Tears and cheers as Ryan wins at Mid-Ohio
THE PLOT: Ryan Dalziel produced one of the best drives of his career to steer the Starworks Ford-Riley to a sensational victory at Mid-Ohio.
The Orlando-based ace defied a charge from newly-crowned Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car champ Scott Pruett to take the chequered flag in the EMCO Gears Classic and spark tear-filled celebrations in the pitlane.
Despite never having more than a second lead, 28-year-old Lanarkshire-born Ryan held his nerve to clinch his first win of the season — and his first since taking the Rolex 24 at Daytona crown in 2010 — in the #8 INA
Venezeula/Avior Airlnes Ford/Riley.
Team-mate Enzo Potolicchio, 43, had started the car in ninth place and did a superb job to hand over to Ryan in the top six.
Ryan then blasted the Fort Lauderdale team to the head of the pack. After a mid-race spell in the lead, the crew produced a great pitstop and Ryan was back in the mix.
He took over the lead on lap 74 then held on for a famous win.
THE QUOTES: ON THE WIN: “It was a massive win. Emotionally, it feels even bigger than Daytona because I have put so much effort into this team for the past couple of years.
“I have been with Starworks since it was just two employees — Peter Baron and myself. To see how we have grown and to get close with a couple of podiums every year has been good.
“But to get this was very special and there wasn’t a dry eye in the team. It really meant a lot to everybody.
“It is the most special win I have had so far.
“The best bit is that we know we can take this into next year. It was the perfect performance. Every single person in the team did their job to perfection.
“Enzo did a great job and handed the car over in sixth. We had a good car and good stops.
“It is good to go into the close season with a win and with a little bit of momentum.
“When we arrive at Daytona next year, we will be the team that has had the most recent win so that will give everyone a good feeling over the winter.
“It was Ford’s first win of the year. They have never had such a disappointing campaign so it was important that we got a victory for them.”
ON THE LAST STINT: “The last 40 minutes we never had anything more than a second lead. We had four re-starts in that time — two in the last 20 minutes. There was oil put down, there were crashes — I hit pretty much everything I could hit in the last 20 minutes, but we had to be aggressive.
“We knew the car was good from lap four or five. We struggled a lot in the opening laps after the re-start so
we had to make the most of the cold tires on the opening lap.
“I had to stretch a gap, then they would reel me in. From then on, we played a bit of chess.”
THE SUB-PLOT: Ryan was also in the GT Academy/AM Performance Nissan 370Z with gamer-turned-racer Bryan Heitkotter in the Continental Tires Sports Car Challenge. But things didn’t go so well after Bryan was involved in an incident just 30 minutes into the race.
THE FACTS: Ryan has had four podiums in 2011 – a win at Mid-Ohio and third at Barber, Lime Rock and Watkins Glen. He has also had three fourth-place finishes.
Ryan’s last win was the 2010 Rolex 24 At Daytona. He gave Starworks Motorsport its first DP victory at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in 2008. He finished fifth in the Driver Standings last year.
The GT Academy will be shown as a five-part reality TV show, starting on SPEED on Tuesday, September 20 at 10pm (ET). The Continental Tires Sports Car Challenge race will be on SPEED at 12pm (ET) on September 25.