Alex Job – Always In The News
© Gary Horrocks

Certain teams seem always to be in the news. From the way things have started in 2006, it looks like Alex Job Racing will again be one of those that we will be hearing about very regularly. The original intent of this article was to get some insight into the team finally getting that so important first overall victory (at Homestead), but other happenings appeared, to overshadow that initial win.

As has already been written about on dsc, AJR jumped into Grand Am in Daytona Prototype competition, looking for a first for the team, an overall victory. After being the quickest car at Daytona in both testing and the Rolex 24 Hour race, the team had to settle for a third place finish, after falling victim to axle boot problems.

For various reasons, the team chose not to compete at the GA race in Mexico City, which was dominated flag to flag by the Ganassi Riley Lexus pairing of Scott Pruett and Luis Diaz. Instead, they focused on a return at Homestead/Miami, which like Daytona, has historically been a favorable track for the Crawford DP chassis.

“We came to Homestead, ready to race. We had a plan and the team executed it to perfection,” explained Alex Job.

That plan was to make a late stop, so that for the last part of the race, the team would have fresh tires on the Crawford Porsche, knowing that the Hoosier tires were much better when fresh, as opposed to used.

With about 30 laps remaining in the race, Pat Long brought the car in from the lead, Mike Rockenfeller got in and the team installed those fresh tires. In doing so, they dropped to 10th place in the race, but the team was not concerned.

“This was our plan. We knew that the others would have around 70 laps on the tires by the time the race finished, while we would have much fresher tires.”

It went against the grain, but it worked, as Rocky was able to carve through the field with surprising ease, passing the similar Cheever Crawford Porsche.

“Quite frankly, I think we may have the strongest package in the series. I don’t just mean the Porsche motor. It is the team, the combination of the two drivers, the chassis and the motor. The team knows how to win. After the race, Lucas Luhr said that we had a little better set-up than they did in the Cheever car. I think we were able to get the power down better, and earlier, than any of the other cars.”

When the checkered flag flew, Alex and his team found themselves where they have wanted to be – on top of the result sheet, overall. But the jubilation was rather short lived.

“We finally got one. It was a great and important win for the team, but there wasn’t really any time for real celebration. As in the past with others, the Grand Am officials informed us that they wanted our motor for inspection and evaluation. We never got out of the track until after 1:30am, and then it was back to the shop and start prepping the car for Long Beach. There was just no time to celebrate and it all sort of took the wind out of our sails. But it was time to move on.”

And move on rather quickly. I’m sure this is not exactly the celebration that the team expected when they came out on top.

But things soon turned worse for AJR and all of the Porsche powered teams. Tuesday morning (March 28) saw the release of a technical bulletin from Grand Am, indicating that all Porsche powered cars would now have a minimum weight 75 pounds higher and also a 9000 rpm limit, where previously there was no rpm limit.

“We’d been told that there would not be any changes this early into the season, but I guess there had been too many complaints about our performance. But what I don’t understand is that this was the first win for a Porsche since September 2003. Until Homestead, both wins (this year) had been by Lexus Rileys. And it’s not like we led every lap at Homestead. The Ganassi (Lexus powered) car led every lap in Mexico. Even when they pitted, I don’t believe they lost the lead. But now, our Porsche powered cars will weigh more than a Lexus powered car. I’ve got no problem with giving a break for the Pontiacs, as it appears that they need it, but to effectively give Lexus a break? I don’t get it.”

Remember that Grand Am took the motor after the race? Well, the odd thing about that is that the new regs were announced before the motor was checked and dyno tested, which actually occurred on Thursday, two days after the announcement.

It is not just the adjustments that are bothering Alex Job. It is also the timing.

“So far, the tracks that we have raced at, Daytona and Homestead, have been good tracks for Crawfords. Now, we’re coming up on Long Beach and VIR, both which on paper appear to favor the V8 powered Riley chassis. I’m not sure why GA couldn’t have waited a few races to see how the Porsche cars would do at these other tracks, before making the changes.

“I’m a racer. I don’t like to see a constant manipulation of the regulations. I’d rather see a set of regulations at the beginning of the year, and maybe have some adjustments about half way through the season, but three races into a 14 race season? In effect, what we are seeing is success rewards. You do a good job and they award you with restrictions.”

“I know Grand Am intends to keep the competition close, but you can’t run the series like NASCAR Road Racing. There, the chassis are all the same and the bodies have become the same. All that is different is the engines. But Grand Am should be different. It is sportscar racing. You can’t do the same things in this series when you have two or three drivers and the cars consist of various engine manufacturers and chassis constructors. It is not spec racing and it should not be treated that way. In a world of conformity, where everything looks and feels the same, sportscar racing needs to stay diverse. It needs to have variety. That is what sportscar racing is based upon and should continue to be based upon.

“And because it is sportscar racing, you need to keep Porsche involved in it. Porsche has a long history in sportscar racing and also a very loyal following, so it is important to the fans to have competitive Porsches on the track.”

According to Alex, the AJR car will now weigh an additional 55 pounds, as they were running about 20 pounds over weight already. The new regs. will actually be a further hindrance for the Brumos-run Fabcars, which had just become competitive, as it appears that those cars were right near the weight limit.

Driving a Porsche powered car in this series is not as easy as with some of the other cars. Because the engine is smaller in displacement, the drivers have to contend with a narrower and peakier powerband. Obviously the motor puts out the power, but it does so in a different way from the others. When compared to the torquier V8s that they are up against, the Porsche powered cars have been described as somewhat knife-edge. Because the motors generate their power in the higher revs, the 9000 rpm limit could really hurt.

“At this time, we don’t know how much the restrictions will hinder us, but we’ll just have to adjust. There is no sandbagging here from us. It will make things even more challenging than they have been. We’re here to race and we’re here to win.”

 

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