Joey Hand and Michael Marsal earned their second consecutive GRAND-AM Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge Grand Sport (GS) race victory Saturday at Lime Rock Park, giving Turner Motorsport its 21st series class triumph in the team's 200th professional race.
Hand inherited the lead from teammate Bill Auberlen - who dominated much of the second half of the race - on Lap 132 of the 147-lap race when Auberlen pitted for a mechanical problem. Hand, in the No. 97 Turner Motorsport BMW M3, then held off a charging Billy Johnson over the final 15 minutes to put the car in winner's circle again, this time by 0.298 seconds.
The Turner Motorsport team - which took on fuel only versus Johnson's ROUSH Performance team, fuel and tires - has now won four of the five GS races held at the 1.53-mile, seven-turn Connecticut track, and BMW kept its perfect record of five GS victories in as many starts. All 200 of Turner's pro races have been in BMWs.
Johnson, sharing the No. 61 ROUSH Performance Products Ford Mustang GT with polesitter Jack Roush Jr., was black-flagged by his own team with about 30 minutes remaining; he was having a hard time hearing the crew. The team took on more fuel, and Johnson, falling only to third, cut into a large deficit quickly.
Auberlen, who was shooting for his third GS victory at Lime Rock, was 16 seconds ahead of Hand and Johnson when he pitted and subsequently retired in the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M3 he shared with Paul Dalla Lana. But it was Hand, the 2009 co-winner with Chris Gleason, who was there to make history for Turner Motorsport.
"This place never raises any doubts when I come here," said Hand, whose No. 97 had less than a gallon of fuel left in the tank at the checkered flag. "I was a little worried there at the end when I checked my mirrors, but Billy raced me cleanly, and I appreciate that. And it feels really good to make more history on an already historic day for Turner Motorsport."
Additionally, Hand and Marsal powered past third-place finishers Charles Espenlaub and Charles Putman in the points standings, and now lead by four points (145-141) over the co-drivers of the No. 48 Sparco/Imported Car Store BMW M3.
"We were having some handling issues at the beginning, but the guys fixed that and we were contenders," Marsal said. "We fixed strong."
Johnson acknowledged he tried his best to get around Hand, but maintained his goal was to race Hand cleanly.
"I tried to work my way back up through the field after that pit stop, and once I got to Joey, I was all over his bumper," Johnson said. "It was tough at the end. Joey was one of my instructors here at Lime Rock, and we raced each other clean. It was good racing."
Fourth were Bob Michaelian and Ken Wilden in the No. 52 bizrate.com Ford Mustang GT, and fifth were Bret Spaude and Andrew Aquilante in the No. 35 Subaru of America Subaru Impreza WRX STI.
The race's two caution periods resulted in an average speed of 89.488 mph.
The next event for the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge will be the Continental Tire 150 on Saturday, June 5, at Watkins Glen International.