Nicky Pastorelli brought the T-Mobile® VICI Racing™ Porsche 911 GT3 RSR over the finish line at the end of 2 hours and 45 minutes of hard racing in the Utah Grand Prix in fifth place after a strong race in hot, dry conditions and with the #18 car having emerged almost unscathed from a high speed mid race off-track incident.
Team mate Johannes Stuck, who was in the cockpit at the time, had done well to control the incident, and with a rapid adjustment of strategy the team was able to record a second top-5 finish in its second race of the year.
VICI Racing™ is a long-established German/US racing team which has set out this week on its second year in the prestigious sports car racing series. T-Mobile USA is a leading innovator and provider of mobile communications. At the end of 2008, T-Mobile USA served more than 32.8 million customers. T-Mobile USA is the U.S. operation of Deutsche Telekom AG’s Mobile Communications Business, and a wholly-owned subsidiary of T-Mobile International, one of the world’s leading companies in mobile communications. T-Mobile is a federally registered trademark of Deutsche Telekom AG. Michelin is a technical partner of the team.
Nicky, who set the #18 car’s grid time (1:48.599; 101.040 mph) yesterday during the 20-minute qualifying session, started the car in the race this afternoon. As the day wound up to the scheduled mid-afternoon start time, the temperatures were quickly rising into the high-80s, leaving the 3.06-mile, 14-turn Miller Motorsports Park, along with the teams in the paddock and the fans out on the circuit, all baking in the dry heat. This new purpose-built track, located in Tooele, which is just a 30 minute drive from downtown Salt Lake City, is at an altitude of 4,320 feet above sea level, putting it 3,000 feet above the next highest circuit on the ALMS calendar, Lime Rock – and following on from our last race at Long Beach, which is bang on sea level, a month ago – the altitude provided for a completely different challenge for our engineers.
Once the pre-race festivities were completed and the throng of fans had cleared away from the grid it was time for the traditional command to ‘start your engines’ and suddenly the whole 23-car field was screaming down to the first bend. Nicky’s first task was to steer the #18 car safely through the opening corners, particularly as the #62 Risi Competizione Ferrari F430 GT was quickly enveloped in a cloud of dust as it went off the track, a fate that also befell the #92 Rahal Letterman BMW M3 E92 which headed straight to the pits sporting damage down the car’s right hand side. The unfolding story of the opening stint for Nicky, the former F1 Official Test Driver for Midland and Jordan and 2004 F3000 Champion became one of harrying the #21 Panoz Esperante GTLM for fourth position, the Panoz using its superior straight line speed advantage to keep the 26-year-old Dutchman at bay.
After 1 hour and 6 minutes of racing Nicky pitted on lap 34 for fuel, tires and driver change to Johannes. After a very quick stop by the well drilled T-Mobile® VICI Racing™ pit crew, Johannes – the son of the legendary racing driver Hans Stuck and the third generation of winner from this history steeped family, blasted back into the race in sixth place, just as the time in Utah ticked towards half-past-three.
Johannes was swiftly into his stride, the 22-year-old racing here for the first time in his career. Ten laps later he passed the #44 Flying Lizards Porsche 911 GT3 RSR to move into fifth place. On lap 54 the #18 car survived a massive scare as a right hand front end issue saw the car glance on of the walls and generate a big plume of dust as it rejoined the circuit via Miller Motorsports Park’s dry and dusty run-offs. Rapidly taking advantage of the situation the T-Mobile® VICI Racing™ crew immediately called Johannes into the pits for the final pit stop for fuel and new tires and a driver handover to Nicky to take the final stint to the checkered flag.
Nicky was able to set a quick low-1:50s pace and control his advantage to the flag which was waved after two-and-three-quarter-hours of racing. For the record the #18 T-Mobile® VICI Racing™ Porsche 911 GT3 RSR completed 88 laps of the Miller Motorsports Park this afternoon in 2 hours 47 minutes and 13.429 seconds with the quickest of these being posted by Nicky in 1 minute 50.228 seconds on lap 64.
The next race for T-Mobile® VICI Racing™ will be the American Le Mans Northeast Grand Prix at Lime Rock Park near New York, which is the fifth appointment of the 2009 ALMS. The race takes place on July 15-17.
Roland Wall, Technical Director VICI Racing: “We finished fifth as I predicted if there were no yellow flags we would here which was a good result for us especially with the number of factory cars in the field. All the team did a great job and gave 110 percent so we can now go into the two month break with two good finishes from our first two race and work hard to build our package towards the second half of the season.”
Nicky Pastorelli (Netherlands) #18: “I’m pretty happy with the result today for sure. We had a great start but it took a few laps to get the car up to speed and in the meantime the Panoz overtook me. It’s difficult to run again a car with such a powerful engine, it was getting 20 km on us on the straight and can pull four car lengths out buy the first turn, although our car is much quicker in the corners so try as I might I couldn’t make pass stick as it could pull away on the straights. During the final stint the car felt really good, the tires were working very well here too, and I was able to turn in consistent laps to the finish. We made very good progress here for sure and I’m looking forward to us moving a step forward at the next race.”