot

when the checkered waved on lap 94.

Throughout his stint Zacharias had several close calls, and the Porsche's

front spoiler cracked when he went off course once to miss a Mazda that spun

right in front of him. He had a nice battle with Dave Lacey for a while too, and

finished right ahead of Lacey's Doncaster Racing Porsche.

The RJR Racing Group plans to compete in the Rolex Series GT race at Barber

Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala., on July 21 too. The race in Alabama will

be covered live on SPEED at 4 p.m. Eastern that day.

The team hopes to find marketing partners in order to do all of the events

next year. Currently the car's livery advertises the RJR Racing Group, the

Motorsports Country Club of Cincinnati and Wright Motorsports.

For more information see rjrracinggroup.com and grand-am.com.

Driver post-race quotes follow:

B.J. Zacharias: "We were up to fourth, but then I got a stop-and-go penalty

because the official said I jumped the start.

"There were lots of incidents; one was with a Mazda and another was with a

Mustang. We had intermittent radio contact too.

"I got the stop-and-go penalty because they said I moved ahead on a restart.

I know I pulled over to the inside, because cars were going everywhere. What

happened was the guy ahead of me brake-checked me; I would have plowed into

him otherwise. It was either move over or hit him, and I thought moving over was

the better choice.

"Rene did great. He was very consistent and gave me a good car for my stint.

He kept it on the lead lap.

"The whole team did really awesome. John made all the right calls on pit

strategy.

"The first part of my stint I just pedaled as hard as I could to move up. We

ran a little more downforce than some of the other cars. They'd pull me down

the straightaways, and then I'd get them in the corners.

"Once when I was going through the gears on a restart a car ahead of me got

on the brakes hard and brake-checked me pretty bad. He gave me little options.

I went wide into that corner on the end of the backstretch and I got a ton

of debris on my tires. It took me three of our laps to get the debris off.

Then I just started chopping wood again.

"I was battling with a Mazda and he spun in front of me. I went to the

outside and then he rolled off the brakes. He was dropping fluid of some kind too.

I went off in the grass to miss him, and that's what ripped up the front

spoiler. That hampered our handling some, but I kept on pedaling away.

"Most of the problems happened on the restarts. Everybody was fighting tire

debris.

"I did my whole stint on one set of tires. It's a top-10. I'll take it."

Rene Robichaud: "It was a top-10 finish for the rookie team after a

questionable call. We got a stop-and-go penalty on the second-to-last restart for

moving out of line on the restart, but we would have hit the car ahead of us if BJ

hadn't moved over. We didn't gain a position, and that call cost us maybe

five positions.

"It was a real battle. BJ drove very well. He missed cars that were spinning

around us. One of those cars cracked our nose, which hurt us. But the whole

team did a great job. You have to remember that this car was in plastic

wrappers a month ago, and today it ran in the top five and finished in the top 10.

I'm very proud of our team."

« GRAND AM NEWS: Lally, Valentine Score Third Rolex Series Grand-Am GT Victory Sunday in EMCO Gears Classic at Mid-Ohio | Main | TEAM NEWS: Mechanical Difficulties Strike Baas While He Was Running Third Sunday in Rolex GT Race at Mid-Ohio »

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.