Sunday, May 30, 2010

GRAND-AM: Hand, Marsal Win 2nd Straight Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge race

LAKEVILLE, Conn. (May 29, 2010) - Joey Hand and Michael Marsal earned their second consecutive GRAND-AM Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge Grand Sport (GS) race victory Saturday at Lime Rock Park, giving Turner Motorsport its 21st series class triumph in the team's 200th professional race.

Hand inherited the lead from teammate Bill Auberlen - who dominated much of the second half of the race - on Lap 132 of the 147-lap race when Auberlen pitted for a mechanical problem. Hand, in the No. 97 Turner Motorsport bmw M3, then held off a charging Billy Johnson over the final 15 minutes to put the car in winner's circle again, this time by 0.298 seconds.

The Turner Motorsport team - which took on fuel only versus Johnson's ROUSH Performance team, fuel and tires - has now won four of the five GS races held at the 1.53-mile, seven-turn Connecticut track, and BMW kept its perfect record of five GS victories in as many starts. All 200 of Turner's pro races have been in BMWs.

Johnson, sharing the No. 61 ROUSH Performance Products Ford Mustang GT with polesitter Jack Roush Jr., was black-flagged by his own team with about 30 minutes remaining; he was having a hard time hearing the crew. The team took on more fuel, and Johnson, falling only to third, cut into a large deficit quickly.

Auberlen, who was shooting for his third GS victory at Lime Rock, was 16 seconds ahead of Hand and Johnson when he pitted and subsequently retired in the No. 96 Turner Motorsport bmw M3 he shared with Paul Dalla Lana. But it was Hand, the 2009 co-winner with Chris Gleason, who was there to make history for Turner Motorsport.

"This place never raises any doubts when I come here," said Hand, whose No. 97 had less than a gallon of fuel left in the tank at the checkered flag. "I was a little worried there at the end when I checked my mirrors, but Billy raced me cleanly, and I appreciate that. And it feels really good to make more history on an already historic day for Turner Motorsport."

Additionally, Hand and Marsal powered past third-place finishers Charles Espenlaub and Charles Putman in the points standings, and now lead by four points (145-141) over the co-drivers of the No. 48 Sparco/Imported Car Store BMW M3.

"We were having some handling issues at the beginning, but the guys fixed that and we were contenders," Marsal said. "We fixed strong."

Johnson acknowledged he tried his best to get around Hand, but maintained his goal was to race Hand cleanly.

"I tried to work my way back up through the field after that pit stop, and once I got to Joey, I was all over his bumper," Johnson said. "It was tough at the end. Joey was one of my instructors here at Lime Rock, and we raced each other clean. It was good racing."


Fourth were Bob Michaelian and Ken Wilden in the No. 52 Ford Mustang GT, and fifth were Bret Spaude and Andrew Aquilante in the No. 35 Subaru of America Subaru Impreza WRX STI.

The race's two caution periods resulted in an average speed of 89.488 mph.

In the Street Tuner (ST) race earlier in the day, Seth Thomas took advantage of a late-race caution period to catch and pass Lawson Aschenbach, and he and Bill Heumann earned their first career victory in the No. 81 Performance Friction/Rays Engineering BMW 328i from the BimmerWorld/GearWrench team.

Thomas passed Aschenbach on Lap 134 of the 139-lap event in Turn 1, and went on to win by 0.408 seconds. Thomas made up his time when Andy Lally hit the tire barrier in Turn 2 with about 15 minutes remaining.

"I had to earn it from Lawson," said Thomas, who with Heumann closed to within three points (155-152) of Aschenbach and David Thilenius for the ST points lead. "The race-winning move came because of our brakes in Turn 1. I'm not sure if I could have caught him if it weren't for that last yellow, but regardless, we ended up winning."

Additionally, the victory boosted Heumann's lead in the MESCO Building For The Future Rookie of the Year standings.

Aschenbach and Thilenius, in the No. 74 Skunk2/HPD Honda Civic Si, were in position for their second win of 2010, as both ran in the top five throughout their stint. However, the final caution proved to be the difference, Aschenbach said.

"That last caution really, really hurt us," said Aschenbach, who led a race-high 64 laps, all in succession, before the final pass for the lead. "We pulled out to a decent lead and I was just trying to hold on. When the caution came out, we knew the BimmerWorld guys would be tough. We did what we could; we got second, and scored some points."

Rounding out the top five: Compass360 Racing co-drivers Ryan Eversley and Zach Lutz in the No. 75 Skunk2/HPD Honda Civic Si; APR Motorsport co-drivers Kevin Stadtlander and Josh Hurley in the No. 181 APR/BBS Volkswagen GTI and Kinetic Motorsports co-drivers Adam Burrows and Trevor Hopwood in the No. 12 Infinity Audio/HD Radio Kia Forte Koup.

The four caution periods resulted in an average speed of 84.496 mph.

The next event for the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge will be the Continental Tire 150 on Saturday, June 5, at Watkins Glen International.

From Michael Harker // Grand-Am

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