Dalziel Steers SAMAX to Maiden Grand-Am Victory
Scotland’s Ryan Dalziel soaked up some late-race pressure Saturday to lead SAMAX Motorsport to their maiden victory in Round 5 of the 2008 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Presented by Crown Royal Cask No.16, the ‘Rum Bum.com 250’ hosted at California’s Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
The 26-year-old Lanarkshire ace, who together with team-mate Henri Zogaib finished on the second step of the podium last time out in Round 4 at the Virginia International Raceway, ensured that the top spot was to be denied him no more having recorded a total of three runner-up placings previously with Peter Baron’s Florida-based outfit. Dalziel skillfully steered the #2 SAMAX Motorsport BMW-Riley Daytona Prototype into the lead on lap 76 and duly held his own through to the checkered on lap 98, celebrating a memorable victory for both himself and Zogaib in the process.
The 2-hour 45-minute endurance sprint kicked off at the 2.238-mile circuit with Zogaib behind the wheel. A solid stint from the Orlando racer, who until yesterday had never even turned a lap at Laguna, allowed Ryan to then assume control on lap 14 and the Scot wasted little time in charging to the front – as he had done last month in Virginia where he was beaten to victory by a mere 0.5 seconds by Scott Pruett in the #01 Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus-Riley.
Dalziel’s shot at the lead came shortly after a re-start deep into proceedings when he made the most of a three-wide pass to move ahead of both Pruett and Marc Goosens driving the #91 Riley-Matthews Pontiac Riley. The Belgian kept Ryan honest in the closing stages of the race, the pair even dicing off-track as they both ran wide into the dirt at the notorious Corkscrew turn following a late re-start with 15 minutes remaining. Despite the pressure Dalziel kept his nerve to claim the win, his margin of victory 1.504 seconds over the #91 entry of Goosens, co-driven by Jim Matthews with the #01 of Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas rounding out the podium.
“The last few laps were pretty emotional for me,” said Dalziel afterwards. “I got a good jump on the restart and saw I had the legs on Pruett and Goosens to pass for the lead. I was a little bit angry at myself later though. I made a mistake on the other restart and got a tire off but there was absolutely no way I was going to give up a victory for myself, for Henri and for the SAMAX crew. It was going to end up in the tires or in victory lane so I’m stoked it turned out to be the second option!
“I’ve always have mixed emotions coming back to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. I lost the Atlantic Championship here in 2004, and since then I’ve had an up and down relationship with the track. It’s really special for me to come here and win for SAMAX though. Everything went well today in practice and in the race. The car was phenomenal, and I don’t think we’ve lost a position in the pits all year! I can’t thank the team enough, it was a great job by everyone and richly deserved – here’s to more!”
SPEED will broadcast the ‘Rum Bum.com 250’ from the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca as a tape-delay starting at Noon EST on Sunday 18th May – www.speedtv.com
Round 6 of the 2008 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series Presented by Crown Royal Cask No.16, the ‘Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen’, takes place at the famed Watkins Glen Circuit, New York, Friday 6th – Saturday 7th June – www.grand-am.com.
Photo Credit: ‘Henri Zogaib (left) and Ryan Dalziel (right) celebrate their Laguna Seca win’ – Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series