Len Keen (Charleston, SC) and Dirk Werner (Germany) drove the #87 Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche 911 GT3 Cup to a runner-up finish in the Crown Royal 200 at Watkins Glen (NY) International Raceway Friday, but Porsche factory drivers Timo Bernhard (Germany) and Romain Dumas (France) were literally deflated five minutes from the finish and dropped from a DP podium to a misleading 13th place.
With just three races remaining in the 2009 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 season, Keen and Werner now have a 31-point lead in the Acxiom GT driver’s championship standings. That is almost a full race’s worth of points (35 points are awarded to the winners).
“"It was a crazy race, but it was a lot of fun for the fans,"” Keen said. “"There was a lot of action out there and bad things could have happened to us at any time. Dirk (Werner) was just awesome at the end. We finished second and we inreased our points lead, so it was a great day."
Keen started from the pole, led the first 22 laps and drove for an hour and 15 minutes of the two-hour race on the fast 2.25-mile, 11-turn Watkins Glen short course before turning the Porsche over to Werner. Following the pit stop, Werner was fourth, but began a furious charge. Werner turned in his fastest lap of the race five minutes from the finish and wound up finishing just 0.794 seconds behind the winning Mazda.
“"I'’m disappointed,”" Werner said. “"The (lapped) cars between me and the #69 car Mazda had nothing to do with the race, but they kept blocking me every time I was ready to make a move. I had to overtake them before I could try to overtake 69. I never got close enough to make a move on him."
“"Our car was fast all day – it was just awesome. Our goal was to protect our points lead and we wound up almost winning and adding to the points lead. That is a very good result,”" he said.
The Penske Porsche factory drivers were a lot more disappointed than Werner. Dumas was running a strong third with less than five minutes remaining when he suffered a flat right front tire that slowed him down and forced him to the pits and dropped him to 13th in the final standings.
“"A little unfortunate again,”" Dumas said. “"We have had a couple of races where we were close to a good result and in the end it didn’t work out. It is a pity for the crew, us the drivers and everybody. At the other end, we are trying very hard and it is frustrating to have these things happen. It would have been a heartfelt finish for us, and would have been a really good show for all of us. But it is P 13 for us again and we lose points in the championship. It is not anything we could have done anything about. If a tire goes, a tire goes.”"
It was the second time this season a solid finish has been spoiled by a flat tire for the Penske team. This one, though, really deflated the team’s spirits. Through great strategy in working the yellow flags, Bernhard led for five laps early in the race and the duo ran in the top five all day long.
Dumas had a spirited battle with Scott Pruett (Auburn, CA) for 11 laps late in the race before Pruett pushed his faster Lexus Riley past Dumas en route to a second-place finish that helped him and teammate Memo Rojas (Mexico) take over sole possession of the Daytona Prototype points lead.
“"The tire exploded,”" Dumas said, "“I think I hit a part (debris) laying on the track. It just happened. It exploded."
“"We drove without a clutch the whole race as well, so we had problems. We could have ended with a podium finish and we didn’t,"” he said.
Both Brumos Porsche Rileys finished in the top eight overall. David Donohue (Malvern, PA) and Darren Law (Phoenix, AZ) were sixth in the #58 entry and JC France (Ormond Beach, FL) and Joao Barbosa (Portugal) finished eighth in the #59 Brumos car despite starting from pit lane after the crew repaired a leaking overflow valve on the gearbox cooler.
"“That was a rough race for us but we got a pretty good finish anyway, so we’ll take it and be happy,”" Law said. “"For a while it looked like we finish much lower, but circumstances went our way at the end and we moved up. It was a positive finish, and we can take confidence from it."
The newest Porsche team was also disappointed. Driving the #48 Miller Barrett Racing Porsche 911 GT3 car, Kevin Roush (Upland, CA) even led three laps before his 2006 Porsche was tagged by a Daytona prototype and slammed into the guardrail. Roush and Bryce Miller (Summit, NJ) would up 15th in the GT standings.
Justin Marks/Andy Lally were the top-finishing drivers in the three-team TRG Porsche effort, finishing sixth.