MONTEREY, CA (May 17) – A stop-and-go penalty for jumping a restart was very costly to Porsche works driver Timo Bernhard (Germany) and his Penske Porsche Riley teammate Romain Dumas (France) Sunday during the Verizon Wireless Festival of Speed, the fourth race of the 2009 Rolex Grand-Am Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16.
Running a strong third, Bernhard was penalized for jumping the restart on lap 77. He was just 0.819 seconds behind leader Scott Pruett at the time, and after making his penalty pit stop, he fell to seventh place, 14 seconds behind with just 33 minutes left in the 2 hour, 45 minute race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
The Penske team wound up finishing sixth, 13.3 seconds behind the winning Pontiac Riley of Jon Fogarty (Bend, OR) and Alex Gurney (Irvine, CA). The #58 Brumos Porsche Riley entry of Darren Law (Phoenix, AZ) and David Donohue (Malvern, PA) finished eighth, the last car on the lead lap, and lost their Daytona Prototype driver’s championship points lead. The #59 Brumos Porsche Riley of JC France (Ormond Beach, FL) and Joao Barbosa (Portugal) lost 10 laps making repairs to a broken suspension and finished 25th overall and 14th in DP.
While the Daytona Prototype teams were disappointed, the Rolex GT entry of Leh Keen (Charleston, SC) and Dirk Werner (Germany) recorded the 245th podium finish for Porsche in Rolex Grand-Am GT competition. They drove their #87 Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup entry to a third-place GT finish. Porsche has earned nearly three times as many GT podium finishes of any other manufacturer. Spencer Pumpelly/Ted Ballou finished fourth in their TRG Porsche 911 GT3 Cup, enabling Pumpelly to retain the GT championship lead by a single point over Keen/Werner.
But the tale of the day was in Daytona Prototype competition.
“We definitely had the car to win today,” Bernhard said. “On the restart I accelerated with everybody else, and then the guy ahead of me braked again. When I saw the green flag, I went to the left and everybody was braking – ‘Oh, what happened?’. I was afraid to hit my brakes because everybody went with me and they would have hit me. In the end it was a problem (penalty) so I came in for the stop-and- go. Afterwards, I made up two positions, but the 60 car blocked me big time, which is not nice when you are racing so hard to win.”
Indeed, it was a disappointing end to such a promising race. Dumas had qualified fifth, and a clean start earned him a position on the first lap. He ran strong with lead pack, and then made his mandatory first pit stop on lap 5 (all teams are required to pit within the first 45 minutes). Dumas got a splash of fuel and rejoined the in 12th place.
The race’s first of only four cautions on lap 9 allowed Dumas to move closer to the leaders and when the green flag waved again, Dumas was one of the fastest cars on the 2.238-mile road course. By lap 21, he was third and moved into second on lap 27.
Dumas ran second from lap 27 to lap 61, passing the halfway point of the race. When the leading Lexus Riley of Memo Rojas (Mexico) pitted, Dumas lead, but only for one lap, lap 62.
Dumas immediately pitted, turning the car over to Bernhard, who rejoined in third, 11 seconds back. A few laps later, the yellow flag came out, and the ensuing penalty proved too costly for the Penske team to overcome. They will have to wait three weeks for another chance at their first Rolex Grand-Am victory, the Sahlen’s Six Hours at the Glen, June 4-6 at Watkins Glen, NY.
"I had a good long stint to start the race, and the car was working very good,” Dumas said. “But with the rule changes, I was losing a lot on the straights. The (100) RPM loss (rule change) hurt us more than the (reinstatement) of sixth gear helped us. When I turned the car over to Timo, we were hopeful of a podium, maybe a win. The penalty ended our hopes."
Rolex 24 at Daytona winners Donohue and Law lost their Daytona Prototype driver’s championship points lead, falling eight points behind race winners Fogarty and Gurney after four races.
"We are very disappointed,” Donohue said. “We can't get the set-up right. We gotta get to work. We spent a lot of time testing at Daytona, which is a unique place. It seems what we learned at Daytona doesn't apply to other tracks. We have two weeks before the next race to think, research and work on solutions that will make our Porsche more competitive."
Rolex Grand-Am Daytona Prototype Driver’s Points (Unofficial)
- 119 – Jon Fogarty, Alex Gurney
- 111—David Donohue, Darren Law
- 108 – Burt Fisselle, Angelelli
- 105 – Scott Pruett, Memo Rojas
- 104 – Romain Dumas, Timo Bernhard
Rolex Grand-Am GT Driver’s Points (Unofficial)
- 117 – Spencer Pumpelly
- 116 – Leh Keen, Dirk Werner
Porsche Motorsport Results at the Verizon Wireless 250 Rolex Grand-Am
Porsche Leads Rolex Grand-Am after Two Races
Porsche's Recipe for Success in Grand-Am
Daytona Diary, Behind the Scenes at Rolex 24