SEBRING, Fla. (March 20, 2015) – Mantella Autosport placed both its No. 8 and No. 80 Camaro Z/28.R cars in the top 10 of Round 2 of the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge on Friday at Sebring International Raceway.
The No. 80 of Kyle Marcelli and Martin Barkey finished fourth in the Microsoft Visual Studio 150 while the No. 8 of Anthony Mantella and Mark Wilkins finished seventh in the Grand Sport class.
At Sebring, Mantella Autosport Lead Engineer Andrew Wojteczko was hopeful the team’s call for two tires on the No. 8 would lead to a better result but was happy to collect the points from the 7th place finish.
“It’s an improvement coming from Daytona,” Wojteczko said. “Still good points there, but this is the direction we want to be going, and we keep trying to improve from here. I’m thrilled with everybody on the team; the guys really did a great job.
“Penalty-free, and that’s the key to succeeding in this series, no doubt.
“Setup on the 8 car, we just didn’t have it at the end. With our strategy, I was hoping to see a yellow in that last run, and it just didn’t work out. We did a short fuel and two tires trying to gain a bunch of track position, and it worked. But we really needed a yellow to make that car work to the end. But two top-10’s. Great for points, and I am really proud of the whole team.”
The No. 80 of Marcelli and Barkey, engineered by Sasha Anis, ran strong throughout the two-hour, 30-minute race. The car lost ground once when Barkey was pushed off track to avoid an incident.
“I had one little bobble coming into (Turn) 13,” Barkey said. “I was between a GS and an ST car, one of them found the left side of my car, and I just went off into the grass. I couldn’t save it, so I wanted to keep it one piece, let it run off the track and found the exit road back on. I lost one position in class, so not a big deal but not what we wanted. I lost some time but saved the car. Kyle and Sasha did a great job with the race. I’m really happy with our result.”
Marcelli took the wheel from Barkey halfway through the race and entered in the 10th position. Marcelli led a steady charge to the front, but as the clock wound down he was forced to back off from third place to conserve fuel. But with a large-enough gap between his Camaro Z/28.R and the fifth-place car, he had a smooth ride to the finish line.
“It sure would have been nice to have Team Chevy a one-two-three (finish),” Marcelli said. “A one, two and a four is, I guess, second-best. I’m very pleased with Mantella Autosport. I’m very pleased with our Camaro Z/28.R. We’ve done a lot of testing here. And we’ve done a lot of testing on an old tire and a new tire, so we were really, really confident going into this race.
“Providing everything went well, I thought we were going to have a shot at a result, and it kind of worked out that way. I got in the car I think P9 or P10, and our strategy worked out actually quite well, and I had fresher tires than everyone in front of me. So I had to take advantage of that.
“When the race went green, we were really aggressive and made five spots on the first two laps. That got us to about P4, and then we just kind of held that position. For the last half an hour, we were on fuel conservation mode. We weren’t sure we were going to make it to the end, so I had a nice 10-second gap to the fifth-place car, and we just kind of went on cruise mode.”
The No. 8 of Mantella and Wilkins, like their teammates, had a strong start. But they had to fight to hold position at the end, with track temperatures soaring higher than 100 degrees and only two new tires. And Wilkins battled in the last minutes of the race, climbing up the running order while sliding around the slick, hot track.
“When I went out, we gambled a little on tires,” Wilkins said. “We took two instead of four to try to get some track position back. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the call we needed, but that was the call Andrew and I made together.
“We thought it would get us to where we needed to be, and we thought maybe we could hold them off. But it’s a hot day and we ran out of tires, and we just tried to hang on best we could to get good points. Anthony had a great stint; he did an awesome job. He ran right up near the front and had great pace, and just hat’s off to him.”
Team owner and driver Mantella started the race 11th and took the No. 8 Camaro Z/28.R straight to the front of the pack. Diligently weaving through traffic, Mantella spent most of his time at the front of the field, even leading the GS class.
Though the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge event was not an endurance race, the bumpy, 17-turn, 3.74-mile circuit is often tough enough on the car and driver to make it feel like one. Mantella felt energized about the performance of his entire team.
“This was definitely my strongest performance of the year, although it’s only the second race,” Mantella said. “My fitness is really good. If they gave me some new tires, I feel like I literally could have done a second stint. The car was great; the guys did an excellent job. Mark drove a great race, and Andrew did an incredible job, as well. Of course, congratulations are in order for Martin, Kyle and Sasha.”
Mantella Autosport competes next in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge on May 2 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, California.
For more information on Mantella Autosport, visit mantellaautosport.com and follow the team socially on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.