It seems like Wayne Taylor Racing cannot be stopped at this point. On Saturday, the team started at the back of the Prototype class due to a qualifying crash. Despite that fact, Ricky and Jordan Taylor were able to claw through the field and take advantage of a pit strategy blunder to take their fifth consecutive win.
Prior to leaving for the Le Mans Test Day in France, Jordan Taylor equated the victory to strategy.
“I think it came down to strategy and having the quickest car,” Jordan Taylor stated after the race. “Ricky made some good moves to get to 5th or 6th during his stint. I got stuck behind the 5 and got pinched a few times by the Mazda. When we finally got around them, the guys told me to push and that’s when the car came alive and we were able to make some moves. Then the great strategy by the guys to bring us in at the right moment. then I was able to just keep on it. As I was going, I knew what was going on, I saw the 70 peel off and then the 5. I knew if we did 1 or 2 laps more than them, we could jump them both. And then jumping the 70. Maybe they were trying to wait for a yellow, but it worked out for us. [Le Mans] Its always good to have confidence in yourself, especially at a place like Le Mans. We’ll go there myself with 5 wins, and Corvette who will be going in with 3 wins. It’s a bit stressful. It’s a stressful event, but coming out of here with a win will help me sleep a little better on the plane tonight.”
At the beginning of the race, Action Express Racing’s Christian Fittipaldi led easily from the pole, but teammate Eric Curran was locked in a back-and-forth battle with JDC/Miller MotorSports’ Mikhail Goikhberg. That battle allowed Fittipaldi to get away from the field.
The only full-course yellow of the race came out 27 minutes in when SunEnergy1 Racing’s Kenny Habul had a very unusual failure. Quite literally, his left front wheel split in half.
Rim split in 2….
For those of you who thought I F$&#ed up…. pic.twitter.com/4QpI12DPiw
— Kenny Habul (@kennyhabul) June 3, 2017
Habul stated after the race that he thought that the brake caliper scythed the rim. Such a failure left Habul with no brakes at the fastest point on the track. He ended up plowing right into Visit Florida Racing’s Renger van der Zande and put both cars into the tires.
Habul was actually able to drive his Mercedes back to the pits, but did not continue. Van der Zande’s Riley Mk. 30-Gibson needed the hook. Both cars were done for the day.
The leaders all pitted during the yellow and the No. 31 Cadillac with Dane Cameron behind the wheel emerged with the lead. The rest of the race was based around pit strategy. Jordan Taylor emerged from the pits in fourth behind Cameron, Joao Barbosa in the No. 5 and Tom Long in the No. 70 Mazda.
Cameron’s goal was to get a big enough lead to be able to make his final stop and keep the lead. Unfortunately, lapped traffic cost Cameron enough of his advantage that he could not do that. When he finally stopped with 16 laps to go, Jordan Taylor was 29 seconds behind when Cameron needed 35. Jordan swept past in the No. 10 as Cameron putted down pit road on his speed limiter.
From there, Cameron tried to close up on the No. 10 and actually gained a couple of seconds. However, he could not quite get there at the end.
Behind the two Cadillac DPi-V.R. was Long and Joel Miller third in the No. 70 Mazda. The best of the Mazda RT24-Ps was 34.5 seconds behind at the finish. Barbosa and Fittipaldi were fourth, followed by Jonathan Bomarito and Tristan Nunez in the No. 55 Mazda.
In Prototype Challenge, it was once again Performance Tech Motorsports all day long. James French pulled away early from the class lead while BAR1 Motorsports starting drivers Don Yount and Tomy Drissi ended up mixed in amongst the GT Daytona competitors. As a result, French had a huge lead by the time that Patricio O’Ward got into the car during the full-course caution.
O’Ward stretched the lead up to over 65 seconds at one point before relaxing a bit late. Due to the positioning of the overall leaders, French and O’Ward ended up with a one-lap victory over BAR1 Motorsports’ No. 26 of Tomy Drissi and Bruno Junqueira.
In GT Daytona, Lawson Aschenbach led easily in the Stevenson Motorsports No. 57 Audi, pulling out a decent gap on Michael Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian’s Katherine Legge. Part of that gap was due to the fact that Drissi’s No. 26 PC entry was holding up a number of the GT Daytona competitors, irritating Legge’s teammate, Andy Lally (Lally later apologized for his remarks in an on-air interview).
During pit stops under the caution, the No. 93 Acura with Lally now driving was able to vault the No. 57 during the stops. The Audi, now driven by Andrew Davis, dropped to third behind Scuderia Corsa’s Alessandro Balzan. Lally got to the front partially due to only taking two tires on the stop. Jeff Segal in the No. 86 Acura took no tires and moved up to fourth.
As the race continued, Lally was not able to get away from Balzan at all. However, he was able to maintain an advantage of roughly two seconds.
The great weekend for Stevenson Motorsports came to an end with 30 minutes to go when the gearbox broke on the No. 57 Audi. Davis was able to crawl the car back to the pits, but he was done for the day.
Lally held on to give Michael Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian their first-ever win in the GT Daytona class and the first-ever win for the Acura NSX GT3. For Legge, Saturday marked her first career victory in sports car racing.
“Its a testament to the team. The team gave us a car that was capable of winning,” Legge said after the race. “The team has really been working hard between each race. We’ve been strong on points, but today we put it together. Today was the longest hour of my life watching Andy drive. I was telepathically talking to him. It was harder to watch than actually drive. Thank you to everyone who has given us a chance to put together this car and this ride.”
Lally and Legge’s margin of victory was 2.441 seconds over Scuderia Corsa’s Balzan and Christina Nielsen. The Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini of Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow finished third, followed by Turner Motorsport’s Bret Curtis and Jens Klingmann in the BMW M6 GT3. The MSR No. 86 Acura of Segal and Oswaldo Negri Jr. was fifth after failing to put up a time in qualifying.
While a number of competitors will be competing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in a couple of weeks, IMSA teams officially have four weeks off. The next round of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is the Sahlen’s Six Hours at the Glen on Jul. 2 at Watkins Glen International.
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