Sweedler and Bell Finish Tenth in the Team West/AJR Ferrari at VIR
ALTON, Va. - Co-drivers Bill Sweedler and Townsend Bell finished 10th in the GT class today in the American Le Mans Series Oak Tree Grand Prix at VIRginia International Raceway.
Sweedler (Westport Conn.) started the penultimate round from the sixth row in No. 23 Team West/AJR Ferrari. Sweedler's race got off to a good start. He gained one spot in the GT class before a clutch issue forced Sweedler to pit lane on lap five. The crew to took a look, made a few adjustments and sent Sweedler back out. But, the issues weren't resolved.
Seven laps later, the team had Sweedler take the No. 23 machine back to the paddock for a more extensive look. Once there, the team made a couple more adjustments and sent Sweedler back out on the track. Now 12 laps down to the overall leaders, Sweedler made two circuits around the 3.27-mile, 17-lap track before the team decided to put Bell in the car.
"It was unfortunate because we were right with the GT pack," Sweedler said referring to the mechanical issue force him to the paddock. "We had a great car with Yokohamas, but we had a clutch issue. I think some debris got into the clutch intake or something. The clutch was slipping. So, after a couple of laps, we had to bring her behind the wall. In a race like this, you go behind the wall, your day is done. It's disappointing. We had a good car here."
Bell took over on lap 14. From there, Bell (San Luis Obispo, Calif.) drove a solid stint, turning lap times on par with the GT class leaders. It appeared that the team was able to resolve the clutch issue. On lap 36, the race's second full course caution came out due to a grass fire. At that point, the team decided to put Sweedler back in the car for the final stint to the end. The team was in 11th place at the time.
"The car was great," Bell said. "Everything got fixed. The guys hustled. We had some kind of clutch issue. They got that sorted out. Unfortunately, it put us in the position that our race was done. So, we [went back out because we ] wanted to see where we would've been. The pace was pretty competitive. I think we we're running the same pace as the BMWs and the Corvettes. Yokohama should be proud even with hot conditions. But, we're obviously disappointed. We wanted to run on the lead lap and, with all of these yellows, we wanted to have a chance to mix it up with the guys at the end."
Sweedler finished out the race, picking up one more spot en route to a 10th place finish.
"I like the way the team worked to keep the car in the race," team co-owner Eduardo Espindola said. "Once we got it back on the track we were able to match the pace of the top GT competitors."
"It was a tough day for Bill and Townsend," co-team owner Alex Job said. "The car had an issue with the clutch. We never really did find out what it was. But, we will take a long look at it when we get it back to the shop and fix the problem before we go to Petit."
The team will travel to Road Atlanta for the American Le Mans Series season finale Oct. 16-19. Petit Le Mans will also be the final race for the American Le Mans Series after 14 seasons.
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.