Battling ever-changing and sometimes treacherous weather conditions, Max Angelelli cruised to a one-minute victory in Saturday's Montreal 200 - taking new life in the battle for the 2009 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 Daytona Prototype championship in the process.
With only two races remaining, Angelelli - who led the final 12 of 67 laps at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve - and co-driver Brian Frisselle are tied for second with Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas, five points behind leaders Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty (274-269).
It was the second victory of the season for the No. 10 SunTrust Ford Dallara, and second triumph at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve for both Frisselle (who won in 2008) and Angelelli (2007).
Romain Dumas and Timo Bernhard combined to lead 38 laps in the No. 12 Penske Racing Verizon Wireless Porsche Riley and finished second, 1:01.264 behind Angelelli. Prior to Saturday, the combined margin of victory for nine 2009 Rolex Series races was 57.851 seconds.
Angelelli credited SunTrust Racing strategy with giving him the gap on the rest of the field. While many of the contenders were pitting for slick tires on the drying track, Angelelli was told to stay out despite the conditions.
"Then on the lap I was going to come in, it started raining again," Angelelli said. "All the other guys were on slicks and had to come in - and I started laughing."
Gurney took the final podium position from Ricky Taylor on the final lap in the No. 99 GAINSCO Pontiac Riley started by pole winner Jon Fogarty.
Taylor and Canadian Mike Forest scored the best-ever finish for the No. 13 Lennox/Brach's Chevrolet Riley, fourth, followed by Darren Law and David Donohue in the No. 58 Brumos Racing Porsche Riley.
Defending Montreal 200 winner Mark Wilkins and new co-driver Burt Frisselle finished sixth in the No. 61 AIM Autosport Ford Riley. Wilkins finished 0.052 seconds behind Law - closer than last year's Rolex Series record margin of victory (0.064 seconds) when Wilkins passed Antonio Garcia and Law in the final yards before the checkered flag.
Pruett and Rojas were among the teams caught out by the changing conditions, finishing 10th in the No. 01 TELMEX Lexus Riley. They entered the race three points ahead of Gurney and Fogarty, while Angelelli and Brian Frisselle were 14 points back.
Despite the on-and-off rain, there was only one brief full-course caution, when Ozz Negri spun on Lap 41 after contact with Rob Finlay. The race's average speed fell to 89.526 mph (144.078 kph).
The biggest incident occurred before the green flag, when NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regular Carl Edwards spun into a guardrail in Turn 11. He and fellow NASCAR star Marcos Ambrose planned to make their Daytona Prototype debut in the Doran Racing No. 77 Aflac/iRacing/Au Vineyards Ford Dallara.
"The tires with these cars take so long to get grip and are so much different than what I'm used to," said Edwards, who qualified seventh. "I worked the tires in as good as I could, and I just got a little too aggressive at a medium speed corner and it swapped. I feel terrible."Liddell, Davis repeat Montreal winners in GT
Robin Liddell passed Andy Lally for the lead and then led the final 18 circuits to give the No. 57 BryanMark Financial/Stevenson Automotive Pontiac GXP.R its second consecutive Montreal 200 Acxiom GT victory and third triumph of the 2009 campaign.
"This was one of the hardest races I've ever run, especially when we were out there in the rain on slick tires," Liddell said. "It seemed we were on a knife's edge, everywhere. At one point, I spun and lost a few positions. Then I had a great battle with Andy Lally. I got by, and all of a sudden we were in the lead. It was a great result. We're over the moon about that."
Lally and NASCAR Nationwide Series regular Brendan Gaughan took second in the No. 66 AXA/South Point Casino Porsche GT3.
"It's all about the team and the guy I drove with," Gaughan said of his Rolex Series debut. "It was unbelievable doing the wet-to-dry thing. But Andy Lally and (car owner) Kevin Buckler kept talking to me and keeping me cool. I did what I wanted to do, and then handed it over to Andy."
Taking third were Crown Royal 200 at The Glen co-winners Emil Assentato and Jeff Segal in the No. 69 FXDD SpeedSource Mazda RX-8.
The competitive GT race had eight different drivers and seven cars taking turns in the lead. Leh Keen led 17 laps from the pole in the No. 87 Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche GT3, with Dirk Werner getting caught out in the changing conditions to finish sixth. Despite their worst 2009 result since taking eighth in the Rolex 24, the four-time winners padded their lead to 35 points over Kelly Collins, who took 10th in the No. 07 Drinkin' Mate Pontiac GXP.R shared by Paul Edwards. The victory allowed Davis to move into third, 43 points behind the leaders.
Tom Sutherland led a race-high 20 laps in the No. 30 Click-Away Computers/3Dimensional.com Mazda RX-8, but finished eighth after co-driver Dane Cameron was forced to stop to avoid hitting the spinning car of Charles Espenlaub late in the race. Espenlaub led a lap and finished fourth in the No. 40 Dempsey Racing Mazda RX-8 started by Joe Foster, matching the team's best result of the season.
Montreal-born Sylvain Tremblay and Nick Ham both led in the No. 70 SpeedSource Mazda RX-8, but finished 12th after a late-race incident. Also leading the GT race was Eric Lux, who placed fifth in the No. 86 Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche GT3 shared with Bryan Sellers.
Only two races remain in the season - Sept. 19 at Miller Motorsports Park and Oct. 10 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.