Corvette Racing’s Antonio Garcia was able to take the overall lead away from BMW Team RLL’s John Edwards exiting the infield with 25 minutes to go Saturday night (Oct. 10) at a very wet Charlotte Motor Speedway.
From there, Garcia was able to hold on through a late restart to claim victory in the Motul 100% Synthetic Grand Prix. It is Garcia and Jordan Taylor‘s fifth win of 2020 and puts them in excellent position to claim the championship.
“It was very stressful right away,” Garcia said after the race. “The BMWs were really fast when there was a ton of standing water. But the [Chevrolet Corvette] C8.R ran again perfectly in the end. I got up to [Edwards] and he started to lose pace. We gained some time and I saw my chance. He was struggling with tires, but so was I. I stayed calm and knew the section at [turns 5, 6, 7 and 8] was going to be my chance. As soon as he made a little mistake, I went for it, kept my head down and it’s another victory for Corvette Racing.”
Taylor led the field to green under wet conditions and opened up a quick gap on the field. BMW Team RLL’s Jesse Krohn slipped past Porsche GT Team’s Frederic Makowiecki for second. Meanwhile, Krohn’s teammate Bruno Spengler spun on the second lap of the race in the frontstretch chicane. He did a 360 and managed to continue.
A couple of laps later, Krohn was able to run down Taylor and make the pass for the overall lead in the concrete-lined, banked turn 2. Once out front, Krohn was able to pull away from the field.
Porsche GT Team was able to make it back to the track in Charlotte after missing Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course due to COVID-19 positive tests at Le Mans. This ended up being a very difficult race for the German marque. First, Laurens Vanthoor lost control in turn 5 and backed hard into the tire barrier. This significantly damaged the car and put them out.
Shortly afterward, Makowiecki spun the No. 911 Porsche exiting turn 1 out of second and hit the outside wall with the left front corner of the car. Makowiecki had trouble trying to recover the car, which led to the race’s first full-course caution coming out. Makowiecki was able to get back to the pits, but the damage to the car could not be repaired. Both Porsches were out of the race in the first 25 minutes.
On the restart, Gradient Racing’s Till Bechtolsheimer spun and nosed into the wall to bring out another yellow. Bechtolsheimer was OK, but his Acura NSX GT3 Evo was not. This brought the GT Le Mans leaders to the pit lane for their driver changes (for 100-minute races, minimum drive time is a mere five minutes).
The No. 24 BMW kept the lead through the stops, now with Edwards at the wheel. Edwards was able to open up a decent gap over the pack.
As the race continued on, the rain lessened and the rain tires began to wear a bit. This allowed Garcia to close back in on Edwards. With a little under 25 minutes to go, Garcia got a better exit from the infield and took the lead from Edwards.
Once out front, Garcia pulled out to a five-second lead over Edwards and appeared to have the race in the bag. In addition, the rain started to pick back up.
Then, trouble hit the sister Corvette. With 12 minutes to go, Tommy Milner suffered an apparent right-rear suspension failure in turn 14 (turn 4 of the quad-oval). The Corvette C8.R swapped ends and hit the SAFER barrier hard to bring out the third and final full-course caution of the race. Milner was OK, but Corvette Racing will likely have a lot of work over the next couple of days to get the car repaired in time for practice at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.
Once the green came back out, there were only four laps to go. From there, Garcia opened up a small advantage and held on to grab the win.
Garcia and Taylor’s margin of victory was 1.474 seconds over Edwards and Krohn. Spengler and Connor de Phillippi were third. Milner and Oliver Gavin were classified fourth in class after their crash, while Makowiecki and Nick Tandy were fifth.
In GT Daytona, AVS Vasser Sullivan’s Aaron Telitz started from the pole and showed that he was the man to beat. He opened up a decent gap over the field. Telitz’s closest competitor early on was Turner Motorsport’s Robby Foley, but a spin in the frontstretch chicane dropped him well back.
GT Daytona minimum drive time was 30 minutes, so they couldn’t take advantage of the caution for Bechtolsheimer’s crash. A couple of laps after the restart, the 30-minute mark was reached. When that happened, there was a parade to the pits for driver changes and fuel.
Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian’s Matt McMurry was one of the first drivers to pit. Mario Farnbacher got in the Acura and was quickly off to the races. AVS Vasser Sullivan’s two Lexus racers pitted a lap later. Here, the team ran into some issues. On the class-leading No. 14, a crew member had his goggles fog up, which prevented him from seeing where to hook up the window net. That dropped the pole-winning Lexus with Jack Hawksworth at the wheel down to fifth in class, 15 seconds behind Farnbacher.
After the stops, Turner Motorsport’s Bill Auberlen was the fastest man in class. He was able to erase a nine-second lead to run down Farnbacher and challenge him for the lead. With 45 minutes to go, Auberlen managed to get past Farnbacher for the lead. At the same time, Farnbacher failed to make the bus stop chicane on the backstretch. Farnbacher then dropped to third behind Wright Motorsports’ Patrick Long when he had to serve a stop-and-go penalty on the frontstretch.
Once in the lead, Auberlen quickly opened up a huge lead over the rest of the class. His advantage reached nearly 22 seconds at one point. That was erased by the late caution.
On the restart, contact was made between Hawksworth and Farnbacher in the frontstretch chicane, resulting in Farnbacher spinning out. Even though Farnbacher was struggling a bit with his tires, Hawksworth was hit with an avoidable contact penalty that he had to serve coming to the white flag. Farnbacher and McMurry ended up seventh in class, while Hawksworth and Telitz were eighth.
Auberlen was able to hold on to take his and Foley’s second victory of the year. In Auberlen’s case, it extends his record to 62 career IMSA class victories.
““That was so horrifying (the last yellow),” Auberlen stated. “I had this nice lead, that BMW [M6 GT3] was running like a missile the whole race. It loves that drying condition so as it’s drying a little bit it just puts the power down so well, and makes the grip. And does everything really right. We were praying for that.”
Auberlen and Foley ended up 1.497 seconds ahead of Long and Ryan Hardwick in their Porsche. The Heart of Racing’s Roman DeAngelis and Ian James finished a season-best third in their Aston Martin, followed by AIM Vasser Sullivan’s Townsend Bell and Michael de Quesada. Heinricher Racing with MSR Curb-Agajanian’s Alvaro Parente and Misha Goikhberg recovered from an early spin to finish fifth.
For the GT teams, this will be a very short week as teams are scheduled to load into the paddock at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta starting at 11 a.m. ET Wednesday. The next race is the Motul Petit Le Mans, scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 17.
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