Randy Ruhlman and Shane Lewis show well at Mexico City in No. 3 Southard Motorsports/Preformed Line Products Daytona Prototype
MEXICO CITY (March 6, 2007) –Mexico City's Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez was the site on Saturday, March 3rd of Round Two of the 2007 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Royal Crown Special Reserve. Sharing the Southard Motorsports Daytona Prototype driving duties were Americans Randy Ruhlman and Shane Lewis in the No. 3 Preformed Line Products Lexus Riley. The pair showed well, despite suffering some setbacks along the way, against the international field of drivers in the 250-mile road course race that went the full 100-laps without a full course caution.
Encouraged by a good first practice session at the 2.5-mile track, the team found themselves struggling for a setup by early Thursday afternoon. Ruhlman and Lewis, working along with team engineer Kris Mellon, tried to get the handling to improve and increase the straight-line speed of the car. The car got faster as they refined the setup, but with limited on-track time available, the team decided to use the qualifying session to gauge the changes. Shane Lewis was able to qualify the much-improved car in the tenth starting position.
As the 3:15 p.m. CT race began, Lewis had an excellent start and moved up quickly in the No. 3 Southard Motorsports/Preformed Line Products Lexus Riley, engaging in an exciting battle for seventh with the Mexican driver of the No. 01 TelMex Lexus, Memo Rojas. Television cameras followed closely, as the two exchanged positions several times before eventually falling into the rhythm of the race.
By Lap 21, Lewis called in to let the team know that no air was coming into the car, and the totally enclosed car was feeling hot. The team anxiously stood by ready to pit early if they needed to, and Randy Ruhlman began to get ready to take over the driving, even though the fuel window was still 15-laps away. Lewis fought the overheating challenge, and after the TelMex car had passed them both, continuing to battle the Red Bull car of Canadian Darren Law.
SPEED TV cameras followed the close battle for fifth through eighth, as the No. 3 car moved back into seventh place, ahead of the No. 29 Ruby Tuesday's car of 2006 Grand-Am Daytona Prototype champion Jorg Bergmeister of Germany. At Lap 39, Lewis moved up, suffered a setback on track, and dropped back to eighth place. Re-passing Bergmeister a dozen laps later, Lewis again set his sights on the Red Bull car of Law, eventually moving up as far as fourth place when a few of the leaders began to come into the pits.
Along with pit stops for new tires and full fuel, a driver change is mandated in the two and one-half hour Grand-Am race, and the race saw one flight of the world's top road racers get out of the cars and another equally talented group get in. With the fuel window beginning to close, a flurry of activity in the pits also saw the No. 3 car come in to make their stop. Unfortunately, things began to unravel for the No. 3 car during the pit stop.
Fuel, tires, and the driver exchange went smoothly, but as the crew tried to get the seatbelts hooked up during the green flag pit stop, the clasp became caught in the seat and precious time was lost getting them extracted and buckled. By the time the car got back on track, it had lost another lap and all its track position; in the flurry of activity to get the belts fastened, the air and water problems also did not get resolved. Driving the final stint of the 250-mile/100-lap race without incident, Ruhlman did what he could to bring the No. 3 Southard Motorsports/Preformed Line Products Lexus Riley home. Able to deal with the heat (and now lack of water and no cool suit), but already laps down, Ruhlman had no way to get back up front to contend and the No. 3 car ended the day in fifteen place in the 38-car field of Grand-Am cars, just behind the factory Riley Pontiac driven by Belgian Marc Goossens.
The No. 3 Southern Motorsports/Preformed Line Products Lexus Riley enjoyed an outstanding day of television exposure on SPEED TV's live three-hour program. Extensive coverage the car including battles for position throughout the entire race, trackside interviews, and coverage of the pit stop, all added to the excitement for the team's fans in the United States, as well as the viewing enjoyment of the trackside customers and guests of PLP Mexico in attendance at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City. The Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series heads next to the road course at Homestead, Florida on March 24th for Round Three of the sixteen race Daytona Prototype series.
The No. 3 Preformed Line Products Daytona Prototype is campaigned by Southard Motorsports of Powell, Ohio. The Riley chassis is powered by Lexus engines with technical expertise by TRD Engineering and carries sponsorship from Preformed Line Products from Mayfield Village, Ohio. Randy Ruhlman joined the team this year after running last year in Daytona Prototypes and following a successful career in the Trans-Am Series. Shane Lewis is a four-year veteran of the Southard Motorsports and part of the team's two Grand-Am podium finishes last year.
Randy Ruhlman has been a professional driver since 1990 and has extensive racing experience, predominantly in road racing in the Trans-Am Series, as well as in IMSA, ASA and the NASCAR short track series. Last year, Ruhlman drove the No. 40 Preformed Line Products Daytona Prototype for Derhaag Motorsports. Ruhlman was the top American driver in the 2005 Trans-Am Drivers' Championship, holding the points lead throughout the season and scoring a pair of wins--the season opener at the Long Beach Grand Prix and the Cleveland Grand Prix. Ruhlman was named the 2005 BBS "Most Improved Driver of the Year" and makes the record books as fourth in Top Ten finishes in Trans-Am history.
Lewis is widely considered one of the sports leading development drivers and has competed in twenty-four 24 Hour Races--nine-times in the Rolex 24 At Daytona, three-times at Le Mans and twice at Nürburgring. Always a fan favorite, Shane Lewis earned two Daytona Prototype podium finishes with Southard Motorsports in 2006, at the Long Beach Grand Prix and Phoenix. He has multiple wins in the Rolex Sports Car Series and Grand-Am KONI Challenge Series and was the 1998 Professional Sports Car Racing Rising Star award winner.
Southard Motorsports reflects the goals and dedication of its owners, Steve and Martha Southard, both former drivers themselves in Historic and Professional racing. One of only two teams to have competed in every Grand American Rolex Daytona Prototype Sports Car event since 2004, they have shown the continuity and commitment that are hallmark to all winning programs and the team was pivotal in winning the inaugural Jim Truman Driver's Award. Southard Motorsports' experience and knowledge was highlighted by last year's successful Daytona Prototype season, as they captured two podium finishes, a third at the prestigious Long Beach Grand Prix and another third at Phoenix.
Preformed Line Products (PLP) is an international manufacturer and supplier of hardware and support systems for the communications and energy industries. Products include COYOTE® Fiber Optics and VORTEX® Vibration Dampers used in the telecommunications, cable and energy industries. Manufacturing facilities are located worldwide in the USA, Canada, China, Brazil, Mexico, England, Spain, South Africa, Australia and Thailand.