July 6, 2008 – Even the so called “Mayor of Watkins Glen”, otherwise known as Randy Pobst, didnʼt experience his regular success at Watkins Glen this past weekend. The team had hoped Pobst, who had won four of his last five races at Watkins, would be their lucky charm, but it was not to be.
Pobst, who was leading the KONI ST race with roughly 50 minutes to go, experienced a yet-to-be determined engine failure, knocking the #181 Team Janica Racing/APR Motorsport VW GTI out of race.
The race started with Mark White, Pobstʼs teammate who qualified the car fourth on the grid, behind the wheel. After making a solid pass on veteran PD Cunningham in the upper esses to take the third a mere minutes into the race, Mark put it on cruise control and was running towards the front when a series of yellows caused the field to spend 40 minutes of the first hour behind the pace car. When the third yellow fell at about the one hour mark and APR Motorsport strategist TC Kline made the call to pull all three of the APR GTIʼs in for an early and unscheduled driver change.
The early pit entry looked risky to some but actually immediately paid benefits, with Pobst, putting the #181 into first place shortly into his stint. Pobst was cruising at the front for many laps and an even longer time under yellow (only 23 minutes of green flag racing took place in the first 1 hour and 28 minutes of the race) and it looked like APR Motorsport had finally eluded the perils of a first year team. But a mere 15 minutes later the race was over for the #181 car when the motor went off song and Pobst was forced to limp the GTI back to the pits, putting the car behind the wall. On a brighter note, Mark White ran the fastest lap of all ST class cards during the race and additionally put the car first on the time sheet in the final practice before the race.
Pobst said “We really had the car to beat today. As has been the case, Mark qualified the car really well, starting us out in fourth, and he handed a showroom clean racecar over to me at the change. Once in the car, I made a few passes and got myself into the lead pretty easily due a great pit call by TC Kline. I really feel for the team, as we really, really should have had this one. As seems to have been the case the past few races, luck just wasnʼt on our side. Oh well, weʼll get ʻem next time!”
White added: “I got into third pretty quickly and was really just thinking about keeping the car undamaged in what was a crazy, making sure to hand it over to Randy as far to the front as possible. I knew the combination of the car and Randy was the e-ticket ride this weekend, so itʼs really too bad the engine apparently failed. It was definitely looking like we were en route to a podium finish. As always, the crew just put a great car under us.”
The #171 car of Baas and Povoledo also experienced bad luck, having been caught up in a severe accident at turn six at about the half way race. The accident occurred when an Acura slammed into three cars in front of Ian, who was then hit in the right rear when the same Acura bounced back across the track. Ian was stuck and pushed into the path of a helpless Cruise America Mini
Cooper, compounding the damage already experienced. In all, six cars were taken out, but surprisingly, the Acura that caused the incident continued and finished the race. The crash was frustrating for the Baas/Povoledo #171 GTI, as it was on pole thanks to the great efforts of Aaron Povoledo, who qualified the car on pole in his first race ever in the car.
Baas said about the weekend: “Here we are again, talking about yet another situation where we were just so close. I am really sorry for the crew and for Aaron, who just did so well in getting that pole. Frankly, I am glad to just be safe. That accident was very dangerous and uncalled for. Not only did it take us, the ST pole car out, but it took out the Turner GS BMW at the same time and they were on pole in their class, too. Racing is a dangerous sport and we all know thatʼs the case, but there simply needs to be more respect for each other out there. Six cars and likely $100,000 plus in damage happened to six innocents out there today and that simply isnʼt right or good for the series.”
Povoledo said: “I feel so badly for Ian and to be honest, Iʼm just glad heʼs ok. The in-car video from our car (of the crash) is pretty scary, really. Before the crash, we were running an absolutely fantastic race, with all three cars in the top ten and two in the top three when all hell just broke loose. Itʼs really too bad that 181 suffered whatʼs likely an odd engine failure and we were crashed out, as weʼd likely have had a double podium. Iʼd like to thank the team, the crew and the owners of APR Motorsport for the great opportunity to fill in for Dion (von Moiltke). I hope to be back in an APR GTI soon!”
Dion von Moltke, APR Motorsport regular co-driver with Ian in the #171 GTI, was forced to sit out the Watkins Glen race due to NY State law that prevents anyone under 18 (Dion is 17) from participating in any sporting event where alcohol or tobacco sponsorship exists. This is the second time this law, which is aimed at high school and other amateur athletes, has “stung” a professional racecar driver. Two years ago, current NASCAR series start and then 17 year old, Colin Braun, could not race for Krohn Racing in the Protoype class due to the same law.
The third APR Motorsport car, driven by SPEED TV star James Hunt and sprint car stand out Mike Sweeney, made up for itʼs qualifying result (car was caught in traffic during a shortened qualifying) of twenty sixth place, picking up 16 places and running as high as tenth in only 45 minutes with Hunt at the wheel. Hunt, like the other cars, pitted early and handed the car over to Mike Sweeney, who ran very well, picking up three spots and running as high as tenth, when a minor overrev caused by a missed shift damaged the motor, taking the car out of race.
Hunt said about the race: “First off, I want to say how sorry I am for Ian and Randy, who really were in unreal positions when they were both taken out of the race under odd circumstances. Sorry, boys! As for our car, I had a great time and I am really starting to get familiar with these GTIʼs. During my stint I made sixteen or seventeen passes and was heading for the front. The car was simply fantastic and under the yellow, I handed it over to Mike. I really feel badly for Mike, as he tries so hard, was damn fast and is such a nice guy. I kept reminding him that a missed shift happens to about every racer, some more than once in a career. Most of us have been there.”
Mike Sweeney added: “I am really sorry about the missed shift. I was cruising by myself in 11th place and under little pressure and I think it just got too easy and I lost a bit of focus. I went for the downshift on the back straight and hit second instead of fourth. My mistake and I really feel bad for James and the team but everyone has been so polite and understanding. I guess itʼs more common than I thought and I was proud of my performance, otherwise. I look forward to getting back in the GTI and the next race.”
APR Motorsport has itʼs first real break from racing since May, with a little more than a month off before the next race at Iowa Motor Speedway on August 9-10, 2008. More development and testing will take place on all cars over the next month and the cars should be even better at Iowa.