Photo by John Thawley DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 22, 2007) After completing Round 5 of their 13-race 2007 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve GT schedule last Saturday at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, the teams and drivers loaded up and headed east for Mondays Round 6, the Grand-Am GT Classic at Lime Rock Park (SPEED, 3:00 p.m. ET).
While much was made of the Rolex Series Daytona Prototype class celebrating its fifth different winner in five races this season, the GT class saw its fourth different winner in five races in last Saturdays U.S. Sports Car Invitational delivered by Luggage Express when Andy Lally and RJ Valentine co-drove their No. 66 TRG Porsche GT3 to the victory over No. 87 Farnbacher Loles Motorsports Porsche GT3 co-drivers Bryce Miller and Dirk Werner.
The victory for Lally and Valentine gives the duo some momentum heading to something of a hometown event for each driver. Lally is a native of Northport, N.Y. on Long Island, while Valentine hails from Hingham, Mass. and both would love nothing more than to score a second consecutive victory at Lime Rock Park. Lally also enters the race as its defending champion, taking the victory with then-co-driver Marc Bunting last year en route to the 2006 Rolex Series GT co-championship.
Miller and Werner, meanwhile, head to Lime Rock riding a two-race podium streak which includes their first career Rolex Series GT victory in the VIR 400 last month and a second-place performance last weekend at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Werner currently finds himself just 12 points in arrears of GT points co-leaders Sylvain Tremblay and Nick Ham, 152-140, while Miller is ranked sixth in the GT championship with 128 points.
No. 70 SpeedSource Mazda RX-8 co-drivers Tremblay and Ham are the only team to have more than one GT victory this season, taking back-to-back triumphs in the March events at Mexico City and Homestead-Miami Speedway. Those victories and a second-place run in the VIR 400 vaulted Tremblay and Ham to a healthy lead in the GT driver standings, but a seventh-place performance at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca allowed Werner to make up some ground in the championship. Nevertheless, Tremblay and Ham have been consistently fast everywhere this season and a return trip to Victory Lane at Lime Rock Park is a strong possibility.
Also not to be overlooked are No. 22 Alegra Motorsports Porsche GT3 co-drivers Jean-Francois Dumoulin and Carlos de Quesada, who claimed the GT class victory in the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona. Dumoulin and de Quesada have finished inside the top 12 class positions in all five races this season.
Among those who havent yet won and could break through this weekend are the No. 85 Farnbacher Loles Motorsports Porsche GT3 pairing of Dominik Farnbacher and Leh Keen. The No. 85 co-drivers have been just as fastand sometimes fasterthan teammates Miller and Werner in the No. 87 machine, and were poised to make it a 1-2 finish for the team in the VIR 400 before an off-course excursion damaged Farnbachers radiator in the closing stages of the race.
No. 07 Banner Racing Pontiac GXP.R co-drivers Paul Edwards and Kelly Collins are also constant threats to win any Rolex Series GT race and Lime Rock Park should be no exception. Edwards and Collins are part of a two-car Banner Racing program that also includes the No. 06 Pontiac GXP.R for Tim Lewis Jr. and team owner/driver Leighton Reese.
In addition to the No. 66, No. 87, No. 85 and No. 22 teams, strong Porsche entries can also be found in the hands of Doncaster Racing, Tafel Racing, At Speed Motorsports and Synergy Racing, as well as another entry from TRG. Co-driving the No. 17 Doncaster Racing Porsche GT3 will be Greg and Mark Wilkins. Greg Wilkins has finished inside the top-nine class positions in four of the first five races, while his son, Mark, has competed in every Daytona Prototype race this season with AIM Autosport and is making his first GT class appearance of the season this weekend.
Tafel Racing will field the No. 72 Porsche GT3 for co-drivers Nathan Swartzbaugh and Andrew Davis, and the No. 74 Porsche GT3 for 19-year-old Eric Lux and multiple-time GT race winner Wolf Henzler. At Speed Motorsports is fielding the No. 28 Porsche GT3 for Bob Miller and 2006 Rolex 24 At Daytona GT winner Ian Baas, while Synergy Racing will have former NFL tight end Steve Johnson and a to-be-named co-driver in its No. 81 Porsche GT3. Mark Greenberg and Spencer Pumpelly complete a strong, two-car entry for TRG in the No. 67 Porsche GT3.
Filling out an impressive, 22-car GT field will be Tom Nastasi and Alex Tagliani in the No. 15 Blackforest Motorsports Ford Mustang Cobra GT, James Gue and Mark Pavan in the No. 30 Racers Edge Motorsports Pontiac GXP.R, the No. 35 Playboy Racing/Unitech Nissan 350Z with entered drivers Tommy Constantine, David Murry and Mike Borkowski, the No. 36 Competition Marketing Motorsports Pontiac GTO of Nick DiMeo, Peter Doane and Manny Matz, a pair of Pontiac GTOs and a Chevrolet Corvette from Team Sahlen to be shared between Joe Sahlen and Joe, Will and Wayne Nonnamaker, the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Chevrolet Corvette of Bunting and Dominic Cicero II, and the No. 69 SpeedSource Mazda RX-8 of Nick Longhi and Emil Assentato.
The race weekend festivities get underway on Friday with Rolex Series GT practice, with practice and qualifying slated for Saturday. The green flag will drop on the Grand-Am GT Classic at Lime Rock Park at 1:45 p.m. ET on Monday afternoon.
SPEED will provide television coverage of the Grand-Am GT Classic at Lime Rock Park on a slight tape delay with coverage set to air beginning at 3:00 p.m. ET on Monday. Live coverage from throughout the weekend, including audio webcasts and Live Timing & Scoring is also available on the official web site of Grand-Am, www.grand-am.com.