Modified Mustangs & Fords
Battling The Odds - Grand Am Cup KONI Challenge at Lime Rock Park
Extra weight proved to be the Mustang team's Achilles' heel at Lime Rock, but still the racing was thick and eventful, with some surprising results.
After Florida, the next round looked as if it would prove challenging (sorry, couldn't resist) for the Mustang contingent. Lime Rock Park, with its twists, turns, and short straightaways, traditionally favors the BMWs and Porsches, the extra weight of the Mustang often cited as a handicap. As the green flag dropped, championship points leader Bryan Ortiz (in the BMW M3) blasted into the lead, followed by the Porsche 997 of Lonnie Pechnik; the Mustangs struggled to get off to a good start. The quickest was the No. 37 JBS Motorsports entry with Bret Seafuse behind the wheel. During the early stages of the race, as Ortiz stretched his lead further from the pack, Seafuse began chipping away and was running in Fourth place by Lap 20, making steady progress. However, he managed to spin the car on Lap 44 in Turn 6--which proved costly, dropping him all the way down to 11th Place. The other Mustangs weren't fairing any better.
Joe Foster, in the No. 55 Hyper Sport car, collided with Brian Grandon in the No. 52 Rehagen Mustang at the start of Lap 49 in Turn 1. Grandon's car went off the track, but Foster managed to nurse the damaged Mustang around and bring it into the pits. Despite damage, both cars were repaired and returned to the race. It wasn't until two laps later that another collision happened at virtually the same spot--though this time no Mustangs were involved. Spenser Pumpelly in the No. 39 Porsche got bumped by Charles Putman, who also went off, though both drivers managed to steer their cars back onto the course. Still, Putnam was hit with a drive-through penalty.
The Rehagen team also witnessed another off-track excursion and resulting damage when Jack Roush Jr., in the No. 59 Rehagen Racing Mustang, ran into trouble on Lap 59. While pushing to pass one of the Porsches on the inside, the 997 driver closed the door and the two cars banged wheels. Jack tried to regain control but ended up going off the field and hitting the wall, damaging the right-front suspension. On that same lap Seafuse brought the top-running Mustang, the No. 37 JBS car, into the pits to change driving duties with James Gue a lap before most of the field did their swaps. It proved a good strategy, for once Gue saddled up he was able to jump up several spots and was now in a position to start challenging the Top 5. By Lap 116, Gue was lying in Second Place and was starting to catch then-leader Jeff Segal in the No. 9 BMW 3. He ultimately managed to get within 9.6 seconds, but the hard charging started taking its toll and a late-race thrust by Spencer Pumpelly in the Porsche saw him overtake Gue's Mustang on Lap 130 coming out of Turn 4.
However, with just 10 laps to go, Gue managed to say in the Top 3, bringing the car home to secure JBS Motorsports' first podium finish after an excellent drive. The next highest-placed Mustang was one of the Rehagen cars, the No. 60 car driven by Hugh Plumb, which took 13th. Mustangs also finished in 20th (Grandon/Mason--Rehagen No. 52), 25th (Kossmann/Wilden--Emerald Hill Motorsports #11), 27th (Roush/Martin--Rehagen No. 59) and 28th (bringing up the rear of the Ford contingent, 10 laps adrift of the leader, was the Hyper Sport entry of Joe Foster/Scott Maxwell).
Although a Third-Place finish was an excellent result by James Gue, the Mustang contingent left Lime Rock wanting. With the next race on the calendar being Mosport, things would appear to be equally as challenging, though for a slightly different set of reasons.