Angelelli and Magnussen win Montreal Grand-Am race Max Angelelli and Jan Magnussen scored their second victory of the season in the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac Riley of Wayne Taylor Racing at Friday’s Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Montreal 400K and pulled to within two points of the championship lead with three races left on the 2007 schedule.
It was the 11th victory in the history of SunTrust Racing since joining the Rolex Series in 2004, the third for the driving duo of Angelelli and Magnussen dating back to May of 2006, and the second for the Wayne Taylor Racing organization, which was formed just this past off-season to carry on the SunTrust Racing banner. Angelelli and Magnussen last co-drove to victory April 29 at Virginia International Raceway in Alton, Va.
Today’s effort by the SunTrust team capped it strongest overall weekend of the season. Magnussen clocked the fastest lap in Friday’s opening practice session and never looked back. The team ran in the top three in Friday’s second practice session, and Magnussen this morning qualified the No. 10 SunTrust Pontiac on the front row for the fourth time this season. Angelelli then recorded the fastest lap of final practice over the 2.71-mile Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, annual home of the Formula 1 Canadian Grand Prix.
From the second starting position, Magnussen stayed close behind the polesitting No. 99 Gainsco/Bob Stallings Racing Pontiac Riley of Jon Fogarty and Alex Gurney – a five-time winner and eight-time polesitter already this season – until the first caution period of the day on Lap 12 of today’s 68-lap event. Magnussen pitted and the SunTrust team opted for a fuel-only stop, a strategic move that sent him back out ahead of the No. 99 of Fogarty, which took on fuel and tires. From there, Magnussen stayed well in the lead at a blistering pace until the caution flag flew again on Lap 33. Magnussen then turned the SunTrust Pontiac over to Angelelli, who had the SunTrust car once again back on track ahead of the No. 99, this time well ahead after a wheel gun malfunctioned in the Gainsco pit, sending Gurney back out in 10th place.
Sitting in third behind the No. 61 car of Brad Frisselle and No. 39 of Antonio Garcia, neither of whom pitted during the previous stop, Angelelli patiently made his way back to the front after the race went back to green on Lap 40. He and Garcia first got by Frisselle shortly after the restart, and then Angelelli slipped past Garcia into the lead on Lap 44. From there, the Italian continued running some of the fastest laps of the race, weathered a pair of restarts on Laps 52 and 63, and held on for a half-second margin of victory over the runner-up No. 91 Pontiac Riley of Marc Goosens and Jim Matthews.
Gurney brought the No. 99 car home in third, with Garcia and co-driver Christian Fittipaldi finishing fourth in the No. 39 Pontiac Fabcar, and the championship-leading No. 01 Telmex Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Lexus Riley of Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas finishing fifth. The finish closed the SunTrust team’s deficit in the championship to the No. 01 team to two points (319-317), and it brought Angelelli to within two points of Pruett (324-322) in the driver championship with only three rounds remaining: Watkins Glen, N.Y. (Aug. 10), Sonoma, Calif. (Aug. 25) and Toelle, Utah (Sept. 15). The Gainsco team and drivers are seven points behind SunTrust and Angelelli.
“I just had a fantastic car and I must thank the team,” said Angelelli, whose 11th career Rolex Series win is second only to Pruett’s 14. “The team, as usual, did a great pit stop, and that allowed me to go out in front of the 99 and the 01, which were the cars we were looking after. The SunTrust car was very strong, very fast. I think we found something that will help us through the end of the season. Obviously, Jan was so strong and that definitely helped the whole situation. I think now we understand something in the car that we didn’t understand before, and that will allow us to have a pretty competitive car the rest of the way. Finally, we can go to the race weekends and feel like we really have a shot at the win. That hasn’t been happening for a long time, now.”
“We started off strong,” said Magnussen, who scored his first victory in the SunTrust car with Angelelli at Laguna Seca Raceway outside Monterey, Calif., last season, and also scored his first and only Formula 1 championship point at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve while driving for Stewart Racing in 1998. “Jon (Fogarty) pulled away at the beginning, but the car came to me and I was able to pull him back in. We caught some traffic and we were able to pull a bit of a gap. On the first caution, we had an excellent stop and the team made an excellent call on (taking no) tires. We got out ahead, and I think what they (the 99 team) gained on new tires wasn’t enough to challenge us even though we were on old tires. We then made a good pit stop and a good driver change and Max got out ahead. He was strong and was able to pull away. It was absolutely perfect for us.”
“Everybody needed this,” said team owner Wayne Taylor. “These guys worked tirelessly this year, building a team, going from race to race, moving from one race shop into another. It’s very seldom when you go to a race and have a very fast car, especially with that 99 being faster than everybody all year. When we got here, we clearly had a car that was capable of winning. It was the first race we’ve gone to this year where we all knew we had a car that could win. When you know that’s the case, that’s added pressure because when you have a car that can win, then you have to win. So that was the biggest pressure for me, knowing there was going to be no excuse not to win this race. And with all the cautions and with all the strategy and with all the potential things that could go wrong, with driver changes and such, everything ended up being just perfect. The way the 99 and 01 cars ended up just helped us a lot in the championship. Now, at least, everybody is in a major positive mode here. We know we’ve got a fast car, now. We’ve found what the 99 car had, we think. And now we’re going to three tracks we love. We’re looking forward to getting (co-driver) Memo (Gidley) back. We know he loves Watkins Glen and Sears Point, his home track. And we’ve got Jan back for Salt Lake City. So I’m really happy.”
Next up for the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series is next weekend’s Crown Royal 200 at The Glen, the series’ annual return trip to the Watkins Glen, N.Y., facility run in conjunction with the NASCAR Busch and NEXTEL Cup Series weekend. Rolex Series race time on Friday, Aug. 10, is 6:30 p.m. EDT with tape-delayed television coverage provided by SPEED-TV beginning at 8 p.m.