TROIS-RIVIERES, Quebec, Canada - Patrick Long and Brent Martini ascended to the top of the Grand-Am Cup Series Grand Sport class point standings with a victory Sunday in Le Grand Prix de Trois-Rivieres in the No. 81 Wheel Enhancement/Synergy Racing Porsche 997.
Long took over for Martini during the race's first full-course caution period on Lap 6 and completed the last 85 laps en route to his first career Grand-Am Cup Series victory. The Porsche factory driver took the lead after a series of pit stops and driver changes by the lead group during a Lap 55 caution. On the ensuing restart, Long held off charges by Spencer Pumpelly in the No. 49 CDOC/Marcus Motorsports Porsche 997 and later Michael McDowell in the No. 15 Playboy/Palms Ford Mustang GT that finished second, 1.649 seconds behind the winning Porsche.
"This is a big win and this is the first time this year that we've led a race," Long said. "Grand-Am Cup is one of the most challenging series that I've run in. This circuit plays well to the Porsche 997. It really comes down to handling and brake management and we did well with that today. I want to thank Synergy for all the hard work they do and also my co-driver Brent Martini."
Martini started the winning car 17th and avoided early incidents during the opening stint. The No. 81 machine was one of a few machines to come down pit road during the early caution to complete driver changes, but ultimately, the strategy paid off. It is the first Grand-Am Cup victory for Martini since September 2002 at Virginia International Raceway.
"Thanks to Synergy for getting the Porsche 997 set up," Martini said. "It's hard as a racer to get out of the car early on but we knew that strategy would be very important in this race. We took advantage of our strengths here and it paid off. We have a great couple of races coming up. Salt Lake City and VIR are going to be fun and challenging events to finish the season with."
With the victory, Long and Martini now hold a six-point advantage in the championship standings over Pumpelly and Andy Lally (200-194) with just two races remaining on the 2006 schedule. No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M3 co-drivers Bill Auberlen and Chris Gleason--who came into the race with a one-point lead in the standings over No. 97 Under Armour BMW M3 driver Anders Hainer--experienced brake problems at Trois-Rivieres which relegated the duo to a 22nd-place finish.
McDowell and co-driver Rob Finlay earned their second-straight podium finish, and fourth top-five showing of the season. The duo scored their first victory of the year last weekend at Barber Motorsports Park. Finlay started the No. 15 Mustang fifth on the grid, and ran near the front of the pack throughout his stint. McDowell took over on Lap 55 and rejoined the race in third place. He slipped by Pumpelly for second on the last lap of the race.
"The Ford Mustang was awesome today," McDowell said. "We had a little fumble in the pits and then got caught up in the yellow so I really had to go flat out once I got out there. The Playboy Racing team did an excellent job getting the car set up the way we needed. I think this is the start of a streak for the team."
"I love Trois-Rivieres and I love racing here," Finlay said. "The fans and the nightlife make this more than a race--it's an experience. The team, as usual, did another great job this weekend and we're happy with this good finish."
Pumpelly and Lally finished third, their fourth podium finish of the year. Lally qualified the No. 49 machine 11th and picked off positions early before handing control to Pumpelly. Ray Mason and Adam Pecorari finished fourth in the No. 59 Rehagen Racing Ford Mustang GT, the best finish of the season for Pecorari. After starting 24th and improving 20 spots during the 91-lap, two-hour timed event, the team earned the Bernheim "Improve Your Position" Award. Hainer and co-driver Joey Hand finished rounded out the top-five in the No. 97 machine.
The penultimate round of the 2006 Grand-Am Cup Series season will be held on Labor Day Weekend at the brand-new Miller Motorsports Park near Salt Lake City. The 200-mile combined class event is scheduled to begin at 2:45 p.m. local time on Friday, September 1.