LONG BEACH, Calif, (Apr. 14, 2012) - Bill Sweedler and Townsend Bell soldiered on to take the checkered flag in the No. 23 Lotus Evora’s first race at the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) Long Beach Grand Prix.
Sweedler had the controls of the Evora GT at the start of the race. That's when the action started. On the first lap heading into Turn 2 there was a car stopped, forcing Sweedler to brake hard and as a result was hit in the rear and spun from behind. Moments later he was hit again, this time by a prototype, causing severe damage to the Evora's exhaust, robbing the engine of valuable horsepower. The crew made the repairs, but the duo of Sweedler and Bell were down several laps, but soldiered on to take the checkered flag.
"It was an unfortunate start," Sweedler said. "There was pile up in the Fountain Turn, I got hit from behind by a GTC car and he spun me. I was getting back underway when a prototype came in and hit me harder. That caused the exhaust pipe to be crimped by about 90-degrees, so we were putting out about one-tenth of the horsepower. The guys did a good job to make the repairs and keep us going. It was a tough start for Lotus-AJR this weekend."
Bell got in and was able to run his first laps of the weekend in the Evora GT in dry conditions.
"Our goal for the weekend was to finish," Bell said. "We accomplished that part. It was a shame that Bill got hit at the start. The team hustled and worked hard to replace the exhaust and keep us in the race. It was nice for me to go out and drive this car against competition for the first time. We have a long list of things to work on with this car. We are realistic about the challenge ahead of us. I got to ride around the streets of Long Beach in a fast Lotus today, so that wasn't all bad."
Team principal Alex Job is proud of the way the team reacted to the adversity.
"Bill had a tough start to the race, being hit twice before Turn 3," Job said. "The team reacted by making the repairs, even though we had to retrieve the parts from the paddock, which is a half-mile away. With this new car we are taking it one step at a time. We are going away from Long Beach with a long to-do list and will accomplish as much as we can before the next race at Laguna Seca."