After nine months and eight races, the stars of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series will power into the Connecticut hills to take on the tricky corners of Lime Rock. It will mark the final event for 2013, and the last time the series will venture onto the track in it's current format. Next season, the TUDOR United Sportscar Series will be created, unifying Grand-Am and ALMS into a single sportscar body, under the IMSA umbrella.
Freedom Autosport heads into the final round of the 2013 GRAND-AM Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge season at Lime Rock with high hopes for a top finish not just in the race, but in the manufacturer and team points as well.
Rhett O’Doski and Andrew Carbonell won the previous round at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in the No. 26 Mazda MX-5, while Derek Whitis and Tom Long took second in the No. 25 Mazda MX-5. Lime Rock has historically been a strong venue for the Freedom Autosport MX-5s, and this year, the team is carrying the momentum of their one-two finish at Mazda Raceway with them.
A strong finish at Lime Rock can help propel Mazda into the top spot in the manufacturer championship. Currently, Mazda is just seven points out of the lead. To help the manufacturer points effort, Freedom Autosport will add a third car to their lineup at Lime Rock: the No. 27 MX-5 with Mazda ladder drivers Joel Miller and Tristan Nunez.
O’Doski and Carbonell are fourth in driver points, only four points away from breaking into the top three.
“It puts a little more pressure on us, knowing we have to perform if we want the results,” Carbonell says, “but I go into every race with that mentally and determination to perform my best, so that doesn’t change. Lime Rock is a place that is promising for us, and our MX-5s have always performed well there. I look forward to going there every year, even though that track hasn’t always been so nice to me.”
Carbonell—who flipped six times in a crash at Lime Rock two years ago—is not the only Freedom Autosport driver looking for some redemption at the Connecticut circuit. Whitis and Long have always shown a great deal of potential at Lime Rock, and Whitis has started from pole for two consecutive years. He and Long won the race in 2011, but in 2012, an electrical issue cost them the race and the championship.
“It’s been a very exciting season,” says Long. “Freedom Autosport has won a couple of races and we’re hoping for more success to end the season on a high note. Traditionally, Lime Rock has suited our Mazdas very well, so we’re feeling very positive and know we have nothing to lose with this final round.”
“Tom and I were disappointed with the results last year, and we’re looking forward to ending the 2014 season on a high note,” says Whitis. “We’re especially anxious to help Mazda win another manufacturer championship, and a strong finish from Freedom Autosport can help them take the title.”
“Lime Rock is similar to Barber in that it’s a tight track and you can carry a lot of speed through the corners. It’s a big momentum track, and that really suits the MX-5,” says O’Doski. He and Long gave Freedom Autosport their first series podium at Lime Rock in 2008, when they finished second. “Our crew has done an outstanding job all season, and we would really like to give them another win this year.”
For the last time of the season, Braselton, Ga.-resident Bryan Sellers will pilot the No. 46 Trim-Tex Drywall Products/BCKSTGR Fall-Line Motorsports BMW M3 with co-driver Mark Boden (Winnetka, Ill.) in the two-hour, 30-minute GS series race as part of the GRAND-AM Championship Weekend presented by BMW at Lime Rock Park. The CTSCC tally for the year to-date includes two victories (Watkins Glen and Indianapolis) and Sellers is eager to add a third CTSCC race win to end the year on a high note.
"You always want to end the season on a high note," stated Sellers. "We have had some good races with the Trim-Tex/Fall-Line BMW this year, and we have had some bad luck. I definitely want to end on a good note. Last year we had a very good car here at Lime Rock and were able to be very fast. I hope we can carry that into this year and end on a high note!"
Lime Rock falls in a string of eight races in eight weekends for Sellers dating back to the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón event at Road America on August 10. Counted in the tally are two "double weekends" when Sellers raced both the CTSCC and the Rolex Sports Car Series races for Fall-Line (Kansas Speedway and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca) on the same weekend. Saturday, he will focus on supporting Boden's effort for a top-five finish in the CTSCC point standings. The future holds two more races in three weeks to close the season. Those ALMS races will come at Virginia International Raceway (VIR) on October 5 and Petit Le Mans in Braselton, Ga. on October 20.
Sellers travels to Lime Rock from Austin, Texas's Circuit of the Americas (COTA). The three-time winner in the ALMS GT class, teammate Wolf Henzler (Germany) and Team Falken Tire were able to rebound from a massive accident at Baltimore (August 31), entering the COTA round of the ALMS held on September 21 with a highly modified and updated 2010 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR. Despite a trying week of tuning the car, the program was able to secure a seventh-place finish, the highest-placing Porsche in the field.
"It has been a tough couple of races in ALMS for Team Falken Tire," Sellers lamented. "We have had some really bad luck and some huge struggles. Everyone on the team knows their job is to step up in difficult situations and deliver. We are a tight team and if nothing else we dig in and do it for each other. We have come a long way as a team over the years, part of that growing is finding ways to stay motivated in all situations."
Lime Rock Park's 1.5-mile, seven-turn track provides the road racing equivalent of a short track oval in intense competition. The quick lap times and difficult passing options provide high drama for the end of the year. With teams eager to prove themselves entering the off-season, the passion for a podium finish grows even stronger. In 2012, Sellers/Boden finished second in this race having led 12 laps.
"It will take perfection to win at Lime Rock! A lot of cars have been very strong from the middle of the season onward," Sellers continued. "To be able to stand on top of the podium we are going to have to execute perfectly! We've done it twice before this season so we know we have it in us."
The upcoming CTSCC finale will mark the first time of the season that the series will split the ST class and GS class cars into two separate races.
"The amount of yellow flags changes substantially without the ST cars out there," Sellers continued. "This in turn will affect how you play the race out. You have to stay on top of all the situations that can and will happen and be able to adapt to those things. I think the strategy, more than anything, is impacted when it is a GS-only race."
Practice and qualifying will take place on Friday, September 27 for both series. The Street Tuner race will start on Friday, September 27, at 3:25 p.m. ET for a two and a half hour timed event, and the GS race taking the green flag at 9:50 a.m. ET on Saturday, September 28. Coverage of the races can be found on Speed 2.
On the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series side of the garage, Scuderia Corsa team principal Giacomo Mattioli recently announced that veteran driver Johannes Van Overbeek will join Jeff Westphal behind the wheel of the team’s second car, the #64 Ferrari 458 Italia sponsored by Ultratech, for the season’s final race at Lime Rock Park, Connecticut on September 28, 2013.
"I've had a long and happy relationship with Giacomo and Art. Seeing Scuderia Corsa grow and mature into a championship caliber team brings lots of satisfaction. Last year at Lime Rock Alessandro and I had a good race that contributed to Ferrari winning the constructors championship. This year I'm pleased to be driving with Jeff in the #64 sponsored by Ultratech. I can't wait for Lime Rock," Johannes Van Overbeek, who has spent the 2013 racing season in Grand-AM’s future partner ALMS stated.
This will be Van Overbeek’s second turn behind the wheel with Scuderia Corsa as he and Alessandro Balzan helped Ferrari capture the manufacturers title exactly one year ago at Lime Rock with a podium finish in the #63. The #64 will be competing in its fourth race of the season, having participated at the 24 Hrs. At Daytona, Indy and Road America.
“I would like to thank our sponsor Ultratech. We are very lucky to have such an important supporter that is also a big player in the Silicon Valley community. We are very proud of the close ties that Ferrari Silicon Valley has developed over the last 8 years with the high tech community. Johannes and Jeff, both being locals, are the perfect duo to complete a true Silicon Valley car!” said team owner Giacomo Mattioli.
Jeff Westphal, who along with Van Overbeek lives in the San Francisco area added, "I am excited for the finale at Lime Rock. It’s an honor to be racing the #64 and representing two important Northern California companies such as Ultratech and Ferrari Silicon Valley in the Rolex series for Scuderia Corsa. The Ferrari should be good package around the small bull ring that is Lime Rock Park." Westphal, a team driver, drove five races this season with Alessandro Balzan in the #63, earning three podium finishes.
The #63 car, piloted by two-time Rolex GT champion Leh Keen and Grand-AM’s breakout star of the season Alessandro Balzan will be looking to take the 2013 championship. Balzan, who has led the driver championship points through much of this season is currently in 2nd place and looking to take the championship for both the team and driver titles. Scuderia Corsa, which is currently 2nd in the team points, has earned eight top-five finishes in 11 races which has helped Ferrari maintain a season long lead in the manufacturer title.
Tune in for the final race of 2013 at Lime Rock Park on Saturday, Sept. 28 at 1:30pm ET Live on Fox Sports 2 and rebroadcast on September 29, 12:00PM ET, FOX Sports 1.
After a brief break to celebrate, regroup, rebuild, and prepare for the inaugural TUDOR United Sportscar Racing Series, the teams will travel to the historic Daytona International Speedway for the oar Before The Rolex 24 on Jan. 3-5, the critical three-day test session prior to the 52nd Anniversary Rolex 24 At Daytona.
In addition to the on-track action, the track will continue the tradition of hosting Scout Days, a one-of-a-kind event that blends high-speed sports car action with two nights of camping and scouting activities, where Boy and Girl Scouts from throughout the Southeast are invited to watch the stars of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship and the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge test the twists and turns of the “World Center of Racing’s” 3.56-mile road course as they prepare for their respective season-opening events.
The Scouts will also get to camp in the famous infield of Daytona and enjoy special activities such as fishing on Lake Lloyd, infield tours, scavenger hunts and more. They will also receive a special event patch to commemorate the visit.
DIS has been hosting Scout Days at the Roar Before The Rolex 24 since 2010.
Scout Days admission, which includes two nights of tent camping as well as $10 DAYTONA Dollars good at any Speedway concession stand, is $30 per person if purchased on/before Dec. 1. Afterward, admission for Scout Days is $40 per person. To purchase Scout Days admission, please call (877) 306-RACE (7223) or visit their website. Each family must register individually.
In addition to the testing sessions, the Roar Before The Rolex 24 will also feature fan forums, pit stop demonstrations and tech talks for all race fans.
Fans can catch the latest news leading up to next season by following the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series, the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patron, and the Sunoco Rolex 24 at Daytona Challenge , as well as the West Palm Beach Motorsports examiner for the latest in motorsports, no matter how many (or how few) wheels the vehicle may have! Fans can also stay connected with Daytona International Speedway on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest for the latest news all season long. Fans can follow the latest on DAYTONA Rising, the $400 million frontstretch renovation at the “World Center of Racing” by using #DAYTONARising on Twitter.
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