Blown Tire Costs Verizon Wireless Porsche Riley at The Glen

August 8, 2009

WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. (August 7, 2009) - Penske Racing co-drivers Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas were relegated to a 13th-place finish in the No. 12 Verizon Wireless Porsche Riley after a podium run in Friday’s Crown Royal 200 at The Glen was foiled by a blown tire with less than five minutes to go in the race.

The ill-fated tire proved to be too much to overcome as the Penske Porsche driving duo raced hard without a clutch during the two-hour timed Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series event at the 2.45-mile Watkins Glen International short course.

Bernhard drove the first stint for the team, rolling off in the fifth position. He qualified the Verizon Wireless Porsche in the sixth spot on Thursday, but another competitor’s time was disallowed for a rules infraction that was discovered during post-qualifying technical inspection.

During his stint, Bernhard found the clutch had gone out on the Porsche-powered Riley, but the team made the necessary adjustments for departing the pits. As each Verizon Wireless crew member completed his over-the-wall duty, they moved to the back of the Riley to push the car off pit road and effectively restart the Porsche engine.

Bernhard led the race for five laps before turning the wheel over to Dumas.

“The car was different from last night,” said Bernhard, referring to Thursday night’s practice session, when the Verizon Wireless Porsche posted the third-fastest time. “We made [subtle] changes but the effect is more drastic. I think it is because of the NASCAR practices today.”

With Dumas behind the wheel, the Penske prepared Riley remained in the top-five until the closing laps. The Frenchman was running solidly in third place when the tire finally blew, destroying the right side of the car’s nose. The blown tire was the result of hard racing several laps earlier, and the tire finally gave way.

Dumas limped the Porsche powered Riley to pit road for service and after quick deliberation, crew chief Bill Vincent replaced only the tire and Dumas was pushed off pit road.

“A little unfortunate again,” said Dumas. “We have had a couple of races where we were close to a good result and in the end it didn’t work out. It is a pity for the crew, the drivers and everybody. At the other end, we are trying very hard and it is frustrating to have these things happen. It is not something we could have done anything about. If a tire goes, a tire goes.”

The Penske Racing team now stands fifth in the series’ Daytona Prototype standings. The Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series Presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 will return to action on August 29 at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, Canada.