KONI Challenge: Hand prevails in GS battle with Lally at Lime Rock
Joey Hand got around Andy Lally coming out of Big Bend with 22 minutes remaining and held on to win Monday's Grand-Am KONI Sports Car Challenge Grand Sport portion of the Lime Rock Park Road Racing Classic.
Driving the No. 97 Turner Motorsport BMW M3 started by Chris Gleason, Hand went on to post a 4.735-second margin of victory in the two-hour, 30-minute event over Lally in the No. 41 TRG/Magnus Racing Porsche GT3 started by John Potter.
"Andy Lally is a professional, and you have to pull every trick in the book to get by him," Hand said after his third KONI Challenge victory, and first since ending 2007 with back-to-back triumphs. "Turner Motorsport put together a good race car, and I was able to make moves high and low. I knew Andy had a good pace, but once I got into second, it wasn't as easy to run him down as I thought. I knew it would be fun on one hand, but tough to get by him on the other. I knew whenever we get together we put on a good show, because we have a high level of respect for each other."
Hand and Gleason completed 135 laps on the 1.53-mile circuit, averaging 82.464 mph.
It was Turner Motorsport's series leading 14th KONI Challenge victory. It was also Gleason's sixth career victory in the series, and his first since winning at Virginia International Raceway in 2007. Gleason remains perfect at Lime Rock winning his third race in as many tries at the circuit. It also broke Gleason's own record of being the oldest winner in the series, at 65 years old.
The finish tied the best of the year for Lally and Potter, who were second at Homestead-Miami Speedway in March.
"Joey was giving me a couple nudges to remind me he was back there," Lally said. "I would have done the same thing, only harder. I've had a bunch of great races with Joey in the past, and this is another that will go down in the history books. Hopefully, I'll be able to give him a run for it next time."
Bill Auberlen finished third in the No. 96 BMW M3 started by Matt Bell to put two Turner Motorsport cars on the podium.
Charles Espenlaub and Charles Putman took fourth in the No. 91 Sparco/ Imported Car Stor BMW M3, while Ken Wilden passed Hugh Plumb in the final turn on the last lap to take fifth in the No. 59 RehagenRacingProducts.com Ford Mustang GT started by Dean Martin. Plumb finished sixth in the No. 61 Roush/Valvoline Ford Mustang GT started by Jack Roush Jr.
Wilden extended his Grand Sport point lead to 16 over James Gue and Bret Seafuse, who placed ninth in the No. 37 Trumansburg ShurSave Ford Mustang GT (144-128). Roush and Plumb are third with 116.
"It was a hard drive," Wilden said. "We thought we had a fifth-place car this weekend. I thought I had a chance to take fifth on the last lap, and I'm thrilled to come out of this race with that many points."
Pole sitter Duncan Ende led the opening 27 laps in the No. 39 Digitrust Group/ Adam's Polishes Porsche GT3, but co-driver Spencer Pumpelly went off course and into the tires 18 laps later to put that car out of action. Lally pitted under that caution to top off his fuel, allowing him to take the lead when Hand pitted under caution on lap 73. While Lally made it to the finish, his car ran out of fuel on cool-down lap.
Other contenders having an early exit were Peter Ludwig, who lost the brakes in the No. 18 Motorsports Technology Group Porsche 997, and Bryan Sellers, who had electrical problems in the No. 77 Maxwell Paper Company Porsche 997. Both were running third at the time of their exit, which brought out two caution periods.
The fourth and final caution was for Chase Mattioli, who went into the tire wall at Big Bend on lap 72 in the JBS No. 47 Pocono Raceway Ford Mustang GT started by Nick Igdalsky.
Dean Martin led 20 laps after Ende's pit stop. Bell took over for 12 laps until his second stop, with Hand (37 laps) and Lally (39 laps) leading the rest of the way.
The KONI Challenge Street Tuner class raced Saturday at Lime Rock, with Travis Walker passing Ian Baas for the lead with 10 minutes remaining and holding to take the checkered flag under caution.
While it was the first KONI Challenge victory for Walker and co-driver John Kuitwaard - at the wheel of the No. 75 Skunk2/ Canadianracers.com Honda Civic Si, it was the third triumph of the season for Compass360 Racing. Christian Miller and Randy Pobst, who won two races this season, finished fourth in the team's No. 74 Honda Civic Si, allowing Miller to extend his point lead to eight over Georgian Bay Motorsports Chevrolet Cobalt drivers Lawson Aschenbach and Pat Iannucci (143-135), who finished fifth.
Baas and Josh Hurley finished second in the No. 171 APR Tuning/ Gunther VW Volkswagen GTI. Hurley won his first career pole in Saturday qualifying and the pair combined to lead 79 of the 134 laps in quest of giving the team its first victory. Ashley McCalmont finished third in the No. 01 T.T.L Chevrolet Cobalt, co-driving with Jamie Holtom, who rejoined the team after winning the 2008 ST championship in that car.
The next action for the KONI Challenge will be June 5 at Watkins Glen International, in conjunction with the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen for the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16.