|Race:||Utah Grand Prix|
Autocon drivers Michael Lewis and Bryan Willman came to Salt Lake City prepared to hit the ground running after completing a productive two days of testing at the track just five weeks ago. But, as most racers and teams know, few things are ever the same, and being able to adapt to change on the fly is a key to success.
"We had a very terrific test here for Bryan and I, as well as our other teammates, and set our fastest times ever in the Lola," stated Lewis. "The car was nowhere close when we unloaded this weekend. We lost a lot of valuable track time trying to get the car back to performing. That really hurt Bryan and caused us to go back to the drawing board for a decent setup. But we finally figured out some things before qualifying."
Indeed qualifying showed the car was again ready for competition. Lewis quickly set the team's best time of the weekend, faster even than the test session, and comfortably in the prototype field in 5th for P1, and 8th overall.
Lewis assumed the lead role at the start and the car continued performing very well. Well into his first stint the JeanRichard entry was lapping close to qualifying pace and moved to fourth in class. Even after a quick pit stop for fuel and service Lewis held his position and the entire Autocon group prepared for a possible podium.
"The sustained g-forces around this place are incredible. The long, fast sweeping corner are havoc on your neck. You just push through it, and we did. Things we're looking favorable early on," added Lewis.
However, short of the halfway mark, Lewis was called into the pits as the telemetry was showing some engine issues. The team took the opportunity to effect the driver change to Willman and the AER engineers tried to diagnose the condition of their powerplant. After an anguishing and lengthy stop they dispatched Willman to rejoin the race but Bryan only accomplished a partial lap before the engine quit and the race was over with no points scored.
Lewis was asked to comment. "I am very upset right now. The Lola is very good and very fast. But in our three races this year we have had three engine issues that effected the results. The AER has incredible power, but this is endurance racing and reching the end is prerequisite. The car was awesome today and had we kept the engine going we would have had a podium for sure. At the time of the failure we had two laps on the #37 entry and they finished third. This is really tough to take."
Autocon is more than a little snake bit of late as shortly before departing for Salt Lake City their transporter was vandalized, damaging the lift gate. Then Autocon's American Le Mans Series P1 Class Mechanic of the year for 2009, Joe Geldert was seriously injured while attending to the damaged truck.
Autocon hopes all their misfortune is spent early this season and after the Le Mans break they will return to complete a successful season.The historic Lime Rock Park will host the next ALMS event for Autocon Motorsports on July 17-18. Follow the action on Speed TV for live coverage as well as www.americanlemans.com.