April 19, 2008

Who Says Lightning Doesn’t Strike Twice?
After Getting Taken Out at Homestead, SunTrust Pontiac Spun From Behind
For Second Straight Early Race Setback at Rolex Series Mexico City 250

Date: April 19, 2008
Event: Mexico City 250 (Round 3 of 14)
Series: Daytona Prototype division of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series
Location: Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, Mexico City (2.5-mile, 14-turn road course)
Start/Finish: 6th/18th (Accident, completed 43 of 100 laps)
Winner: Marc Goosens and Jim Matthews of Bob Stallings/Riley-Matthews Racing

For the second time in as many Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series races, the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Dallara of Wayne Taylor Racing was spun from behind by another competitor in the early going. But this time, during Saturday’s Mexico City 250 at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in downtown Mexico City, a lap-44 incident put Max Angelelli and the SunTrust Racing machine out for good and left the team with an 18th-place finish.

Angelelli and the SunTrust team had just pulled off a stellar pit stop under caution on lap 40 and rejoined the field in fourth place, behind three competitors who did not pit – the No. 58 Brumos Porsche, the No. 7 SAMAX BMW, and the No. 77 Doran Racing Ford Dallara. Shortly after the lap-43 restart, Memo Gidley in the No. 77 easily got by Matt Plumb in the No. 7 for second place. Before the end of the restart lap, Angelelli, too, worked his way past Plumb on the outside as the two drove through the fast, sweeping right-hand horseshoe turn leading to the front straightaway. Angelelli appeared to have completed the pass before contact was made and the two cars were sent spinning into the outside retaining wall. Neither driver was injured, but the SunTrust Racing machine sustained considerable rear-end damage and retired.

“I was in front of him, completely overtaking him by the middle of the corner,” Angelelli said. “I moved over to take the racing line and he hit me in the back. What can I say? He hit me in the back. I was by him. He should have given up (the position).”

Today’s 18th-place finish, on the heels of its 14th-place finish three weekends ago at Homestead, Fla., dropped the SunTrust Racing team to 11th in the Rolex Series standings, 46 points behind the series-leading No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates team, which won the opening two events of the season and finished second today. The No. 91 Pontiac Riley of Marc Goosens and Jim Matthews won today’s 100-lap event over the 2.5-mile, 14-turn legendary Formula 1 circuit to move into second in the standings, 16 points behind the Ganassi team. Nic Jonsson and Ricardo Zonta finished third in the No. 76 Krohn Racing Ford.

“It’s a shame because the SunTrust car had been really good all weekend long,” said Valiante, who qualified sixth this weekend after qualifying second at Homestead in the celebrated debut of the new Dallara chassis, and then led 20 of the first 42 laps before being taken out from behind by the No. 58 Brumos Porsche. “I think the car’s strength this weekend was over the long runs and not just its sheer speed. It was just the opposite at Homestead, so I think on the positive side we have a very versatile car in the new Dallara. We can only look ahead for better days.”

“I don’t want to talk about the point standings,” said team owner Wayne Taylor. “As far as I see it, we just need to go to every race and try to win every race. What can I say? I’m disappointed about what happened today. The team was incredible. We came in fourth for our last pit stop and we beat the 99 and the 01 out of the pits, along with a couple of others potential race-winners. Everything, strategy-wise, was set for the rest of the race. Somebody ran into Michael at the last race. Now, to be taken out two races in a row, that hurts. Today, Max was clearly by him (Plumb in the No. 7). If you look at the damage and where he hit Max, I mean, what is he doing? I think it was a shame. I feel bad for the team. The worst part is we’ve got to be ready for VIR (Virginia International Raceway) next week and we’ve got a pretty damaged race car. I have no doubt we’ll go to VIR and be competitive again. But this is a massive setback and it’s really disappointing to be taken out again.”

Next up for the Rolex Series competitors is next Sunday’s Bosch Engineering 250 at VIR in Alton, Va., where SunTrust Racing has won two of the past four events, including last year’s victory by Angelelli and co-driver Jan Magnussen.


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