In this weekend's Grand Prix of Miami Porsche scored the Acxiom GT Team Championship and the Rolex Grand-Am GT Manufacturer’s title while Leh Keen (Charleston, SC) and Dirk Werner (Germany) drove the #87 Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup to clinch the Acxiom GT Drivers Championship and complete the "Hat Trick". Meanwhile, Hurley Haywood stepped out of his psuedo retirement and onto the podium helping Brumos to "bookend" the season with wins at the first race of the season (Daytona) and the last race (today at Miami). Full story below.
The Brumos Porsche Riley scored a stunning bookend victory in the Grand Prix of Miami and Leh Keen (Charleston, SC) and Dirk Werner (Germany) led the #87 Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup team to a clean sweep of the three Acxiom GT class championships in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway Saturday.
Joao Barbosa (Portugal) made a strong pass on the backstretch banking with less than 28 minutes remaining in the 2 hour, 30 minute race, drafting his #59 Brumos Porsche Riley into the lead over Scott Pruett’s Lexus Riley. And even though the race ended under caution, Barbosa was never seriously threatened for the lead and claimed his first Daytona Prototype victory.
His teammate was the legendary Hurley Haywood (Ponte Vedra Beach, FL), a last-minute addition to the driver lineup. Haywood qualified and started the race, pitting after 40 minutes and turning over the Brumos Porsche to Barbosa in 11th place.
“I am so excited,” Barbosa said. “I did not think in the beginning we had a car to win. The crew made the car better on every pit stop and suddenly I am in position to pass for the lead. When I went by him (Scott Pruett), I was so happy I could cry. To be competitive, to be in position to win a race is a great feeling. And to win it, is the happiest a driver can be.”
“This is a testament to the Brumos legacy,” Haywood said. “To go through the emotions this team has gone through this week, and to put an old guy in the car with hardly any practice time, to have Joao bring the car home in the dramatic fashion he did, well, that is Brumos. This victory means so much to this team. To open with a victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona, then to struggle most of the year, and to win – and I don’t think anybody thought we could win today – well, it’s just overwhelming.”
The victory helped Porsche improve one position to runner-up to Ford in the Grand-Am Rolex Daytona Prototype Manufacturer championship standings.
Keen and Werner entered the final race with a solid 30-point lead in the Acxiom GT driver’s championships, and each driver needed only to complete the mandatory 30-minute stint to clinch the title. It is Keen’s first and Werner’s second GT championship in the last three years.
The #87 Farnbacher Loles Porsche 911 GT3 Cup also won the Acxiom GT Team Championship and helped Porsche clinch the Rolex Grand-Am GT Manufacturer’s title. Keen and Werner were the top finishing Porsche GT teams in nine of the 12 GT races this year. TRG fielded the top finishing GT Porsche in three events.
“To be honest, I was pretty nervous before I got in the car because you never know what’s going to happen,” said Werner, who finished third in GT. “There was aggressive racing out there, some contact with DPs even. It was not easy just to drive 30 minutes. You had to be 100 percent concentrated. Once I had my 30 minutes in, I raced a little harder. I wanted to win to bring the championship home in style.
“Leh has been a great teammate. He has matured as a driver and has become a really good friend. This was only possible with the team we had. The result makes everybody happy. Me too!” “My stint was uneventful,” Keen said. “The front running guys got a gap on me and I didn’t want to try and chase them as I did not want anything to happen to the car and take away the championship. I just wanted to drive 30 minutes and give Dirk the car at 100 percent. I want to thank my crew for giving me a great car for every race. This is the happiest I’ve ever been in my career. We won races. We earned this championship, and that makes all of us very proud.”
Brumos opened the 2009 season with a victory by the #58 sister car driven by Darren Law (Phoenix, AZ) and David Donohue (Malvern, PA) in the prestigious Rolex 24 at Daytona.
“We got the bookends!,” Law said. “Brumos wins the first and last races of the season. Throw out all the stuff in the middle like an Oreo cookie. We got the bookends and that will carry us through the off-season and we come back to Daytona as defending champions. I am really happy for Joao. He has worked so hard all year and today he proved what a great driver he is. I am really happy for him and Hurley and the entire Brumos team.”
Donohue was running third late in the race when he went off at turn 8, falling to a fifth place. That was just after a restart, a critical moment in the race that proved to be the undoing of the #12 Verizon Wireless Penske Porsche Riley of Timo Bernard (Germany) and Romain Dumas (France). Bernhard was penalized for jumping the restart, and had to pit for a stop-and-go penalty.
“I was penalized for moving to the left to avoid another car,” Bernhard said. ““Well, that does it. A fitting end to a season hopefully we will quickly forget. What disappointment! We had a good car today and once again Romain leads and then get another penalty. We never had a chance to win this year. They changed the rules on us so many times, it took a long time for the Penske crew to learn the car, and for the drivers to learn what the car could do that it kept us from the podium. We are unhappy at not winning. We race to win, and we have won everywhere we’ve raced.”
Dumas qualified third and ran strong early, even leading six laps before turning the car over to Bernhard in fourth place. Bernhard got as high as sixth before the fateful penalty that dropped him to 11th.
Bernhard and Dumas finished fourth in the Daytona Prototype drivers standings but despite their glorious history – two American Le Mans Series LMP2 championships and 23 international sports car victories together – they were classified as rookies in Grand-Am competition and were declared Rookies of the Year.
Spencer Pumpelly (Suwanee, GA) was classified as fourth and 12th in GT competition. He started the race in the #66 TRG Porsche 911 GT3 and turned it over to Andy Lally (Dacula, GA). Unfortunately, Lally was driving when the car got hit and heavily damaged in pit lane. John Potter (Salt Lake City, UT) started the #65 TRG Porsche 911 GT3 Cup and Pumpelly relieved him and brought home #65 in fourth place, just missing the podium.
The newest Porsche Motorsports customer team, the #48 Marquis Jet Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, was having a great race when it suddenly ended when Bryce Miller (Summit, NJ) got caught in somebody else’s wreck and retired with heavy damage. Kevin Roush (Upland, CA) started and was running as high as second.
"The team did a great job with the pitstops – there were positions gained and that was a nice luxury,” Miller said. “The pit strategy was very good and I think we found the right pressures on the tires for the very last set that we took on. We were one of only two cars that had new tires from the last pitstop. It's just unfortunate to come so close to a top finish – absolutely, my feeling is that we would have had a podium. We had the tires to fight for the position at the end and the car was very good. So it's upsetting not to get the results, but the team deserves a huge pat on the back. It was a big, big step forward and we made lots of progress. I think there's a lot to be proud of to take into next season."
Unofficial Final Grand-Am Points
1st 337 Jon Fogarty & Alex Gurney
2nd 331 Scott Pruett & Memo Rojas
3rd 322 Brian Frisselle & Max Angelelli
4th 296 Timo Bernhard & Romain Dumas
1st 386 Ford
2nd 344 Porsche
3rd 343 Pontiac
1st 337 #99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Pontiac Riley
2nd 331 #01 TELMEX/Chip Ganassi Lexus Riley
3rd 322 #10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley
4th 296 #12 Verizon Wireless Penske Porsche Riley
5th 276 #6 Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley
6th 283 #59 Brumos Porsche Riley
7th 282 #58 Brumos Porsche Riley
8th 282 #61 AIM Autosport Ford Riley
1st 359 Leh Keen & Dirk Werner
2nd 334 Kelly Collins
3rd 317 Andrew Davis
4th 308 Paul Edwards
5th 301 Sylvan Tremblay, Nick Ham
6th 295 Andy Lally
1st 359 #87 Farnbacher Loles Porsche 911 GT3 Cup
2nd 332 #57 Stevenson Pontiac GXP.R
3rd 334 #07 Drinkin’ Mate Pontiac GXP.R
4th 316 #66 TRG Porsche 911 GT3 Cup
1st 390 Porsche
2nd 367 Pontiac
3rd 357 Mazda
Here's the 2010 Grand-Am weekend schedule, which was announced yesterday. Note that actual race day in some instances have not been finalized, depending on TV and other races on those weekends:
Jan. 9-10 Testing at Daytona
Jan. 30-31 Rolex 24 at Daytona
March 6-7 Homestead-Miami
April 9-10 Barber Motorsports Park (Saturday race, IndyCar Sunday)
April 24-25 Virginia International Raceway
May 28-31 Lime Rock (KONI on Saturday, Grand-Am load in paddock Sunday, Grand-Am practice, qualifying and race on Monday)
June 5-6 Watkins Glen
June 19-20 Mid-Ohio
July 2-3 Daytona (Friday practice, Saturday race)
July 17-18 New Jersey Motorsports Park
Aug 6-7 Watkins Glen (Saturday race, with NASCAR)
Aug 28-29 Montreal
Sept 11-12 Miller Motorsports Park