Sweedler and Bell Finish Seventh in the Team West/AJR Ferrari at Baltimore
BALTIMORE - Bill Sweedler and Townsend Bell crossed the finish line in seventh in the American Le Mans Series Grand Prix of Baltimore this evening
Sweedler (Westport, Conn.) had the controls of the No. 23 Team West/Alex Job Racing/Boardwalk Ferrari 458 for the start. When the green flag dropped, Sweedler took off down the outside of the main straight and narrowly missed a seven car crash that complete blocked the circuit. The clean-up resulted in a 75-minute race stoppage. The crash took out four GT competitors. During the stoppage the Ferrari was draining battery power and Sweedler could not restart the 458 and had to be towed to the pits. The team switched batteries and Sweedler rejoined the race, three laps down. He pitted on lap five and turned the car over to Bell (San Luis Obispo, Calif.) who drove a clean stint to the finish.
"It was a crazy start to the race," Sweedler said. "The green waved and I saw a gap on the outside and was able to get by about four cars in front of me and then all hell broke loose. When I saw the replay on TV I was amazed that I just missed that mess. When the race stopped I thought that I had everything switched off, but something was draining the battery. I went to restart the car and it wouldn't turnover. It was too bad this was a good opportunity for us to have a season's best finish."
Bell wanted to make sure to bring the car home in one piece.
"It was a crazy situation," Bell said. "We ran the car out of power sitting there on the track waiting for the clean-up. Then the radio went dead and Bill couldn't hear us. We went from seeing the rainbow to the perfect storm. We were three laps down and at that point we wanted to be smart, don't scratch the car and finish the race for our sponsors and the fans. It is not the way it should have gone. We have a lot of work to do. We are getting beat out of the corners on torque. We need a little help there too. The team never quite, which makes us want to work hard for them as well."
Eduardo Espindola, team co-owner, felt the highs and lows today.
"What a crazy start to the race," Espindola said. "Watching it on TV, I was amazed to see that Bill was able to get by four cars and stay ahead of that big crash. We went from being very happy to sadness when the car wouldn't start. I guess that is racing."
Alex Job, team co-owner, has seen it all.
"What a day," Job said. "Bill did a great job getting on the gas at the start. If he was a split second later we would have been in the thick of that crash. Then sitting on the track for over an hour drained the battery and that made the day tough. It would have been nice to take advantage when four of your top competitors go out on the first lap."
The American Le Mans Series Grand Prix of Baltimore will be televised on ABC, tomorrow, Sept. 1 at 12:00 p.m. EDT on ABC. The series will travel to the Circuit of the America's in Austin, Texas for round eight at the Circuit of the America's to run Sept. 19-21.
Alex Job Racing is one of the most successful teams in sports car racing with 70 wins (since 1995); including two Rolex 24 GT Class wins in 1999 and 2013. This record is supported by 48 pole positions and 106 podium finishes. The team has won four championships (GTC 2012, GT in 2004, 2003 and 2002) complimented by their two GT class wins at Le Mans. The team also boasts nine Sebring 12-hour wins.
The ALMS GT Class is comprised of production-based, moderately-modified, two-wheel drive race cars including the BMW Z4, Corvette C6.R, Ferrari F458 GT, Viper SRT and Porsche 911 GT3 RSR. The GT cars share many similarities to their showroom brands. With top speeds of up to 180 mph, these elite GTs produce between 450-500 horsepower and have a minimum weight of 1,145 kilograms (2,480 pounds). All GT race cars have green Leader Light System race position lights and green car numbers.