|June 20, 2004
Sheehan Goes From 27th for 1st, Retires After Re-Start Incident
Watkins Glen, NY - Gary Sheehan came into the week hopeful of following up on his lap-record-setting debut in last month's Mont-Tremblant race, with a strong result in Saturday's Glen 250. In the early laps of the race it looked as though this could indeed be the case, as Sheehan quickly found himself leading the race despite a starting position deep in the field.
Having endured mechanical problems throughout earlier practice and qualifying, the former US Touring Car Championship driver started the #4 Audi S4 of Istook-Aines Motorsports in 27th position, near the rear of the twenty-nine-car GS grid, (54 cars in all including ST class). Undaunted by such a poor starting position, Sheehan -- in what might be described as an extended hole-shot - cleanly knifed his way through the pack and into the race lead by lap eleven, despite full-course yellows on laps seven and eight. It was quite a charge, and began right from the gun: By lap two he was in 18th place; 15th on lap three; 8th on lap six; 3rd on lap ten, and into the race lead by lap eleven. It was not to last.
A second full-course yellow was displayed on lap eleven, lasting three laps. On the lap thirteen re-start, the third-place #09 BMW M3 driven by Jep Thornton, took a run at the leading Sheehan, pulling along side heading into the "Heel of the Boot". The battle for the position continued through the apex, both drivers racing cleanly and without contact, side by side. Coming out of the turn however, a perhaps overanxious Thornton, with a nose ahead on the inside, attempted to secure the pass by tracking hard to the outside of the turn's exit and into Sheehan's right front. The two cars made heavy contact, both spinning off course at high speed, through the foam safety barrier (which spectacularly "exploded"), and into the guardrail. It was a hard hit, but fortunately neither driver was injured. Both cars were badly damaged and unable to continue. A review of the incident by race officials, using footage from various cameras and angles, cleared Sheehan of any wrongdoing.
"Of course I'm very disappointed", Sheehan said. "I had very high expectations for the race after sorting out the mechanical issues we had during qualifying. The car was handling so well right from the start, especially under braking, and I was surprised how quickly we were able to move up through the field." When asked about the re-start incident with Thornton, Sheehan said, "I thought we were going to get through there cleanly. I gave him a lot of room; he had a nose on me on the inside, and it looked like he would just continue on the inside line as we exited the turn. I don't know if he thought he was past me, but he came across me hard and that was it. I'm just glad we are both ok. I feel bad for the team, as the car is in bad shape. We'll just have to shake it off and move on."
Sheehan's co-driver Anders Hainer unfortunately did not get a stint in the car due to the early retirement. The caution-filled race was eventually won by the #44 Porsche 996 driven by Craig Stanton and David Murray.
The Audi S4 Quattro prepared by Istook-Aines Motorsports is a racecar that Sheehan particularly likes to drive, given his considerable experience racing turbocharged, all-wheel drive touring cars: He previously campaigned an all-wheel drive Subaru WRX, achieving multiple race-wins in the U.S. Touring Car Championship during the 2001-2003 seasons. Adding to the degree of familiarity, the Audi is set up with StopTech's Balanced Brake System™, which Sheehan has used exclusively in recent years.
The Grand-Am Cup is the premier production car-based endurance racing series in North America. The field is made up of two classes: Sport Touring (ST) and Grand Sport (GS). GS is the more powerful class of the two and is filled with high-performance cars such as the BMW M3, Cadillac CTS-V, Nissan 350Z, Ford Mustang Cobra, Porsche 996 and Acura NSX. For more information regarding the Grand-Am Cup, visit the Grand American Road Racing website at www.grand-am.com.