Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Team Cobalt Wins Nail-Biter in Front of 600 GM Friends

By Dave Arnold, Arnold Communications

Andy Lally and Jamie Holtom worked their magic in the heavy traffic of a 73-car field of race cars to drive the Georgia Bay Motorsports 2005 Chevrolet Cobalt SS Supercharged car to another Grand-Am Cup series win at the famed Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course Sunday.

As happy as Andy and co-driver Jamie Holtom were to take the lead with only three laps remaining in the 2 ½-hour race, even more enthused were the more than 600 members of UAW Locals 1112 and 1714, who got to see Lally’s winning pass unfold in front of them.

Chevrolet Cobalts are built by UAW workers at the General Motors assembly plant in Lordstown, Ohio.

“This has been a great experience for us,” said Local 1714 President Jim Kaster. “We’re going to follow these guys to the season finale at Virginia International Raceway.”

“It was all about managing traffic,” Lally said. “At Mid-Ohio, you don’t race the track, you race traffic. Maybe I could have made the pass sooner but Don (Salama) got boxed-in by a slow car, and I was able to slip by him.

“This race week has been a pressure cooker for me because the Cobalt is built so close by, and we have all these people coming out to watch us do well.”

“The Cobalt engine has great torque and the brakes were something Andy and I could count on for the entire race,” added Jamie Holtom, who will turn 18 on Sept. 30. This is his second win in his rookie year of professional road racing.

“I dodged a big chance to be involved in an accident when a slower car spun in front of me, but the Cobalt’s brakes allowed me to miss hitting him, and the torque allowed me to accelerate away from it without skipping a beat.”

“I’m really proud of the performance by all four cars on Team Cobalt,” said GM Director of High Performance Vehicles Operations John Heinricy. “The street Cobalt SS Supercharged didn’t even appear in dealer showrooms until last January, and here we’ve already been able to develop it into a car that has won three races this year. It is definitely an on-going development process, one that doesn’t slow down just because we won today.”

“We dodged one bullet this weekend when we learned the 98.5 octane gas we had to run didn’t hurt us as bad as we thought it might,” added Ken Wasmer, small car program engineering manager for the GM Performance Division which provides engineering and parts assistance to teams racing the Cobalt SS Supercharged.

“All four of our cars are consistent and once our engineering crew diagnoses any problems, we can fix them,” he added. “That makes us just as happy as the drivers are.”

Holtom, of Carp, Ontario and Lally, of Dacula, Ga., completed 81 laps of the 2.258-mile circuit and won by under four seconds over 30 Asian and European-built cars in the Sport Touring class.

The Cobalt SS Supercharged is the only American-built car in the field.

“We’re racing against BMW, Mazda and Acura teams with years of experience with their products,” Wasmer added. “We’re the new kids on the block and although we know we’re not going to dominate anything, we’re happy to know we can win our share.”

Finishing 11th in class was the Franklin American Mortgage Cobalt driven by Tom Lepper, Benecia, Calif., and owner Bo Roach, Tulsa, Okla. Fourteenth were Delphi engineer Ed Magner, Grand Blanc, Mich., and Georgian Bay Motorsports team owner Jim Holtom – Jamie’s father.

Two newcomers to the series, Canadians Matt Champagne and Frank Launi, finished 25th in their first major professional race.

All three of the other Cobalt SS Supercharged cars would have finished on the lead lap, but for the bad luck of a full course caution that put them down a lap. The faster GS-class leader had just lapped them when an accident caused the full course caution.

“Those three cars were turning race laps every bit as fast as the car driven by Jamie and Andy,” added Wasmer. “The fact they finished much lower is not related to the performance of their cars or driver abilities.”

Featuring a 2.0 liter GM ECOTEC supercharged engine generating 205 horsepower, the Cobalt SS Supercharged is the creation of the GM Performance Division and its director of High Performance Vehicle Operations, John Heinricy.

In 2004, the Performance Division debuted the 205hp Saturn ION Red Line and the 400hp Cadillac CTS-V. The Division’s 2006 lineup will be joined by the 395hp Chevrolet Trailblazer SS and two upgraded Cadillacs – the 433hp XLR-V and the 469hp STS-V.

Mid-Ohio’s race was televised for delayed broadcast Saturday, Sept. 17 at noon ET on SPEED TV.

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