The green flag fell for the 200-mile race a little before 3:00 in the afternoon. Barely into the first lap, Playboy Racing's #15 car, driven by Rob Finlay, was taken out in turn 5 by the #99 BMW M3 from Automatic Racing. Both cars were done for the day. The green flag returned on lap 7, but only flew until lap 11, when the Hyper Sport #54 Mustang was rammed by Playboy's #33 Nissan 350 and both attempted some landscaping in the turn 11 gravel trap. The race went hot again after a 5 lap delay. Blackforest's #5 Mustang had been moving up the field but in lap 18, the Mustang slid off-course, allowing the #50 Porsche to move into fifth spot. Another full course caution comes into play at the ever-popular turn 11 gravel trap, triggering a round of driver changes.
The race resumed but for a single lap when the Blackforest #77 Mustang, of Jim Bosler and James Gue, lost it in turn 4, taking the #96 Turner Motorsports BMW M3 with it. More driver changes were initiated while the errant cars were collected. Andy Lally pitted the race leading #49 Porsche 997, turning driving duties over while Mark Plummerinherited the lead in the #38 Porsche Carrera. The green flag returned once again in lap 29, yet again for a single round as the #5 Blackforest car mixed it up with a Porsche Carrera and a Nissan 350Z.
In lap 38, the green again waved to resume the race with the #89 Porsche 996 leading the field into the first turn. By lap 43, the Rehagen Racing #58 SVT Cobra visits the gravel trap in turn 11. Both #58 and the race are back in action by lap 47. A good span of racing ensues, but not much of it involves our beloved FR500C's. In lap 61, the #58 Cobra tries to adjust the outside tire barrier in turn 9 and loses its front bumper. An ST car is also stopped off-course in the gravel trap outside turn 6 and a 5-lap caution period results.
From this point, racing continues without interruption and sees the #03 Porsche 996 winning in lap 74, followed by the #81 Porsche 997 and #90 BMW M3. Just out of the podium spots are the Empringham/Limoges #4 Mustang (by just a half second), the Barber/Borcheller #2 car and the Rehagen #59 Mustang GT driven by Ray Mason and Dean Martin. The next closest Mustang finished in 16th spot, being the #47 TF Racing entry driven by Gary Smith and John Kohler.
A total of seven full course caution periods stunted 37 of the race's 74 laps and fairly raises the question of whether this is due to high levels of competitiveness, or overcrowding. Grand Am officials have been issuing penalties for avoidable incidents, but the message may not be getting through yet. Veteran Turner Motorsport's driver, Boris Said agrees. "I think its more the egos getting the better of people." His team mate, Bill Auberlen takes a more charitable view of the drivers, however. "With that many cars, you're going to have a lot of wrecks," he noted.
As we go to press, competition was set to face off at the even shorter Phoenix International Raceway in Avondale, AZ, on May 27. Due to the 1.51 mile course length, separate races will be run for the GS and ST classes. Look for results in the next issue!