Grand-Am "storms" the Motor City on Continental tires
For the first time, the Grand-Am Series visited Raceway at Belle Isle Park for the fifth installment of Rolex Series action. Friday met teams with dark skies and plenty of rain forcing teams to make their first laps around the track on Continental rain tires. The rain let up just prior to qualifying allowing teams to move to slicks for the duration of the weekend and providing some door-to-door action that kept everyone on the edge of their seats. It was the Action Express team, with Joao Barbosa behind the wheel, who put their machine in the Daytona Prototype (DP) winners circle. Meanwhile, Jordan Taylor racked up a Grand Touring (GT) win for the No. 88 Autohaus Camaro GT.R before dashing off to LeMans.
The sun shined on the 2.1-mile street circuit Saturday but there was impending rain to come in victory lane. Following his pole-winning run on Friday, Jon Fogarty immediately jumped into the lead in the No. 99 Gainsco Corvette. At one point Fogarty relinquished the lead to the No. 10 SunTrust team and it looked as if the duo of Ricky Taylor and Max Angelelli might three-peat but at the half-way point, while exiting pit road, Taylor clipped the wall with the left front of the No. 10 Corvette ending their day early. The Action Express teams marched on to the front of the field and it was Barbosa who led 21 laps on his way to a victory after a strong first stint by new co-driver Darren Law. In a 72 lap race, Barbosa posted his fastest lap on lap 46. Even with changing track conditions, Barbosa applauded Continental Tire in a post-race press conference for a tire that performed to his liking.
"I had to push to make up some time," said Barbosa. "We had a great car and the tires we had were really good for the car we had and tires were no issue at all. Even with some incidents and a lot of debris on the track we had no issues at all, it was a good tire to drive on this weekend."
The GT Class had no shortage of drama over the course of the two-day event. In the No. 03 ExtremeSpeed Motorsports Patron Ferrari 458 Italia, Guy Cosmo posted his first career Grand-Am pole and had nothing but praise for the newest Continental GT tire configuration saying, "The Continental tires were great." He continued, "We haven't done all of the races this season thus far so we're still kind of learning our way around it but I'm sure John (Edwards) can attest to how well they've been and how durable they've been throughout the races."
Cosmo immediately took the lead in GT but he would not be able to hold on for the win. At about the half-way point, Taylor put the No. 88 Autohaus Motorsports Camaro GT.R in the lead and never looked back. The Florida-resident and his co-driver, Paul Edwards, posted some of their fastest lap times late in the race and prior to darting off to the famed Le Mans, Taylor claimed the team's first win of the 2012 season. Following the race, on his way to a plane, Taylor commented on the progress of the new Continental Tire GT tire configuration.
"Autohaus tested for the first time at the NOLA test and then New Jersey was our first race." Taylor continued, "I think we've been gaining on it each time we go out, trying to improve on it. I think I was doing some of my quickest laps at the end of the race where last year, we were kind of struggling to do that. So I think it's very promising for the rest of this year on the GT-R (tire configuration) tire."
Grand-Am returns to the track next week at Mid-Ohio June 8-10. Speed will carry the Rolex Series race live on June 9 at 4:30 p.m. ET. MRN will also broadcast the race live on radio and at www.motorracingnetwork.com. The Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge Series race can be seen tape delayed on Speed on June 17 at 12:00 noon ET.