Grand-Am Rolex Series Ferrari-Maserati 400

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April 3rd, 2005 -- One tenth of a second- one fourth the time it takes a human eye to blink is all that separated the CompUSA Lexus and SunTrust Pontiac Riley as the checkered flag dropped at Fontana. The race on Sunday was the closest the Grand Am Rolex Series has ever seen. Prototype cars descended on California Speedway's 21 turn infield raceway this weekend in the third race of the season. Grandstands were sparsely populated but it wasn't from poor attendance; California Speedway's relaxed restrictions allowed fans to get as close as the photographers to literally feel the wind of the racecars blowing past in their face. Pits were open to the public as crew chiefs spoke to fans, pit crews made last minute changes right in front of spectators and drivers signed autographs for an awe inspired crowd.

Sunday's race was only a portion of an entire weekend of exciting motor sports events. The Ferrari-Maserati Challenge brought a vast variety of historic Italian vehicles from as far back as 1935. Not only were these classic vehicles on display, but they participated in races as a testament to the everlasting performance of an Italian icon. The races were divided into two categories, disc brakes and drum brake, the latter being historic cars. While it was amazing to see these vintage vehicles navigating the twenty one turn infield of California Speedway, it was a shame the race was so spread out due to the extreme variety of cars out there and their varied levels of power and handling.

While the drum brake class seemed to be a parade of sorts, the disc brake class drivers definitely upped the excitement. A Ferrari 308 donning the Gulf paintjob left trails of rubber and smoke as he put his almost thirty year old car to the test. The race was much closer as a pack of four classic Ferraris jockeyed for positions, their V8 and V12 engines reverberating throughout the track.

The classic Ferrari's were a delight to watch, but as dozens of 360 Challenge Cars filled the pits, fans hurried to the infield to watch the Ferrari Challenge Cup. This cup has been called a "gentlemen's race" but there was nothing gentle about it; pits were as tense and teeming with activity as a Grand Am race. With the cars all sporting the standard 360 Ferrari power plants, the action was close and exciting. Power slides, spinouts and crashes surprised fans that thought these drivers just came to showcase their expensive Italian chariots; they quickly found the drivers came ready to do whatever it takes to win. A heated race came to an unfortunate end as one car burst into flames in the final laps; luckily the only damage was a singed Ferrari and an early finish for the Ferrari Challenge Cup.

As if there wasn't enough excitement already, the Grand Am Cup race topped off Saturday's events. Pit lane looked like a California freeway during rush hour, only the minivans and SUV's were replaced with race-spec Mustangs, BMWs, 350z's and Porsches. Everything from convertibles to Cadillacs sat in eager anticipation as the pace car led them out onto the track. Leading the pack was Terry Borcheller, a K&N sponsored driver, in his 350z. Terry and his partner Mike Cronin Jr. were set to take the checkered flag, as they had the pole position, until a mechanical failure abruptly ended their day an hour before the finish.

Terry returned Sunday in his Daytona Prototype with a starting position of ninth place. Christian Fittipaldi, Terry's previous co-driver, raced against him as Terry teamed up with Ralf Kelleners. Terry's driving is top notch as always, he moves with fierce determination up the field, at a point placing as high and 2nd during his hour and a half portion of the race. After a quick pit stop Kelleners took the drivers seat, holding sixth place until a late race caution gathered the field. Defending his position furiously, Ralf was nudged two positions back for an eight place finish. While they didn't make the podium, Terry was very satisfied with his team's performance all weekend.

The Grand-Am Rolex Series continues on to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca later this month. The series' focus on exciting road racing and fan involvement makes it one of the most exciting series to be a part of this year.

Also check out the Rolex 24 hours of Daytona video.

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