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Race Fans Treated to Fantastic IMSA Racing During Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix, powered by Mazda

Photo of winning Michael Shank Racing Honda-powered Ligier JS P2 by www.TMHillPhotographer.com

The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship was the centerpiece of the final day of the Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix powered by Mazda  and race fans at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca once again witnessed history in the making and a local team besting the competition to earn the top step of the victory podium.

Race 1
Prototype/GT Le Mans

Ford broke through with a first-time win for the Ford GT at the Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca Sunday, but Ford wasn’t the car and the manufacturer most were expecting to own the day.

Practice and qualifying strongly suggested Mazda would finally break through with its first series win in Prototype, but that didn’t happen – it was a savvy drive by Ozz Negri and gentleman driver John Pew in the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Honda-powered Ligier JS P2 that made it to the checkered flag a whopping 30.099 seconds over the second-place car, the No. 90 Visit Florida Chevrolet Daytona Prototype of Ryan Dalziel and Marc Goossens, in the car that won last year’s race in Monterey. 

Third was Eric Curran in the No. 31 Whelen Action Express Corvette DP he shares with Dane Cameron. Curran was just 0.855 seconds behind the No. 90. 

It was the first win for the No. 60 team since the 2012 Rolex 24 At Daytona. “It’s been a long time,” Pew said. “I feel like a curse has been lifted.”

It was supposed to be Mazda’s day at its home track. The Mazda Prototypes qualified on the front row and led easily early in the race, with the No. 55 of Tristan Nunez and Jonathan Bomarito staying just ahead of the No. 70 of Tom Long and Joel Miller. The two Mazdas stretched out a full-straightaway lead over third place several times, but it all went wrong when the Prototypes made their first pit stop.

The stop for the 70 was slow and the fuel nozzle wouldn’t seat properly into the 55. After that, everything went wrong – the No. 70 stopped on track with oil pressure problems, and Bomarito spun the No. 55 when trying to make a pass. The No. 70 ended up finishing last, while the No. 55 was fourth. 

In the GT Le Mans class – the Prototypes and GTLM cars were split into one race, the Prototype Challenge and GT Daytona cars into another due to pit lane capacity – the No. 67 Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT took the win with drivers Ryan Briscoe and at the end, Richard Westbrook.

Westbrook made it a stunning 52 laps on his last tank of fuel, nursing the car to the checkered flag on fumes. But saying it was entirely a fuel mileage victory isn’t fair – Ryan Briscoe’s best lap was only a split-second behind the fastest car, the second-place No. 68 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari of Daniel Serra and Alessandro Pier Guidi, which qualified on the pole, and the No. 4 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R.

That Corvette of Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner finished fourth, just behind the No. 912 Porsche North America Porsche 911 RSR of Earl Bamber and Frederic Makowiecki. 

Westbrook’s sister car, the No. 66 Ford GT of Joey Hand and Dirk Mueller, came in for a quick splash of fuel at the end, dropping them to sixth in class, twelfth overall. They had no choice, said Ford chief engineer Mark Rushbrook – the No. 66 was on a different pit strategy, and didn’t have quite enough fuel at the end to stretch it like the No. 67 did.

The hardest-working car and drivers were Ryan Dalziel and Marc Goossens in the No. 90 Visit Florida car, which ran poorly all weekend and started the race last due to being too late to the starting grid, meaning they had to start from pit lane and also suffered a drive-through penalty.

Race 2
Prototype Challenge/GT Daytona

Drivers Tom Kimber-Smith and Robert Alon executed when it counted, logging a textbook-perfect race in their No. 52 Chevrolet-powered ORECA FLM09 Prototype Challenge car to score a narrow 1.736-second victory over the No. 8 Starworks car of Alex Popow and Renger van der Zande in the Continental Monterey Grand Prix powered by Mazda, held Sunday afternoon at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

In the GT Daytona class, the No. 23 Alex Job Racing/Team Seattle Porsche 911 RSR of Alex Riberas and Mario Farnbacher dominated practice, qualifying and then the race, finishing 3.632 seconds over the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3 of Christina Nielsen and Alessandro Balzan. Finishing third was the No. 007 TRG-AMR Aston Martin Vantage GT3 of Brandon Davis and James Davison. 

The race was the second half of a double-header – the pit lane at Mazda Raceway is considered too short for all four of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship classes, so the Prototype Challenge and GT Daytona cars were paired for one race, and the Prototype and GT Le Mans class ran together in an earlier race. The No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Honda-Ligier took the Prototype victory in that race, and the new No. 67 Ford GT took its first win in GTLM today.

Kimber-Smith said the PC win came down to saving fuel, part of a one-pit-stop strategy in the two-hour race. “It’s hard to save fuel when someone is trying to chase you down,” he said, but van der Zande, in second, also was conserving fuel on a one-stop plan. “It looks like we’re going to have a good year,” Kimber-Smith said. 

The most compelling drive of the afternoon was by the No. 54 CORE Autosport car of Colin Braun and Jon Bennett. The car had to start last from pit lane, and then had to serve a drive-through penalty, putting it not only well behind all the PC cars, but the GT Daytona cars. Near the end Braun, laying down the fastest lap of the race at 1:20.380, was nearly a second a lap faster than the leader.

 Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo North America

Prestige Performance used quick driving and strategy to earn dual wins in the overall and Pro-Am divisions in Race 2 of the Lamborghini Blancpain Super Trofeo North America season Sunday at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

Shinya Michimi produced a breakthrough performance in the No. 1 Prestige Performance Huracán LP 620-2 Super Trofeo representing Lamborghini Paramus, earning a 1.918-second victory over Corey Lewis for his first overall Super Trofeo victory. Michimi’s Prestige Performance teammates, Trent Hindman and Craig Duerson, made a spirited drive to climb from 10th to third overall and first in the Pro-Am division in the No. 1 Huracán representing Lamborghini Paramus.

Michimi, a Pro-Am championship contender in Super Trofeo Europe last season, took the green flag in second position for the second day in a row, following Madison Snow in the No. 48 DXDT Racing entry representing Lamborghini Palm Beach. Snow had a clean start and gradually built a lead while Lewis and Michimi battled for second position. Lewis got the jump on the first lap, with Michimi following closely. 

At the 10-minute mark of the 50-minute race, a car went off course in Turn 10, leaving dirt on the track surface. Snow crossed the dirt and slid off course, opening the door for Lewis and Michimi. The two stayed within one-half of a second of each other over the next 30 minutes, but pit strategy decided the outcome. Michimi pitted early while Lewis stayed out, trying to extend his lead. Once Lewis pitted, Michimi laid down some quick laps to come out in front once the field cycled through the mandatory pit stops. After taking the lead, Michimi managed the race and his tires to win. 

The father-son duo of Jim and Josh Norman found the podium for the first time this season with a second-place finish in the Amateur division in the No. 71 Change Racing entry representing Lamborghini Carolinas. Rob Hodes rounded out the Amateur podium in the No. 51 DAC Motorsports machine representing Lamborghini Palm Beach with his second third-place finish of the weekend.

Ross Chouest swept the new Lamborghini Cup division, earning his second win of the weekend in the No. 3 DXDT Racing entry representing Lamborghini Dallas. Shawn Lawless was the second-place finisher in the division in the No. 27 Dream Racing Motorsports entry representing Lamborghini Dallas. eXclaim Racing’s Will James rounded out the podium finishers in the No. 11 Super Trofeo representing Lamborghini Paramus.

 

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