From Ford Racing
AUSTIN, Texas -- A pair of on-track incidents, one on the first lap and another halfway through the race, cost the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing IMSA Ford GT team dearly in the Lone Star Le Mans event at Circuit of the Americas today.
Starting under a withering sun with a heat index over 100 degrees, the No. 66 Ford GT found trouble on the first lap when Dirk Müller was punted off the track by one of the BMWs, and he lost more than half a lap before he could return to action.
Meanwhile, the No. 67 Ford GT, driven by pole-sitter Ryan Briscoe, got jumped at the start but had settled in nicely in the top four when on lap 35, the No. 4 Corvette cut down on him in a turn, causing contact that broke the steering rack on the car.
That repair cost Briscoe and teammate Richard Westbrook 13 laps as the Ganassi crew hurried to repair the damage back in the garage. The car returned to the track and finished the race, but in ninth place.
The finish, combined with the championship-leading No. 4 Corvette’s fifth-place finish, leaves Briscoe/Westbrook unofficially 11 points behind the leaders heading into Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta in two weeks.
The No. 66 car of Müller and Joey Hand battled throughout the race trying to get back track position, but could only climb to sixth in a 2 hour, 40-minute race with only one full course caution.
DIRK MÜLLER – “It’s definitely not the result we wanted. We tested here and had been really, really quick. The 67 car was on pole – congrats again to them on that one. The race started really tough for us. I got turned around with a BMW behind me. He got penalized for it, but my race was pretty much over, I was dead last. I had to pass all the GTD cars at that point. Luckily we got that yellow so we kind of came back, but we were always running behind and P6 at the end was all we could do. Tough luck on that one, but what can you do when you get spun around.”
JOEY HAND – “Yeah, just a tough, tough, tough day. The 66 car, with me and Dirk, we just struggled all weekend. Right from the get-go, we struggled with getting this car to stop. We had some brake-locking things that we chased. We chased a gremlin… whether it was imaginary or not, we don’t know, and then we decided we had to just work on set-up, which put us a little late to the party. We’ve been fortunate that we’ve gotten used to being pretty good right off the truck, and having a really good car the last four weeks. We’ve had really, really good cars. But we just couldn’t find it this weekend. We tried something in qualifying that wasn’t good for Dirk there, then we got hit in the race right away by the BMW and that put us way back, fighting with the GTD cars, and this race car is so green at the start, you just can’t have those types of problems. We fought, as usual, as a team, and we got what we could get. I’m always proud to be part of this program.”
RICHARD WESTBROOK – “I’m obviously disappointed. After Ryan put the car on the pole, we had high hopes, and then to to end up P-last… But it’s one of those things. On the plus side, our crew guys worked so hard and so fast to change that steering mount. It was just unbelievable. The steering was a bit out after that, but that’s to be expected, and these are the things you’re learning all the time. But it doesn’t feel like it’s time to learn any more. We’re coming here to win a championship. So obviously we disappointed, but it doesn’t change the plan for Road Atlanta. We’re still going there to try and win a championship. It’s a 10-hour race, and a lot of things can happen. We’ll dust ourselves off and come out fighting.”
RYAN BRISCOE – It was a tough race today at COTA. We got jumped at the start and a little contact with the 4 car later in the race and we broke a steering rack, so that really just put us out of the race which was a real shame. It’s just disappointing because we got the pole and we had a fast car. We just didn’t make anything of it, but that’s racing sometimes. We’ll move on to Road Atlanta and try and win there. The championship is still open, it’s mathematically possible for us to win, but we’ll need a fortune on our side and we’ll do everything we can.”