Visit Florida Racing parlayed their best start of theseason into their first victory of the 2015 IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The win in the Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix moved the No. 90 VISITFLORIDA.COM Chevrolet Corvette Daytona Prototype into first place in the TUDOR Championship standings.
After qualifying in third position, driver Michael Valiante used the inside line to make a bold on Jordan Taylor entering the first turn; the move stuck and Valiante established a commanding lead through the opening portion of the race.
“Turn 1 is always interesting here with cold tires and cold brakes,” said Valiante. “Fortunately there was a gap and I was able to position the car for the corner and come out with the lead. The car was extremely fast in clean air, and we were able to put some distance on the 10 car and establish a solid pace.”
When the first caution of the race flew Visit Florida Racing made their driver swap, putting Richard Westbrook at the helm of the No. 90 VISITFLORIDA.COM Corvette DP. Westbrook restarted the race in the fourth position, dropping to fifth before rallying back to the front.
“We dropped a position on the pit cycle,” said Westbrook. “Then on the restart I had some slight contact with the Dane (Cameron) and slipped to fifth, but the car was extremely strong so we just had to be smart and work our way back up to the front.”
During the final pit stop cycle, Rick Cameron opted to leave the VISITFLORIDA.com Corvette DP on the track as others on the lead lap pitted. Westbrook was able to put a gap on the field before making his fuel-only final stop. Westbrook rejoined the field just in front of the second-place running Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP, and never looked back over the closing forty-minutes of the Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix.
“I thought on the last pit stop that Ricky (Taylor) might have made the winning move, pitting when he came up on about eight GTD cars. Fortunately we were able to navigate them quickly and then stretch out a gap before we made our last stop. Hats off to the team for an impeccable stop at crunch time and enabling us to get the win today.
“The testing that we did as a team really paid off,” said Westbrook. “We worked hard for three days and we’ve finally gotten our speed back and the team is executing better than ever. It’s nice to be the points leader, but it’s far too early to start thinking about points. We’ll have some momentum and confidence as we approach Detroit and the rest of the season.”
For team owner Troy Flis, the win was validation for all the guys’ efforts spent testing following the Long Beach Grand Prix.
“If we could have scripted it, we would have scripted it this way,” said Flis. “We don’t like anything given to us and this was a hard-fought battle for sure! The competition was great and these guys deserve this win. We worked hard and tested at the first opportunity we had.
“This is a great opportunity for Visit Florida, Chevrolet and all of our great partners. It is awesome to be a part of it and we’re now the points leaders. It is awesome to work with such professionals and we’ll keep fighting to keep our position at the top.”
The victory vaulted the No. 90 VISITFLORIDA.COM Corvette DP to the points lead and maintained the streak of being on the podium in each of the first four events of the 2015 season, the only prototype team to do so. The car displayed impressive speed throughout the weekend, but at the end of the day it was the bold moves of Valiante and Westbrook that positioned the team for their first victory of the season.
Visit Florida Racing will compete next at the Chevrolet Sports Car Classic at the Detroit Grand Prix of Belle Isle. The team enters the event with a four-point lead in the TUDOR Championship.