Saturday afternoon saw the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship take on the 3.4-mile Circuit of the Americas for a 160-minute sprint race. Attrition wasn’t too much of an issue, but contact was early.
Ricky Taylor started the No. 10 Konica Minolta Chevrolet Corvette DP from pole and escaped the scrum that is turn 1 with the advantage over the two Mazdas. Further back, the two Action Express Racing Chevrolet Corvette DP’s battled each other for fourth.
On lap 7, the one thing you don’t want to happen between teammates occurred. Eric Curran tried to go to the inside of Christian Fittipaldi entering turn 13. Despite going to the inside of the curbs (which in itself is forbidden), Curran made contact with Fittipaldi, spinning out the No. 5. Fittipaldi was able to continue, but dropped to eighth as a result. Curran was given a drive-through penalty for avoidable contact.
Ricky Taylor led until the race’s first full course yellow flew on lap 18 when the VisitFlorida.com Racing No. 90 of Marc Goossens stalled on the side of the long straight between turns 11 and 12. That brought everyone in for pit stops. Action Express Racing was multiple seconds faster than most of the rest of the class, resulting in Fittipaldi’s co-driver Jõao Barbosa getting out second right behind Jordan Taylor. As for Goossens, he was towed behind the wall for repairs. The No. 90 would eventually return and finish 36 laps down.
Right after the restart, Michael Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian‘s John Pew and Panoz DeltaWing Racing‘s Katherine Legge collided in turn 1. Pew ended up with a advertising placard stuck to the front of his Ligier JS P2, in addition to a bunch of debris on the track, causing another caution. Legge and Pew both continued, but were forced to pit for repairs. Legge was judged to be responsible for the incident and served a drive-through penalty.
For much of the race, the Taylors continued to control the action, while the Action Express cars followed behind. However, Barbosa began to slow. He would eventually drop back to fourth behind Curran and Tom Long in the No. 70 Mazda.
Jordan Taylor appeared to have the fastest car out there until intermittent issues stuck in the electrical system. The traction control did not activate, resulting in a spin exiting turn 20 with 37 minutes to go. That cut down his lead from 15 seconds to just a couple over Dane Cameron in the No. 31. A spin shortly afterwards for Joel Miller in the No. 70 Mazda allowed Barbosa to move up to third, 28 seconds behind.
For the rest of the race, Jordan Taylor had to deal with intermittent electrical issues. The traction control was cutting in and out, potentially due to being overheated in the 95-degree weather. However, he was able to hold off Cameron and take the third win of the year for Wayne Taylor Racing.
Afterwards, Jordan Taylor was relieved, not just at winning despite the issues, but getting out of the heat as well.
“It was a good race today, [we knew that] it was going to be hot,” Jordan stated during the post-race press conference. “I did 2h10m in the race, if it wasn’t for our new cool-suit technology I don’t think we were going to make it. I think we had a 15 second gap at the pit stop and it was the same for the next few laps. I had an issue where the car went off the track a bit, and when I hot the accelerator the traction control didn’t catch it. I instantly turned off traction control to try and whip the car around and eventually put myself in a really bad spot. Thankfully the guys were able to walk me through what was wrong and I was able to fix it. Depending on the traffic, I could gain or lose.”
Cameron ended up 1.421 seconds back in second, while Barbosa was over 47 seconds back in third. Miller was fourth, but over 1:45 behind at the finish due to a late stop for a splash of fuel. The DeltaWing of Legge and Sean Rayhall finished a lap down, fifth in class.
Prototype Challenge saw PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports‘ Robert Alon lead the field to green and hold the advantage early over Starworks Motorsport teammates Alex Popow and José Gutierrez. During the first caution, everyone stopped, but Starworks chose to execute two different strategies for their contenders. Gutierrez stayed out and took the lead, while Popow took fuel only and got out in front of Alon.
Since the first caution flew before the minimum drive-time of 45 minutes had been achieved (and was followed up by another yellow immediately afterwards that closed the pits), all the contenders stopped for full service shortly after the restart. The No. 88 of Mark Kvamme had serious refueling problems and lost 90 seconds to the pack as a result.
A couple of the PC teams chose not to participate in the round of stops. Those were the No. 20 BAR1 Motorsports entry driven by Matt McMurry and Performance Tech Motorsports‘ No. 38 of James French. The Performance Tech entry had the additional advantage of not having to worry about drive-time since both French and co-driver Nick Boulle are considered amateurs.
McMurry was able to open up an advantage of more than ten seconds over French before making the team’s final stop with 64 minutes to go in order to hand over to Bruno Junqueira. However, a very slow pit stop resulted in French gaining the lead once the round of stops were completed, followed by Junqueira. The long run to the finish forced Junqueira to back off, allowing Starworks’ Renger van der Zande to move up to second.
The last half-hour saw French forced to conserve fuel in order to make it to the finish. That meant that French lost a 14-second lead to van der Zande over the last 20 minutes of the race. With just two laps to go, van der Zande ran down French and overtook him for the class lead. From there, van der Zande pulled away to take his (and co-driver Popow’s) third win of the year.
Tom Kimber-Smith finished second in the No. 52 after passing French with just a minute or so to go in the race. French settled for third. McMurry and Junqueira finished fourth, while Gutierrez and Gustavo Yacaman were fifth.
GT Le Mans saw Richard Westbrook start the Ford Chip Ganassi Racing No. 67 Ford GT on pole, only to get driven out wide at turn 1 by Risi Competizione‘s Toni Vilander. Vilander’s move got him the class lead in the lone Ferrari 488 GTE in the field. The two Porsche North America entries of Patrick Pilet and Frédéric Makowiecki followed past into second and third, while Westbrook dropped to fourth. Westbrook would never lead the race beyond turn 1
Vilander immediately had the pace and was able to lead convincingly through the first segment of the race. The Risi Competizione team held the advantage through the first pit stop, which included a driver change to Giancarlo Fisichella. However, after the second restart, Nick Tandy in the No. 911 Porsche was able to get past for the lead.
However, that was not the end of the squabbling. Fisichella, who is on probation for the rest of the season due to post-race contact with Earl Bamber at VIR, proceeded to engage in a very physical battle with Tandy in an attempt to regain the class lead. IMSA officials eventually gave both drivers warnings to knock off the contact. After waging battle for nearly ten laps, Fisichella was able to get back by Tandy for the lead.
After the final round of stops, Vilander was back in the car and still leading when electrical woes struck. Vilander was forced to make an unscheduled pit stop for repairs, allowing Tandy to retake the lead with 27 minutes to go. Vilander and Fisichella ended up a lap behind the class leaders in seventh.
Vilander’s electrical issues left Tandy and Bamber running 1-2 with a big gap over the rest of the field. However, with the No. 912 being ahead of the No. 911 in points, a switch of positions was made with 15 minutes remaining, putting Bamber in the lead. From there, Bamber held on to take the win.
Behind the Porsche North America 1-2 was the pairing of Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen in the Corvette Racing No. 3 in third. BMW Team RLL‘s No. 25 for Dirk Werner and Bill Auberlen was fourth, while the No. 4 Corvette of Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner was fifth.
GT Daytona saw the Alex Job Racing-Team Seattle entry of Alex Riberas and Mario Farnbacher claim the class pole and lead early. The recent boost in horsepower definitely worked to their advantage early. Park Place Motorsports‘ Patrick Lindsey was able to beat Riberas out of the pits during the first overall caution, but chose to pit again on the restart to top off his fuel. That put Riberas back in the lead.
Park Place Motorsports’ strategy allowed Paul Miller Racing‘s Madison Snow to move up to second, followed by Turner Motorsport‘s No. 97 for Michael Marsal. However, it was the second Turner Motorsport entry, the No. 96 of Jens Klingmann, that was on the move. The team did not pit at the first opportunity given to GT Daytona teams due to the 45-minute rule for amateur racers. As a result, the No. 96 team pitted a lap later so that Bret Curtis could get his drive time in before putting Klingmann in the car. That put the No. 96 in tenth for the restart.
From there, Klingmann managed to move up all the way to third in just five laps. Meanwhile, Marsal was involved in an incident with the Dream Racing Lamborghini driven by Luca Persiani. Later on, the No. 97 went behind the wall due to issues at the rear of the car.
Riberas led until he pitted with 62 minutes remaining to make his final stop. At that point, teammate Mario Farnbacher got in the seat and the team had to pack the Porsche full of fuel in order to make the distance. This led to a slightly longer pit stop.
Turner Motorsport’s final stop was seven seconds faster than their immediate competition, allowing Klingmann to jump from third to the lead. Once out in front, Klingmann built a lead of over 15 seconds on his way to the class victory, the second of the year for Klingmann and Curtis.
Unfortunately for the Alex Job Racing-Team Seattle squad, the added horsepower came back to haunt them. Farnbacher ran out of fuel with a half a lap to go, giving second in class to Snow and Bryan Sellers in the Paul Miller Racing No. 48. GT Daytona points leaders Alessandro Balzan and Christina Nielsen for Scuderia Corsa were third. Magnus Racing‘s Andy Lally and John Potter were fourth in their Audi, while Park Place Motorsports’ No. 73 Porsche of Lindsey and Jörg Bergmeister were fifth. Riberas and Farnbacher ended up being classified a lap down in seventh.
The final race of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is the 19th running of Petit Le Mans presented by Harrah’s Cherokee Casino Resort on Oct. 1, a ten-hour endurance race that also serves as the finale of the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup. Coverage starts on FOX Sports 1 at 11 a.m.