Race Recap and Gallery: 2011 Emco Gears Classic at Mid-Ohio
Rum Bum Racing’s Matt Plumb made a late-race pass over Roush Performance’s Billy Johnson to win the 2011 Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge season finale at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on September 17. The win helped BMW capture the manufacturer’s title, despite an army of fourteen Mustangs entered for the race.
Typically, the Grand-Am Road Racing Series visits Mid-Ohio in June. This year, the 15-turn, 2.4 mile road circuit hosted the series finale in September. Cool and dry track conditions made for record-breaking laps; thirty-two of the thirty-nine Grand Sport competitors broke the track record on their qualifying runs. Thirty-two Street Tuner-class cars added to the Grand Sport entries to make one of the biggest Grand-Am Continental Tire Sports Car challenge fields. With 71 cars crowded into less than 2-1/2 miles of track, the race was sure to be action-packed.
After having a substantial lead at the beginning of the season, Turner Motorsport BMW driver Paul Dalla Lana’s point cushion was slowly chipped away by the competition. By the series finale, the title was within reach for Roush Performance’s Jack Roush Jr. and Billy Johnson. A strong finish for the #61 Roush Performance Mustang combined with a poor finish for the #96 Turner Motorsport BMW would bring the championship to Roush, Johnson, and Ford. To help Dalla Lana’s defend his championship lead, Turner Motorsport brought in road-racing hot-shoe Boris Said as a co-driver.
The outlook for a Ford Mustang to take the win looked bright after James Gue piloted the #37 JBS Motorsports Boss 302R Mustang to pole position with a 1:31.223 lap. Multimatic Motorsports’s Joe Foster was a tick behind Gue and qualified his #15 Mustang Boss 302R second-quickest.
At the race start, Foster and Gue raced side-by-side through the first turns before Foster took the lead, with Gue sandwiched between Foster’s back bumper and a hard-charging Tom Dyer in his CKS Autosport Camaro GS.R. On lap nine, Dryer muscled his Camaro from third to first, and held the lead until the race’s half-way point, when Dryer pitted and handed the lead to Andrew Aquilante and his #35 Subaru WRX.
With less than one hour remaining, Jade Buford (#33 BMW) took the overall lead from Andrew Aquilante, while Billy Johnson (#61 Roush Performance Mustang Boss 302R) then got by to snatch second. Two laps later, Johnson passed Buford for the lead.
With 40 minutes left to race, Matt Plumb in the #13 Rum Bum Racing BMW M3 passed Buford for second. To add to the tension, Boris Said (co-driver to championship-leader Paul Dalla Lana) tumbled to tenth, reducing Dalla Lana’s GS lead to two points over Johnson and Roush. With two laps to go, a stalking Matt Plumb made his move for the lead, and held off Johnson to take the checker. Boris Said finished sixth, securing the GS-class championship for Turner Motorsport and Paul Dalla Lana.
The 2011 Grand-Am Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge season saw fantastic door-to-door, fender-banging action while some of the world’s best drivers fought tooth-and-nail on North America’s greatest tracks. Next year, get out to a track near you for a Grand-Am Continental Tire Challenge Race. Forget the “good old days.” THIS is the golden era of street stock sports car racing!