21 Jul Race Report: Lime Rock Park
Winward/HTP Motorsport further solidified their status as the team to watch in 2018 with a fantastic performance under intense pressure at Lime Rock Park. After a late race Full Course Yellow reduced the Lime Rock Park 120 to a 16 minute sprint race, Dutchman Indy Dontje charged from P6 to second place and was just 1.5 seconds off the leader as the chequered flag fell. With the Damien Faulkner’s #33 Techemet AMG GT4 finishing sixth, this was comfortably the best finish by the Houston based team this season.
“Basically, it is all about the team today,” explained the driver from Alkmaar in the Netherlands. “They did a great job on pit stops. Bryce did a great job picking up spots in his stint, we pitted from 13th and came out seventh, and then I just finished the job off. I told the guys I would catch the Porsche on the last lap, they didn’t believe it, but we did it and grabbed second place.”
The compact weekend scheduled began on Friday morning with the first of three practice sessions. Early in the week it became apparent that the damage sustained by the Sonic Tools Mercedes at Watkins Glen would force a change of chassis. With the decision then made to run one of the team’s spare AMG GT4s, it was a race against time to prepare the car for Friday’s opening session. The Winward crew worked through Thursday night to have the car ready to go for the following morning. There was no time to add any partner decals and the car initially ran in a classic all Silver livery reminiscent of the classic ‘Silver Arrows’ Mercedes that dominated Grand Prix Racing in the 1930s. While the #33 car ran on old tires throughout the hour-long practice, Dontje and Bryce Ward spent the time familiarising themselves with the re-built car and the track itself.
— Winward Racing (@WinwardRacing) July 20, 2018
The second session saw Damien Faulkner post the third quickest time while the drivers of the #57 car continued to put in valuable laps on the compact 1.5 mile layout. The Techemet team carried that momentum into the short final practice session with Russell Ward running some exceptional laps good enough for P3. The team was further boosted by Bryce Ward’s performance in the last session before qualifying as he broke into Top 10 in ninth.
If the Winward crew members had not worked hard enough on Thursday, Friday afternoon brought more challenges as, between final practice and qualifying, it was discovered that the #33 Techemet car had a broken shock absorber. This meant a frantic trip back to the paddock to get it replaced prior to GS qualifying. Remarkably, the team had the car ready for the fifteen minute session and the younger Ward was able to claim P10 on the grid with Bryce lining up seventeenth in the GS Class.
Saturday’s race began in the heat of the late afternoon and with the GS cars so evenly matched, passing for position was at a premium. Russell Ward’s mission was to move the #33 car into the most competitive position possible for his co-driver Faulkner, while Bryce Ward’s immediate goal was to stay on the lead lap so that his Dutch partner would have a chance of making some impact on the Top 10 in the second half of the race. Both drivers raced cleanly and smartly throughout the opening stages of the two hour race and it soon became obvious that Bryce Ward’s pace was more than sufficient to keep the #57 car on the lead lap. In fact by the time the first Full Course Yellow occured on Lap 48, Ward had moved the Sonic Tools car into an excellent P12. The Techemet car had also progressed through the field and Russell Ward was in seventh spot by the time the caution flag flew. The Winward/HTP Motorsport pit crews then went to work and both cars were able to gain places through excellent work on pit lane. Damien Faulkner’s #33 car lined up six places behind the safety car with Indy Dontje just two places further back in P8.
— Winward Racing (@WinwardRacing) July 21, 2018
The race restarted with just over an hour to go which meant that it was likely that the whole GS field would have to make one more timed stop for fuel. As has become the norm, the Winward AMG GT4s took five laps or so to get their Continental Tires up to full operating temperature. By that time the cars had been relegated to P8 and P9 respectively.
On lap 65 Dontje got by his Irish teammate for seventh position which became P6 on the following lap. By Lap 70 Faulkner had tucked in behind the man from Alkmaar in seventh spot. With forty minutes to go Dontje grabbed fifth spot and quickly set his sights on the Eric Foss AMG GT4 for fourth spot. Dontje’s rapid progress towards the front of the field was then hampered by the second Full Course Yellow of day which helped to reset the field and give the Flying Dutchman the chance to really shine in the final fifteen minutes of the race.
Today’s result could not have been achived without the incredible work of the entire Winward/@HTPMotorsport crew. The work they put in prior to & throughout the event was astonishing. The pit stops today were superb and @IndyDontje could not have charged to P2 without them. pic.twitter.com/Am68Z8TqLL
— Winward Racing (@WinwardRacing) July 21, 2018
For Team owner, Bryce Ward, all the signs are positive for the rest of the season. “The team, the entire crew, they really sacrificed themselves this weekend. I picked up about five places, the crew gained us around six or seven places in the pits and Indy picked up at least five spots. We really finished on the podium because of the crew and the great Mercedes-AMG GT4 they prepared for us. It really has been rewarding. The results are showing. We are slowly but surely working our way up the order. It’s really nice to be competing as a startup team like us against teams that have been racing for years. I can’t say enough about HTP and how they have helped us develop, understand and learn the car. The Mercedes-AMG GT4 is really so great late in a stint. You can just see it. Toward the end of the race we were just strong, strong, strong. It’s a testament to how the team setup the car, and I take my hat off to the engineers.”
Winward/HTP Motorsport will compete in Round 7 of the 2018 Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge, the Road America 120, on Saturday, August 4th. The Green Flag drops at 5:05pm EST and can you get session-by-session updates from the Official Winward Racing Twitter and Instagram accounts at https://twitter.com/WinwardRacing and https://www.instagram.com/winwardracing/