Repeat Victory in Montreal Just Not Meant To Be

Angelelli, Valiante Can’t Catch a ‘Brake’ En Route to Sixth Place On Track Where SunTrust Scored Historic Victory a Year Ago

Date: Aug. 1, 2008
Event: Montreal 200 (Round 10 of 14)
Series: Daytona Prototype division of the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series
Location: Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, Montreal, Canada (2.71-mile, 15-turn road course)
Start/Finish: 4th/6th (Running, completed 69 of 69 laps)
Winner: Brian Frisselle and Mark Wilkins of AIM Autosport

Like most world-class racing facilities, Montreal’s Circuit Gilles Villeneuve pays a premium to those race cars and teams that can generate speed. But more so than most, at the legendary Formula 1 layout, with ultra-tight right- and left-hand combinations mixed in with ultra-high speed straightaways, stopping power has as much to do with running the quickest laps as the ability to generate speed.

Such was the case for the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series competitors in Friday’s Montreal 200, where Max Angelelli and Michael Valiante found a way to persevere through brake issues of their own in the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Dallara of Wayne Taylor Racing to bring home their second consecutive sixth-place finish.

For the team that won the inaugural Rolex Series event at this track a year ago this weekend, sixth place wasn’t the most satisfying result, especially considering it was fighting for a podium finish until the latter stages of today’s two-hour sprint race. But Angelelli and Valiante did well to record another top-six result despite the limitations on their ability to out-brake competitors into those tight, twisty corners time and again.

“What happened was something that we never experienced before and, unfortunately, it was the kind of problem where, if you have it during the race, you have to keep it and deal with it,” said Angelelli, who co-drove to victory here with Jan Magnussen in the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley last August. “When you finish the race, it’s always good. But what we want to see is, obviously, not sixth place. From that aspect, it wasn’t a good day. But in the bigger picture, we finished sixth even though we had the problem that we had and we learned a lot, once again. We can only keep learning and keep getting better with this car. Our best days, obviously, are coming.”

Angelelli took over the reins of the SunTrust Racing machine just over 40 minutes into today’s 69-lap affair after Valiante kept it in relatively close contact with the leaders over his opening 23-lap stint, which began from the fourth spot on the starting grid. Angelelli did some remarkable driving to lead a five-car, nose-to-tail battle for positions fourth through eighth that lasted seven nail-biting tours of the 2.71-mile circuit that annually hosts F1’s Canadian Grand Prix. On lap 45, after countless successful efforts to hold off a stubborn Darren Law in the No. 58 Brumos Porsche behind him, Angelelli’s brake issues got the better of him and caused him to bobble slightly off-course, dropping him back to seventh and, ultimately, eighth in the order.

From there, Angelelli was able to stay on-pace and picked up two positions before the checkered flag flew on lap 69.

“Handling-wise, the car was working really well,” said Valiante, who deftly maneuvered around an early race scare when the No. 61 AIM Autosport entry of Brian Frisselle spun directly in front of him between turns one and two. “It was tough at the start. (Scott) Pruett ran right into the side of Frisselle and spun him out. So I was kind of left with nowhere to go. After the first laps, the brakes started to fade a lot. The car was working, but we had the brake issue. This is one of the hardest tracks on brakes. We tried to come here with the same package that we won with last year to be safe and it just didn’t seem to be enough. This track is so, so hard on brakes, you have to get it just right. The new car and the new (Pirelli) tires work the brakes even harder than ever, so it just wasn’t enough. If we had brakes this race, we had a shot at winning, for sure. The car was fast enough. Everyone’s expectations are to go out and win. But when you introduce a new car, things are going to happen, especially when you’re racing against cars that have been sorted out for six, seven, eight years. They don’t have these minor problems quite so much. And, really, all it takes is for one thing to go wrong and you’re not going to win the race. You have a flat tire, you’re not going to win the race. Today, this was our flat tire. We’ll be back even stronger for it.”

The Toronto-based No. 61 AIM Autosport entry, which spun in front of Valiante on that opening lap, thrilled the partisan crowd by rebounding to win today’s event in the closest finish in Rolex Series history. It came at the expense of the No. 58 Brumos Porsche, which took the white flag in the lead but ran out of fuel just short of the start-finish line on its way to the checkered flag. Frisselle’s teammate Mark Wilkins zipped past for the victory with the No. 16 Crown Royal Pontiac of Cheever Racing and drivers Christian Fittipaldi and Antonio Garcia grabbing the runner-up spot just 0.064 seconds later and just ahead of the third-place-finishing Brumos Porsche.

“Today was another example of just how competitive it is in this series,” said team owner Wayne Taylor. “We had a fast car, as we’ve had all along since we introduced the Dallara, and a problem sets us back and sends us home in sixth place. This was an exciting race, a lot going on out there from beginning to end. I’m sure anyone who saw it is a bigger fan of Grand-Am racing than ever. Unfortunately, we weren’t racing for the win there at the end. But the guys gave it their best effort. We had a problem that we are getting to the bottom of and we’ll move on. Fortunately, we are going to a track next week at Watkins Glen where we have had some of our best days.”

Next stop on the Rolex Series tour is next Friday’s (Aug. 8) Crown Royal 200 at Watkins Glen (N.Y.) International, Round 11 of 14 on the 2008 schedule. Friday’s event kicks off the annual NASCAR Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series weekend stops at the historic road circuit.