Orbit Racing team boss Mike Fitzgerald figured it was just a matter of calculation and timing that earned his team a podium finish in the Rolex 24. But with a little luck thrown in, things got even better than he imagined.
Fitzgerald's Porsche GT3RS spent the early evening hours moving steadily up the leaderboard, and before midnight the No. 44 GT car finally cracked the top 10. As the race unfolded, attrition opened some doors for the Orbit team on its way to a class victory.
"We knew it was going to be close," said Fitzgerald, who co-drove with Johnny Mowlem, Robin Riddell, Joe Policastro and Jay Policastro. "We just kept working on making good lap times and hoping we could avoid mistakes."
In the final hour, Fitzgerald, on slick tires on a damp track, overtook the third-place Lizard Motorsports Porsche of Mike Rockenfeller. After pitting for tires, Mowlem took over for the final stint.
Said Mowlem, "I managed to get the gap up to 51 seconds and then I hit an awful lot of traffic. Then it started raining."
When the Howard-Boss Chevrolet-Crawford Daytona Prototype which led much of the way overall suddenly fell out in the final minutes, Mowlem inherited the runner-up spot overall, just six seconds ahead of Rockenfeller.
"It was tough racing at the end," Fitzgerald said. "To have a 24-hour race come down to that small a margin is pretty unbelieveable."
FIRST CLASS WIN: This race marked the debut of the Grand American Road Racing Association's new Super Grand Sport class. The 53-car field included 14 touring-class entries, which consisted entirely of Porsches except for one Corvette.
The Doncaster Racing Team's Porsche GT3CU won the class and was ninth overall.
Despite trying conditions and having to work constantly to stay out of the way of faster cars, driver Marc Lieb said the fledgling team was happy with its first endurance race.
"It was pretty funny out there at times," said Lieb, who co-drove with Jean-Francois Dumoulin, Robert Julien and Greg Pootmans. "It was raining really heavy and the visibility was zero. But what can you do? We all had to deal with it. I think we did a really good job."
_ LOGAN NEILL