Road America Roller Coaster Not Much Fun For Marsal

Road America Roller Coaster Not Much Fun For Marsal

1 July 2011– Turner Motorsport racer Michael Marsal had a roller-coaster of a race weekend as the GRAND-AM Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge series made a debut appearance at Road America for round 7 of the 2011 championship. The event, held in conjunction with the NASCAR Nationwide Series and GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series race weekend, was the first-ever visit to the 4-mile track for Marsal, who is contesting just his second full season of GRAND-AM competition.

Marsal and co-driver Joey Hand fought for the championship all the way to the final lap of the 2010 season, but have not had the start that they were looking for so far in 2011, with some bad luck conspiring to keep their best finish to just fifth, at Barber Motorsports Park.

Looking to make the most of the debut event for the series, Marsal was eager to make as many laps as he could on the track that features several high-speed corners as the track winds up and down through the scenic Wisconsin setting. But the college student was thwarted in that effort as his normally bullet proof Turner Motorsport BMW suffered some perplexing engine issues early in the weekend, keeping Marsal off-track through the early sessions.

The team rallied to find the problem and effect repairs in time for Marsal’s qualifying session, as he repaid that hard work with a run to fifth on the provisional grid. Unfortunately, that time was called off after the thrash to get the car ready to go left some technical elements unsecured which fell afoul of the GRAND-AM regulations. So Marsal’s weekend roller coaster moved back down as the No. 97 M3 was forced to start from the back of the GS pack.

“I was really disappointed not to get to keep the time we set in qualifying, but I understand how this happened so it’s just a shame for the Turner boys,” said Marsal. “This track is such a challenge and it’s really rewarding when you get it right, so after the guys worked so hard, and I worked to get that time, it was definitely not what we had been hoping for to start in the back.”

But after starting 23rd, Marsal was up to 17th on the second lap, pushed forward to 10th by the time the 20 lap mark came, and when the yellow flag flew for the second of five times during the endurance event, was all the way to fourth in the order as the weekend roller coaster once again shot skyward.

Making the most of the safety car period, the Turner strategy had Marsal pit to turn the machine over to Hand to take to the finish. But nearly as soon as that final charge to the front got underway, it was over, as Hand was caught up in another car’s accident, ending the day early for the No. 97 and closing out a disappointing up and down weekend for Marsal.

“It was so frustrating to see that (accident) play out like that,” said Marsal. “We had the setback in qualifying, but the car was good and I was getting more and more comfortable so we kept moving up. You had to be smart and pick your spots to make clean passes. So to see the guys out there trying to be a hero, and instead ending up taking Joey out, is really disappointing. We worked really hard to be in a good position late in this race, but some of the guys just didn’t have the patience that they should have had, and it was over.”

Also adding to the disappointment of the weekend was that it marked the final race of the season for Marsal with Hand, who will move to the American Le Mans Series factory BMW GT program for the rest of the season as the dates are conflicting.

“We really had been hoping to end this on a high note,” said Marsal. “While we didn’t have the results we wanted so far, I can’t say enough about how much of an impact Joey has had on my driving. Even though he won’t be racing the car with me, I’ll still have all his advice in my head and will put it to good use.”

Marsal will have a new co-driver when the series reconvenes at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca next weekend as the experienced former series Champion Don Salama will co-drive with young Marsal moving forward.

The Road America 200 event will be broadcast on SPEED Channel July 3rd at 1:00 PM ET.

Full results to be carried at


Matt Cleary
Sunday Group Management
317.908.2975 (m)

Based in Indianapolis, Sunday Group Management is a leading motorsports management and communications consulting firm.

Sunday Group Management works with clients in a variety of motorsports categories, including NASCAR Sprint Cup driver AJ Allmendinger, Riley Technologies, GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series organization Michael Shank Racing, Continental Tire, and several teams and drivers in Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge competition.

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