The combination of Northern California’s blue skies and the gorgeous blue VisitFlorida.com Racing Corvette DP could not be beaten on Sunday at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
Drivers Richard Westbrook and Michael Valiante combined to earn the team’s first win of the year in idyllic conditions at the legendary road course. The fast-starting Valiante passed the pole-sitting No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP on the first lap of the 2hr40min contest, and despite losing the early lead to Jordan Taylor in traffic, Westbrook used a late charge through traffic to turn the tables on WTR and capture their fifth victory since 2012.
Taylor’s brother Ricky appeared to be on his way to the team’s second consecutive win in a span of two weeks, but the team’s fortunes turned when they pitted for the final time to receive a splash of fuel. With traffic ahead, Taylor was called to the pits to avoid being slowed by the congestion awaiting the No. 10. Westbrook, who was within striking distance, stayed out and quickly cleared the traffic before making a quick fuel stop of his own.
The time gained by Westbrook during that handful of clear laps made the difference between winning and losing, and as he returned to the track, his No. 90 had leapfrogged the No. 10. Taylor piled on the pressure as Westbrook’s tires began to surrender, but the Englishman would not be denied, crossing the finish line 1.3 seconds ahead of the WTR entry.
“I worked it out for myself and saw where he pitted because there was a lot of traffic coming up,” Westy told RACER. “That’s what won us the race. I managed to get through it right away, and the reward was having a couple of quick laps – that’s when I set the fastest lap – and that was the race.”
The Taylor brothers drove brilliantly all weekend, but they couldn’t overcome the strategy call made by Troy Flis and the rest of the No. 90’s brain trust. The final step of the Prototype podium went to Michael Shank Racing’s John Pew and Ozz Negri in the No. 60 Ligier JS P2-Honda.
Of the other notables in the TUDOR Championship’s top class, Mazda briefly led at their home track and matched their best finishing position to date when Jonathan Bomarito and Tristan Nunez claimed sixth in the SkyActiv diesel-powered No. 70 Mazda. Action Express Racing had, by their standards, an off weekend as the No. 5 Corvette DP fought understeer on its way to fourth and the sister No. 31 followed home in fifth. The No. 0 DeltaWing DWC13 lasted almost an hour before engine issues caused the 4-cylinder turbo to lose boost and require a premature exit from the race.
In GT Le Mans, BMW Team RLL completed a clean sweep of California. The No. 25 BMW Z4 claimed the win at Long Beach in April, and 39 years and 364 days after Hans Stuck won the IMSA GT race at Laguna Seca in his BMW CSL, Lucas Luhr and John Edwards won for BMW in their No. 25 Z4. Other than briefly surrendering the lead during a round of pit stops, the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing-led team was never seriously challenged, and even between the sister Z4s, the No. 24’s dominance was revealed in the 20.4-second margin of victory over the No. 25.
“For BMW, they have two wins and a second out of two race – it was a really good cross-country trip to California,” said Edwards, who scored his first victory for the brand in two years. “Me and Lucas were a bit frustrated at Long Beach because we had a podium in sight and had some brake issues, but we earned redemption here and took a 1-2 for the Roundel. It’s been two years for me, and these wins don’t come easy. It’s never easy here. This category has pushed me to improve myself a lot in the time I’ve been here.”
Dirk Werner and Bill Auberlen started on the GTLM pole in the No. 25 BMW, and after the stunning white Z4 drove into Victory Lane in SoCal, it was a fitting bookend to have the black Z4 make the trip in NorCal. Michael Christensen and Patrick Pilet placed third in their No. 911 Porsche North America 911.
In the Pro-Am classes, the pole-winning cars in PC and GT Daytona held onto win their categories. RSR Racing’s Chris Cumming set the fastest lap in qualifying with his No. 11 car by just 0.004 seconds over PR1/Mathiasen’s Mike Guasch, but his drive in the race with ex-IndyCar teammate Bruno Junqueira was nowhere near as close.
“Junky” crossed the finish line nearly 40 seconds ahead of Colin Braun in the No. 54 CORE Autosport PC, and two laps up on Mike Hedlund in the No. 38 Performance Tech Racing PC. It was one of the easiest PC wins in recent memory.
“This is one of my favorite tracks,” said the Brazilian. “I’ve been on the podium five times, so it is good to finally be able to stand on the top step.”
Patrick Lindsey and Spencer Pumpelly captured the first win for Park Place Motorsports in GTD as their No. 73 Porsche GT America led the opening lap, briefly fell back, and soon returned to the point. Paul Miller Racing’s No. 48 Audi R8 LMS stayed close as Cristopher Haase and Dion von Moltke kept the Park Place boys honest, but one year after losing the race on the final lap, Pumpelly was able to avenge the loss and steer the Porsche to a 3.6-second win over the Audi.
“This is huge – this is the start, a kick in the pants for everyone,” said Lindsey. “We’ve been fast a lot of placed, but haven’t had the results, and this rewards everyone in our team for their belief in what we could achieve. It rewards our sponsor, Park Place Porsche in Dallas, and it’s a huge validation for everything we’ve been doing. It’s validation we’re doing it right.”
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