After leading every lap en route to victory in Sunday morning’s first race of a Sunday doubleheader at Sebring International Raceway, Bijoy Garg had a much tougher time in this afternoon’s second 45-minute IMSA VP Racing SportsCar Challenge race.
The end result was the same, though, as Garg drove the No. 3 Jr III Racing Ligier JS P320 back into Victory Lane. Despite starting the race from the pole position, Garg surrendered the lead to Dan Goldburg in the No. 73 JDC MotorSports Duqueine D08 on the opening lap.
Goldburg grabbed the advantage just before the full-course caution came out due to a first-lap incident in Turn 1 involving Adrian Kunzle in the No. 54 MLT Motorsports Ligier, Scott Neal in the No. 86 Kellymoss with Riley Ligier and Courtney Crone in the No. 99 Forty7 Motorsports Duqueine. When the green flag flew again 10 minutes into the race, a three-car battle ensued at the front of the LMP3 field that included Goldburg, Garg and Antonio Serravalle in the No. 18 Muehlner Motorsports America Ligier.
Though no positions changed hands, the battle remained close among the three cars through the halfway point of the race. It was particularly close between Goldburg and Garg, who made several runs at Goldburg in traffic before finally making the decisive pass in Sebring’s famed Hairpin (Turn 7) with 15 minutes left in the race.
“I did a pretty big dive bomb, but it worked out and none of us got damage,” said Garg.
Garg then went from hunter to hunted for the next few laps as he navigated traffic with Goldburg in his mirrors, before catching a break when Goldburg spun in Turn 7 with under 10 minutes remaining. Garg went on to win by 4.949s over Serravalle, picking up a Sebring weekend sweep for himself and his Jr III Racing teammates.
“I lost the lead off the start, but I wasn’t too worried,” Garg said. “I knew it all came down to the traffic and just finding an opportunity there, so as long as I stayed with (Goldburg), I was fine. I used some lapped cars, set a pick for him and then got it.
“From there, it’s all about the traffic management, as usual. It’s not easy going to a multi-class. I’m just really happy to come out with the win today.”
Serravalle was one of a number of series newcomers in the 30-car field at Sebring. He had a double podium day with a third-place run in the morning before his runner-up performance in the afternoon for the Muehlner squad.
Goldburg recovered from the spin to finish third for his fourth consecutive podium result to open the VP Racing Challenge season. He will depart the weekend atop both the overall LMP3 championship standings, as well as the Bronze driver standings. He has been the highest-finishing Bronze-rated driver in every race so far.
The next event for the VP Racing Challenge is scheduled for July 7-9 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park as part of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Challenge Chevrolet Grand Prix weekend.
Gregory Liefooghe started from the GSX class pole in the No. 43 Stephen Cameron Racing BMW M4 GT4 and led every lap but the last one in Sunday morning’s first 45-minute race.
While he also started this afternoon’s race from the class pole, it appeared on the opening lap like he might come up empty on the day as he fell from first to fifth at the end of the first lap.
“The start was pretty sporty,” Liefooghe said. “There (were) two LMP3 cars that crashed right in front of me. I was on the outside, so I kind of got stuck, fell back and almost got collected, so I was really happy to survive.”
He did more than survive. Liefooghe went right to work when the race went back to green following a 10-minute full-course caution period, picking off the cars in front of him, including Luca Mars, who won this morning’s race in the No. 59 KOHR MOTORSPORTS Ford Mustang GT4 but had to make an unscheduled trip to pit lane early in race two.
“Unfortunately, Lucas broke down,” Liefooghe said. “I’m not sure what happened to him. We were looking forward to a battle with him and see how we improved our car compared to his since this morning.”
Liefooghe would not be denied in race two, especially with Mars out of the picture. He drove away from the field after taking the lead, and took the checkered flag 22.712s ahead of Sebastian Carazo, who finished second in the No. 27 Kellymoss with Riley Porsche 718 GT4 RS CS.
“It just seems like our car was really good on the high-speed stuff,” Liefooghe surmised. “(Turns) 17 and 1 (were our strong suits). It felt like we were able to brake a lot deeper than the other competitors and we kind of squeaked by in those two spots on track.”
While Liefooghe and Carazo, who also finished third this morning, had podium finishes in both of the day’s races, they were greeted by a new face on the podium at the end of race two — Patrick Wilmot came home third in the No. 88 Split Decision Motorsports BMW.