On May 22, 2011, Litchfield, CT resident, Marine Staff Sgt Liam Dwyer lost his left leg above the knee when he stepped on an I.E.D. while serving in Afghanistan. On May 24, 2014 he stood tall on the top step of the podium at Lime Rock Park with co-driver Tom Long after taking the checkered flag in their #27 Freedom Autosport Mazda MX-5. The win marked the first triumph for Dwyer since beginning his professional racing career in the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge Street Tuner division.
“Home track, Memorial Day, my Alive Day … surreal does not describe the jubilation I’m feeling right now,” said Dwyer.
Dwyer started the race back in thirty-third in the thirty-three car field and drove the opening 22 laps working his way up to 25th position. At the 26 minute mark Dwyer handed over driving duties to Long who traded the lead 5 times with Steven McAleer in the No. 5 CJ Wilson racing Mazda MX-5. The final lead change happened with five laps remaining when McAleer stopped for a splash of fuel while Long was able to stretch his fuel to the end. Long wound up crossing the line nearly 20 seconds ahead of McAleer who came in second place.
“My brother Chris kept telling me to conserve fuel,” Long said. “That’s not easy to do when you’re battling for the lead. The gauge on my dash said I had eight-tenths of a gallon remaining at the finish.”
The only thing Dwyer needs to race is a bracket and Velcro strip that allows him to keep contact with the clutch pedal. That, Dwyer says, allows Long or another driver to quickly take over when necessary.
“Memorial Day is not a day that I take lightly” said Dwyer, “I know exactly what it means to myself and to my fellow service members. To be here in Connecticut, at Lime Rock, at my home track, a place I’ve camped at before … I can’t explain how awesome this feels right now.”
Rounding out the top 5 were Tyler McQuarrie and Marc Miller in the No. 3 Mazda MX-5. Jeff Mosing and Eric Foss finished fourth in the No. 56 Murillo Racing/Mosing Motorcars BMW 328i, followed by James Colborn and Seth Thomas in fifth sharing the No. 82 BimmerWorld BMW 328i.
CTSC Grand Sport
The Rum Bum Racing pit crew executed a lightning-fast pit stop with one hour remaining in Saturday’s Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge Grand Sport (GS) race at Lime Rock Park, and Matt Plumb did the rest, leading the final 60 laps in the No. 13 Rum Bum Racing Porsche 911, giving the defending GS drivers and team champions their first victory of the season.
“We want to get our mojo back,” said Plumb after taking his 19th career victory in the series. “Our pit stop was 15 seconds faster than everyone else. We went from fifth to first. From there on it was a matter of maintaining the tires, judging the track and traffic. We were not fast on a single lap, so I concentrated on running consistent laps, trying not to hurt the tires.”
“We came here bummed out to be sixth (in the championship),” said Longhi, a 16-time career winner. “I got off to a pretty good start, and from there I tried to conserve the car. I wanted Matt to have a good car for the end of the race. I’ll tell you – Matt Plumb equals rock star. (Team manager) Joe Varde keeps the team from making as few mistakes as possible.”
The Rum Bum team was aided by the fact that both the Fall-Line Motorsports and TRG-AMR teams did not pit on their first opportunity during the lone caution of the race at the one-hour, 26-minute mark.
Up to that point, John Edwards and Trent Hindman dominated the race in the No. 46 Fall-Line Motorsports BMW M3, followed by the No. 07 TRG-AMR Aston Martin Vantage of Kris Wilson and Peter Ludwig. Edwards led the opening 58 of the eventual 148 laps before pitting. Wilson led eight laps and Hindman led 22 laps prior to the caution. Hindman and Ludwig stayed out on the first lap that the pits were open, opening the door for the Rum Bum crew to do its magic.
“There was a lot of chatter on the radio, and Trent didn’t hear the message that the pits were open,” Fall-Line Motorsports team owner Mark Boden said.
When the green flag waved with 52 minutes remaining, Plumb pulled away from Kyle Gimple’s No. 77 Compass360 Racing Subaru WRX STI. A big break in traffic gave Plumb the cushion he needed, and he went on to win by 4.861 seconds.
Gimple and Ryan Eversley came from 26th in the 28-car field to place second in the Subaru. Eversley charged through traffic to take third before his pit stop at the 56-minute mark, and Gimple kept the car in contention for the remainder of the race. While rain was forecast for the afternoon, light showers held off until the closing laps of the race, negating the damp-weather advantage of the Subaru. Ironically, the champagne spray was followed by a deluge.
“Lapped traffic hurt our chances,” Gimple said. “I thought I had something for Matt, but by the time I got through the lapped cars, Matt was gone.”
Hindman and Ludwig, meanwhile, were caught behind a terrific battle for third that involved the Ford Mustangs of Jade Buford and Andrew Aquilante, and the Chevrolet Camaro Z/28.R of Andy Lally.
“Trent Hindman did a great job,” Lally said. “He raced me clean, and he had plenty of opportunities not to do so.”
The lone caution was brought out when Jason Montgomery was stopped off course in Turn 1 in the No. 18 AREHUCAS Rum Racing Chevrolet Camaro GS.R.
The next race for the Continental Tire Challenge will be a combined event at Kansas Speedway on Saturday, June 7.
Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA
Angel Benitez Jr. earned his third victory of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama season in Round 5 on Saturday, May 24 at Lime Rock Park.
Unfortunately Round 6 of the season – also scheduled for Saturday – was abandoned due to unsuitable course conditions caused by heavy rain in addition to a local curfew. IMSA will evaluate if a replacement of this round will take place later in the season.
Benitez, from Valencia, Venezuela, has earned all three of his victories this season from pole in the No. 05 Formula Motorsport/Avid Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car. He swept the season-opening rounds at Sebring International Raceway by 3.103 and 3.735 seconds, respectively.
But Benitez was pushed much harder in this race by series newcomer Christina Nielsen in the No. 25 NGT Motorsport Porsche.
Nielsen, from Aarhus, Denmark, earned her first podium finish in the series by finishing second, just .372 of a second behind, after pressuring Benitez for nearly the entire 45-minute race. She became just the second female driver to earn a podium position in the elite Platinum Cup class in the 10-year history of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama.
“It was a good race,” Benitez said. “She made me work the whole way.”
“We’re really happy. We are the only car on the team. This is dedicated for the team, my dad, the family, Formula Motorsport, Avid Motorsport. It’s great to be racing for Porsche. I love their brand. Porsche works great with Yokohama.”
Sloan Urry, from Park City, Utah, finished third in the No. 20 JDX Racing entry for his third podium finish of the season. He won the Yokohama Hard Charger Award for climbing to third after starting sixth.
Nielsen, who started third, passed Michael Schein for second on the second lap and never lost that spot. She cut the gap to Benitez in the closing laps but also was forced to keep an equal eye on her mirrors at the hard-charging Urry and Michael Lewis.
The race for the last two podium spots was intense on the final lap. Nielsen, Urry and Lewis went three-wide into the fast Turn 1 on the narrow circuit, but all three made it through cleanly. Nielsen held off Urry for second by less than four-tenths of a second.
“I’m happy to have my first podium,” Nielsen said. “It was a close call on the last lap in the first corner.”
Nielsen earned a podium spot in just her fifth start in the series. She competed the last two seasons in Porsche GT3 championships in Europe and the Middle East after beginning her career in karting and junior open-wheel formulas.
“There are elements that I learned from the other tracks that I just put into place here, and it worked,” Nielsen said. “It’s more than I expected. I didn’t expect to be within the top that quickly.”
Lewis, from Laguna Beach, California, ended up fourth in the No. 98 Competition Motorsports/Curb-Agajanian Porsche, less than six-tenths of a second behind Urry.
The race was filled with hard racing and occasional side-by-side contact on the seven-turn, 1.5-mile circuit. Lewis and fellow young star Colin Thompson engaged in a fierce, full-contact duel for fourth late in the race before Lewis closed on Urry and Nielsen for a podium position.
Kasey Kuhlman, from Cincinnati, was the first Platinum Masters (age 45 and older) finisher in the No. 15 Wright Motorsports entry. It was the fourth consecutive race this season Kuhlman topped the division. Javier Quiros, from San Jose, Costa Rica, was second in Platinum Masters in the No. 27 NGT Motorsport Porsche. David Williams, from Annapolis, Maryland, placed third in the No. 37 TPC Racing 911 GT3 Cup car.
Patrick-Otto Madsen, from Boca Raton, Florida, won the Gold Cup (2010-13 model cars) class for the second time this season in the No. 99 ANSA Motorsports Porsche. Michael Levitas, from Baltimore, was second in Gold and was the leading Gold Masters finisher in the No. 35 TPC Racing entry. Fred Poordad, from San Antonio, Texas, was third in Gold and second in Gold Masters in the No. 02 Competition Motorsports Porsche. Jeff Mosing, from Austin, Texas, rounded out the Gold Masters podium in the No. 01 Topp Racing 911 GT3 Cup car less than an hour after he finished the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge ST class race at Lime Rock.
The next two rounds of the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama will take place June 26-29 at Watkins Glen International in Watkins Glen, New York.
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