Points Leaders Dominate Road Atlanta Race

Pruett and Rojas dominated the race to protect their points lead (Photo Credit: Grand-Am)

Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates pairing Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas turned out to comfortable winners on the Rolex Series’ first race at Road Atlanta, the reigning series champions taking the victory by 17 seconds at the end of the two hour, 45 minute race.

Just as in the previous round of the championship at Barber Motorsports Park the race was slowed by only a single caution – caused, as it was a Barber, by Turner Motorsports’ BMW stopped by the side of the track. However, coming only a few laps in the race the caution flag did little to decide the outcome of the race, with the leading Daytona Prototype teams remaining on a three-stop strategy.

Having been handed pole position after rain forced the cancellation of qualifying the previous day Rojas put the #01 BMW-Riley into a lead that would the last the first 32 laps until, nearly an hour into the race the Mexican became one of the first to pit for the first time, with teammate Scott Pruett taking over the car at the first opportunity.

Jordan Taylor, Jon Fogarty and Burt Frisselle followed Rojas into the lead, then into the pits for Wayne Taylor Racing, GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing and Action Express Racing, Frisselle the final man to pit, with Pruett taking the lead of the race.

The pattern was to be repeated on the second cycle of stops, the Ganassi squad again one of the first to be called into action with the lead passing between the same four teams, though with different drivers – Max Angelelli and Brian Frisselle – taking the point for WTR and in Action Express Racing’s #9 entry.

The same sequence of stops, an hour and 45 minutes into the race, cost the #5 Action Express team dearly. In the driver reshuffled that had put the Frisselle brothers together Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi had been paired in the #5 car. Barbosa was running safely in the top three – behind Pruett and Angelelli – before the pit stops began but as he was released from his own stop he pulled directly across the path of the arriving Pedro Lamy – sharing with Stephane Sarrazin in an all-pro line-up for 8Star Motorsports. The contact did little serious damage to 8Star’s Corvette DP but pushed Barbosa into the end of the pit wall, forcing the team to effect lengthy repairs that left the duo well off the pace.

Their place in to top three was taken by the #2 Starworks Motorsport Ford-Riley of Ryan Dalziel and Alex Popow, with Dalziel taking second place following the final tranche of pitstops.

Pruett pulled away, leaving Dalziel to take second with Alex Gurney crossing the line third for Bob Stallings Racing. Antonio Pizzonia was fourth under the checkered flag in the Michael Shank Racing #6 after a contentious pass on Angelelli in the closing laps. The bump wide at turn one pushed Angelelli from fourth – chasing a Gurney on fading tyres – to sixth with Richard Westbrook able to take a position for Spirit of Daytona Racing.

Michael Shank Racing’s #60 and the Frisselle’s #9 completed the top eight car, all the lead lap finishers.

In GT Stevenson Motorsports’ Robin Liddell and John Edwards followed up their class win at Barber with another victory, also hot on the heels of Stevenson’s Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge win earlier in the day.

The pairing had to beat off strong opposition from the Scuderia Corsa Ferrari of Jeff Westphal and Alessandro Balzan. Westphal had quickly taken the lead from John Potter at the start of the race, keeping the lead until he pitted for the second time in the race, with Balzan taking over.

Liddell took the lead, keeping Balzan at bay in the closing laps before a rapid Andy Lally – lapping faster than the leader in the closing laps – sliced from fourth in class up to second. In moving the Park Place Motorsports Porsche into second he pushed Balzan down to third, and bumped Leh Keen from the podium in Brumos Racing’s final planned racing outing this year as they depart to assess options for 2014.

Mazda took their first win in the GX class. The two diesel Mazda 6 in the class combined to lead every lap. Tom Long and Sylvain Tremblay looked likely to get the win in the #70 after leading all but a single mid-pitstop lap of the first 77 but a long stop with mechanical problems handed the win to Joel Long and Andrew Carbonell in the Visit Florida/Speedsource #00.