"The shop did not get the wrap in time to put it on the car for the race, "stated a smiling Lewis, while handing out another red marker to an excited young fan. "So we decided this was a 'prime' opportunity to have the fans come up and put some good luck messages on the car!" While camera crews rolled with their flying "air cameras" capturing amazing video over the crowded pit lane, Lewis and Rossi talked with fans about the car. "This is the first time I have seen a Ginetta up close!" gushed one fan. "I love these cars," he smiled, and then he took a marker and put his name on the left rear quarter in big letters.
One hour later, Lewis took a flying green flag amongst 38 competitors in the last of the overcast light, immediately moving up the field. "We discussed it before the race," Lewis said in the post race interview. "We knew the conditions would be ever changing with the rain coming, and with the lack of lighting in the infield once the sun set, we had to move early and move fast. No hanging back- we couldn't wait for the race to come to us. We had to go for the class win and the overall win and take the positions before dark. We knew we had the experience, car, and crew to do it."
Lewis drove hard and before the rain fell, competitors were already running into trouble early, so within thirty minutes Lewis found himself in second overall. Before the crew could give him the details on the Porsche Cup car sitting in first, Lewis called with trouble. "Clutch is slipping!" his dejected voice called to the pits, with which the crew responded, "And here comes the rain!"
The rain came lightly but with Lewis having to go to a non-aggressive throttle driving pattern, the conditions could be handled on slicks. The team left Lewis out waiting for the rain to pick up to do the driver change with rain tires, but the rain slowed. Rossi was put in at 90 minutes to tough out the continually deteriorating clutch in the now-dark infield while dodging spinning cars, errant loose wheels, and even an exhaust pipe that departed a Honda Civic midway down the front straight. The track dried quickly and Rossi got his last splash of fuel under yellow, and was set to run a long stint to the finish trying to run down the Porsche, when an hour later the rain came again. Rossi called in and decided to hand the car over to Lewis to handle the rain and what was left of the clutch for the last 30 minutes of the race. The rain again wet the track down but not enough for rain tires, so Lewis did everything he could on the slick track to nurse the wounded car to the finish. Lewis proudly pulled the car into Victory Circle first in class and second overall after almost three hours of racing with a deteriorated clutch, two rain showers, and an uncharted dark race track.
"We could not run down P1 once the clutch started to go, so we went with an aggressive survival strategy," a sweaty Lewis said to the camera crew before taking the podium with his equally proud and sweaty co-driver Adolpho Rossi. "The infield was pretty dark. We had no idea what to expect as this was everyone's first time at night, but the Ginetta did well, even in the rain. It excelled over some really fast cars - Ferrari, BMW, Porsche. We are really happy to bring another victory to Ginetta in the states. We owe a lot of it to the car's resilience to finish even when wounded, and the crew's ability to give us quick pit stops and good strategy to stay ahead of the pack."
Or could it have been a little luck from the fans' many messages written all over the back of the car? Those messages and signatures survived the rain as well....