Photo by John Thawley Angelelli, Cochet Persevere Despite Power Steering Troubles In 400K Sprint That Stays Green from Start to Finish
On a day when passing on the race track was nonexistent at the front of the field, and the entire 400-kilometer race distance was covered without a single caution flag, Max Angelelli and Jonathan Cochet finished where they started in the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley of Wayne Taylor Racing, bringing home a fourth-place finish in Saturday's Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series EMCO Gears Classic at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio.
Angelelli and Cochet persevered despite power-steering problems that made negotiating the numerous tight, twisty corners on the scenic 2.258-mile, 13-turn Mid-Ohio circuit excruciating, at times -- compounded by the fact there were no caution periods to catch their breath.
The polesitting No. 99 Gainsco/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac of Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty ran away from the field from the time the green flag flew and took the checkered flag by more than 30 seconds for its second victory in a row and third in seven events this season.
Behind it, the race within today' race pitted the No. 10 SunTrust car against the No. 01 Telmex Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley of Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas, which started the day leading SunTrust by 12 points in the team championship. Cochet started from the fourth position, one spot ahead of Rojas in the Ganassi car, and kept him there until the first pit stop of the day on Lap 31. Angelelli replaced Cochet and was back in fourth place, with Pruett in the Ganassi car one spot behind, when the field completed its round of stops. Gurney led in the No. 99, followed by Harrison Brix, who replaced Christian Fittipaldi in the No. 39 Cheever Racing Porsche, and the No. 58 Red Bull/Brumos Porsche with David Donohue driving in third. Brix quickly dropped out of the top-five at the outset of his stint, allowing Donohue, Angelelli and Pruett to slide up to second, third and fourth, respectively.
The defining moment in the race within the race came on the final fuel-and-tire stop of the day, which the SunTrust team executed seemingly to perfection on Lap 77. Pruett made his stop one lap later and was able to get back on track just ahead of Angelelli as the Italian was completing his out lap. As Gurney stretched his lead from 25 to 30 seconds in the final 24 laps, Angelelli was at the tail end of what appeared to be shaping up to be a wild, four-car battle for second through fifth with Donohue in second, Pruett in third, Colin Braun in fourth in the No. 75 Krohn Racing Pontiac, just ahead of him. The duel never materialized, but the latter three all moved up a spot one lap from the finish when Donohue had to make a final stop for a splash of fuel.
SunTrust now trails Ganassi by 16 points in the team championship (212-196). Angelelli is now 11 points behind Pruett (212-201) in the driver championship. The Gainsco team is third in the team championship with 185 points.
"The power steering definitely was my issue today," Angelelli said. "When I got in the car, after I think three or four laps, I lost the power steering in the slow corners. It was tough. It was difficult. We don't understand what happened on the (final) pit stop (exchange with the 01 car). It's a shame. What can I say? We were ahead of the 01 and we finished behind them. For some reason, it didn't work out in our favor. We have to figure out why and we have to fix it."
"As far as our result is concerned, it's pretty disappointing," said team owner Wayne Taylor. "The guys worked really, really hard. We didn't do anything wrong. We just didn't come up with anything. The race was really a boring race. It came down to that last stop. We'll have to go back and look through everything and see what happened. Finishing behind the 01 car was not good. We lost another four points in the championship. But we're only halfway through the season. We've got a good group here. We've got to get back into this, and we will. We've got to figure out how to get quicker. We have the team, the support, the drivers, the minds and the mindset to get it done."
"Starting the race for me was pretty good," said Cochet, who first joined the SunTrust team two weekends ago for a podium finish at Watkins Glen. "I had to get a few laps to get the tires under good pressure. After that, I was able to do good lap times and catch up to the 58. The car was getting pretty good, although I started to develop the same power steering problems Max had. It was hard in the car. Max had to do two difficult stints. I watched our final pit stop and didn't notice anything that cost us time. We have to go away and analyze what happened. It was very close out on the track. With no GTs out there with us, this is a great circuit but if all the cars are the same, it is very difficult to pass without the GTs. Overall though, from my point of view, I was quite happy."