Alex Job – Expensive Axles
© Gary Horrocks

dailysportscar.com“Those axles cost me $100,000.” This is the comment Alex Job made after axle boot problems cost the Alex Job Racing / Emory Motorsports Porsche Crawford a shot at victory at Daytona.

While some may not fully understand the comment, thinking that those are some expensive axles, this is in reference to the purse that was due to go to the winning team. “Yeah, we needed that money to get to Mexico,” for the next Grand Am race.

While the #23 Crawford Porsche was obviously the fastest car during the entire event, the AJR led team was forced to settle for third place in the Rolex 24 at Daytona. Despite an early axle boot failure, the team was able to return to the track and overcome a nine-lap deficit and take the lead back, only to have yet another boot issue drop them back again, to the point that they had no real choice than to settle for third.

“We came with the package to win the race. We had by far the strongest drivers line up, with Lucas Luhr, Patrick Long and Mike Rockenfeller. We also had the strongest team and the best package. Greg Fordahl and the crew had our car set up so it could go anywhere on the track. I knew going into this race that the Crawford Porsche package would be strong for Daytona and I was right. We had everybody covered.

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"People have been congratulating me on the podium finish, but I’m not happy with our finish. We had that one, and to finish third is very frustrating to me. When we tore the car down after the race, we did not find one area of the car that I would have been concerned about. If it wasn’t for those boots, we might have had a prefect car.”

dailysportscar.comThe first boot problem was a split of the right rear inboard boot. “It just opened up and when it did that, it let all of the grease out and the debris in. The grease was flung up on the underside of the rear glass, and when I saw that, I knew we had a problem. We were on the look out for that from then on out.

“Later in the race, I thought things were looking good for us, as we were leading and we had not seen any traces of the grease. Sometime in the early morning, while he was leading, Patrick came into the trioval, sounding like he was searching for gears. I thought the gearbox was gone. Well, he coasted down and we got permission from the officials to push the car back to our pit stall, which was the last one on pit lane. When we looked at the car to find the problem, we didn’t find the grease anywhere. We discovered that the boot had been punctured and the hole was just small enough for the grease to slowly escape unnoticeably.”

Without the grease in the axle joint it was ruined, and effectively so was the race for the AJR team.

Alex Job explained that the axles and boots are produced by Pankl for Grand Am, and while he is clearly disappointed in the eventual outcome, he is not upset with Pankl. “In their defense, some of the problem is in the way the rules are written. Grand Am spelled out a supplier mandated price range and Pankl produced what they thought was the best part that fitted in that price range. And remember, it wasn’t a problem with the axles at all. It was only a problem with the boots.

“The design of the cars does not help the longevity of the boots either. The rules dictate that the floor of the chassis end at the rear axle center line and this leaves the boots vulnerable and exposed to debris.

“I’ve been running at Daytona for a very long time, and it has always been a tough track on axles. Even back to the 935 days. The boot that we ran in the race was introduced about half way through the season last year, and up to this point, there had been no problems, but unlike previous seasons, the series did not run at Daytona in the latter half, so in essence, the boots were un-tested at Daytona.

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“We had a problem with a boot on Friday, so I knew there might be an issue. I spoke with people from both Crawford and Pankl, and all of them said to run the new boots. They said they’d be OK. But when I went to bed Friday night, I told Holly (Alex’s wife) that I just didn’t feel right about this. Well, looking back, I shouldn’t have gone with the new boots, but that doesn’t do any good now.”

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Grand Am did not dictate which of the boots that teams must run. Teams had the option of using an older configuration or the newer one. “There were plenty of the older configuration, orange-colored boots available. Unfortunately, we made the wrong choice. We had done all of the testing on the orange boots and I guess we should have continued to run them, as we hadn’t had any problems with them. I tell you, it’ll take a long time to get over this one.”

That explains why some teams in the race appeared to be unaffected while others, like AJR were obviously affected.

There has been talk or speculation that such a strong showing at Daytona, speed-wise, might start Grand Am into looking into penalties or restrictions on the Porsche motors, but Alex does not feel that is justified. “Name one other Porsche-powered car that was as strong as we were. The #8 and the #58 ran well, but they were not dominant. They were top ten, maybe top five, pace wise. But we were the only team with this package, the only team running a Porsche in a Crawford. I think that Daytona is a track that just suits our package, especially the low drag that the Crawford has. So, is Grand Am going to put restrictions on a Porsche, but only if it is in a Crawford? I don’t think so.”

So, what’s next for AJR this season? “We had hoped to have a deal pulled together which would allow us to run at the next GA race in Mexico, but the deal has not yet come together, so, it appears that we won’t be going. (When we were discussing this, the entry deadline was only hours away – GAH) But, with no check, no contract and no firm commitment, I feel it is best if we stay. The car is ready, but maybe with the upcoming schedule, it is best if we sit this one out. The logistics for this one are tough, especially with Sebring coming up too.

“We do hope to run the entire GA season, but again, that is dependent upon us getting the funding taken care of. I’m a competitive person. I want to win. That is why we are in Grand Am. It gives our team, for the first time, the opportunity to race for an overall victory. For 18 years, we’ve been chasing class victories. I’m motivated now to have the opportunity to race for first overall. That is why the Daytona Prototype class appeals to me. They may not be the highest tech cars, but they do allow me to try to take an overall victory, and that is important to me right now.

“But I am concerned about the cost of running in the series. It is not low budget, in fact the budget is huge. The cost and logistics involved to make the entire 14 race schedule is not easy. It makes sense for the series to go after the markets that are important, but ideally, I believe a 10-12 race schedule makes more sense, budget wise. I’ve spoken to Roger Edmondson concerning this and I know that others have also.

dailysportscar.com“I’m not here to make this a Grand Am versus American Le Mans Series discussion. Both series have their strengths and weaknesses. And the farther along we have gotten, it is obvious that the two series are taking very different directions. In fact, having both series has given increased opportunities for both drivers and teams. As always, competition is good; it makes the best rise to the top.

“I’m still committed to running a GT2 Porsche in the ALMS, in fact I hope to announce our drivers for the series this next week. I expect the Ferrari 430 to be real tough and it may be the car to beat. Then you also have the BMWs returning. Tom Milner has those cars running strong in the tests. Tom and I are fierce competitors but we go back quite a ways and I really welcome him back to the series. It’ll really be tough for us though, as we’ll only be running one car instead of two.

“In a way, not running Mexico is a good thing for our team. It allows us to focus on the upcoming schedule, and between the two series it is going to be tough. We’ve got Sebring, then Homestead (GA), followed by a cross country trek to Long Beach. And who knows what we may have there. I’ve been hearing that the space will be so crowded there that we might not be allowed to use the awnings on our trucks.”

On top of all of this, AJR may also be running an entry in the Porsche GT3 Cup series, for Don Bell. “We’re working on this. It’s not yet completely finalized, but should be soon. It’s a good series and it’s hard to walk away from the opportunity.”

dailysportscar.comIt seems like there can never be an interview with any Porsche team without questioning them about the P2 car. And this one is no different. When we spoke with Alex last July on this subject, he was still somewhat disappointed in not getting the project, but understanding when it went to a team of the caliber of Penske. Now, Alex still “would love to get into P2, but it is still a question of budget and competition.

"Racing is already expensive enough. I would have to take a good hard look at it, as I would love to be there, but I would still like to be competing for overall victories. That might be difficult with what Audi is doing.”

But that is looking too far ahead. First, there is a matter of chasing championships this year.

"Potentially, we could win both the DP and GT2 championships. Considering everything, we got good points at Daytona, especially when compared to some our competitors. Not running at Mexico will cost us, but hopefully we can get some breaks down the road. It’ll be tough as we have strong competition in both series, but we’ll be working hard all year long.” It might be appropriate to make that an emphasis on long…

 

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