B-K Motorsports Unlocks Potential of BP Lola Mazda at Mid-OhioWhile the final results may not show it, B-K Motorsports had one of its most encouraging races of the season Saturday in the Acura Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio. The No. 8 BP Lola B07/46 Mazda of Ben Devlin and Gerardo Bonilla was fast throughout the day but ran into a fuel vent issue wîth an hour remaining in the race. The team rebounded and got the Mazda MZR-R-powered prototype back on track to finish eighth in the LMP2 category.
The weekend didn't get off to a good start for the Wisconsin-based crew as the BP Lola suffered two engine failures, forcing the team to skip qualifying on Friday and start from the rear of the field. With only a handful of laps in practice and warm-up under his belt, Devlin started the car and quickly got into a rhythm. The Englishman moved up to 11th overall in the first 30 minutes before pitting under yellow on lap 42 for fuel and tires.
The call to bring the Lola Mazda in for service on the wave-by lap proved to be key, as Devlin was able to get back on the lead lap. Once back to green, Devlin moved up to eighth overall, running wîth the lead pack, and began slowly chomping away on other cars ahead of him while keeping distance over the P2 cars trailing behind.
When the third caution of the day came out at the one-hour and 35-minute mark, team engineer Mike Wright called the car in for its second pit stop. Devlin hopped out, wîth Bonilla taking the controls. However, during service, the team found a problem wîth the fuel vent hose, creating concern within in the camp. Their cautious, safety minded, approach to the rather minor problem proved to be the right call. Just as Bonilla got in the car, a fire erupted in the nearby de Ferran Motorsports pit. The blaze was caused when de Ferran's fuel hose failed to disconnect from the car as it left the pit stall. That incident served as a reminder of what could have happened to B-K if their car's issue was neglected.
With the field then under a lengthy yellow for pit lane cleanup, B-K went to work replacing the throttle output valve on the car, and after a 12-lap delay, Bonilla returned to the action. While he was unable to make up lost laps in the final 38 minutes, Bonilla was able to once again show the potential of the Mazda MZR-R-powered prototype. The American Le Mans Series rookie ripped off lighting quick laps times, often matching the pace of the overall leaders. He crossed the line finishing 20th overall, a result nowhere indicative of what could have been.
'When I got in for my stint, we obviously had a big delay because of the long pit stop,' Bonilla explained. 'The fuel vent valve wasn't working correctly, and there was no way we were going to take a risk on a fire. At the same time we were having our problem, an inferno broke out two pit boxes in front of me. It happened simultaneously. I feel bad for the de Ferran crewmember who was injured, and I hope he recovers quickly. Besides that, our guys kept focus on our problem during that distraction. I'm thankful that they found it because we would have had much worse problems if they hadn't caught it.
'We then restarted several laps down. It was a matter of driving clean and driving smart to the end. I used the rest of the race to learn a little bit more about Mid-Ohio and the traffic. Mike Wright gave me encouragement to push a little more, and I did. Considering how fast we were in the race and wîth all the problems we encountered this weekend, I think it was a great effort put in by the entire BP Mazda team.'
Devlin was equally pleased wîth the run in the Dunlop-shod prototype, as the strong run and good strategy proved to be a confidence builder for the entire team. His best lap time of 1:12.100 in the race placed him right in amongst other P2 contenders, which bodes well heading into the races to come.
'My stint went very well,' Devlin §äid. 'It was a great call by team engineer Mike Wright and the crew to get that lap back before the pit stop. The car ran really strong. It was very consistent and nice. We got very lucky wîth the traffic and worked our way through. The car was a big improvement this weekend. We've had the package all year but now its finally coming into place. It's really nice we're finally going somewhere.'
With the unlucky breaks coupled wîth lack of track time, the team certainly overcame obstacles all weekend long. A top result should be just around the corner, given all the pieces fall into place.
'I think we proved today that we can race wîth these guys,' said John Doonan, Manager, Motorsports Team Development for Mazda. 'Ben had a great first stint and the tires were fantastic. The crew did an awesome job fighting through a lot of adversary this weekend wîth two engine changes. Then we just had this fluke fuel issue wîth the vent not returning. The boys did a good job and stayed calm and got the car back out there. Gerardo was running lap times right wîth the leaders there at the end. We're very encouraged to be heading to tracks like Road America, Mosport and Road Atlanta where our little package can shine.'
The next round of the American Le Mans Series is the Generac 500 at Road America presented by Time Warner Cable on Saturday, August 9 from Elkhart Lake, Wis. The four-hour race will start at 4 p.m. CT wîth SPEED televising the race starting at 2 p.m. ET on Sunday, August 10. XM will air the race from 4 to 8 p.m. ET on Sunday via SportsNation Channel 144. Live radio coverage will be available from American Le Mans Radio at americanlemans.com, which also will feature IMSA's Live Timing & Scoring.
On any given weekend, there are more Mazdas on the road-race tracks of America than any other brand of vehicle. At the track, you'll see MX-5 Miata, RX-8, MAZDA3, MAZDA6, RX-7 and other vintage Mazda models competing, because every Mazda has the Soul of a Sports Car. In fact, the largest road-racing class in the Ú.S. is the SCCA's Spec Miata class, wîth over 1,500 first- and second-generation Miatas tearing up America's racetracks, making it the most-raced production car in the world. Mazda's involvement in motorsports extends to its relationship wîth Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, one of the world's premier road-racing circuits, and the Skip Barber Schools for driving and racing.
Headquartered in Irvine, Calif., Mazda North American Operations oversees the sales, marketing, parts and customer service support of Mazda vehicles in the Únited States, Canada and Mexico through nearly 900 dealers. Operations in Canada are managed by Mazda Canada, Inc., located in Ontario, Canada, and in Mexico by Mazda Motor de Mexico in Mexico City. For more information go to www.mazdausa.com
BP markets more than 15 billion gallons of gasoline every year to Ú.S. consumers through 13,000 BP and ARCO branded retail outlets and supplies more than four billion gallons of fuel annually to fleets, industrial users, auto and truck manufacturers, railroads and utilities.
BP is the single, global brand formed by the combination of the former British Petroleum, Amoco Corporation, Atlantic Richfield (ARCO) and Burmah Castrol. BP is a global producer, manufacturer and marketer of oil, gas, chemicals and renewable energy sources. For more information go to www.bp.com
American Le Mans Series:
The American Le Mans Series is the premium brand of motorsport in North America, featuring high-tech sports cars from the most prestigious automobile manufacturers in the world. Its unique four classes of competition showcase exotic, open-top prototypes and sophisticated production-based GT cars, all competing on the track at the same time. The American Le Mans Series competes at the premier road racing tracks across North America and at selected temporary street circuits in major urban markets. With a 2007 television package that includes five network broadcasts on CBS and NBC and seven telecasts on SPEED, plus live broadcasts across Europe, the Series delivers a global marketing platform that is unmatched in motorsports. The Series, founded in 1999 by Georgia entrepreneur Don Panoz, represents a mirror image to the prestigious 24 Hours of Le Mans, the world's most famous and authentic automobile race. The American Le Mans Series features elite marques such as Audi, Porsche, Corvette, Aston Martin, Ferrari and Panoz, and premium brands such as Michelin, Yokohama, Kumho, Lowe's, Shell and many others.