Pole position and first TUSCC podium caps fine weekend
Second place and a dominant pole position was Alex Brundle’s reward for a fine debut appearance at Watkins Glen last weekend (June 27-29), even if a late caution period denied the OAK Racing driver a possible victory in round seven of this season’s IMSA Tudor United SportsCar Championship.With just seven laps of practice under his belt, the King’s Lynn resident produced a stunning display in Saturday’s qualifying session to cover the former grand prix venue near New York almost 0.7sec faster than his nearest rivals, ensuring that an LMP2 car would start a TUSCC race from pole position for only the second time this season.After initially being swamped due to the Daytona Prototypes’ horsepower advantage at the start of Sunday’s six-hour race, decisive moves around the outside of third and second placed cars saw the BRDC Superstar fighting for the lead throughout the first 90 minutes. Co-drivers Ho-Pin Tung and Gustavo Yacaman then kept OAK Racing’s Morgan-Nissan LMP2 at the sharp end during their stints before Brundle returned for the chase to the chequered flag. Indeed, the 23-year-old’s charge intensified upon taking the lead with less than 50 minutes remaining as he set about establishing the 30-second advantage necessary for the Morgan-Nissan to re-join in front after making its final scheduled fuel stop. But despite often lapping a second faster than the pursuing DPs, a late caution period would prove decisive to the final result.The straightline speed discrepancy between Prototype class competitors was again visibly evident during the late race restart when one of the DP machines – albeit a backmarker – was able to attack Brundle on the front straight and push him wide at turn one, despite the Brit making every effort to outfox the chasing pack. That subsequently allowed the similar Corvette DP running in second place to easily draw alongside and pass for the lead on the straight run down to the Bus Stop with just minutes remaining.Powerless to defend due to the straightline speed deficit and loss of his right-hand mirror glass mid-race, a frustrated Brundle was reconciled to finishing a still impressive runner-up by less than one second.“I’ve got mixed emotions really,” confirmed Brundle afterwards. “On the one hand we’ve produced a fantastic team performance all weekend to come away with a podium on our first appearance at Watkins Glen, as well as a dominant pole position that I was obviously very pleased with. But on the other we’re all feeling a bit gutted to have missed out on victory so late in the race. I knew the DPs would be all over me at the restart on the run down to turn one, so I tried to put some distance between myself and the Safety Car to bolt into. But not even that was enough and they just came straight past me.“OAK Racing has worked tirelessly on set-up with the TUSCC’s tyres and gave us a very competitive car. I also need to mention the fantastic performances of Gustavo and Ho-Pin whose efforts kept us in the hunt throughout. So all in all a fantastic team performance that didn’t quite have the finishing touch we perhaps deserved.”Brundle will be hoping to go one better in the fourth and final North American Endurance Cup event at the 10-hour/1000-mile Petit Le Mans race held at Road Atlanta on October 1-4. He’ll be back Stateside for the regular-season TUSCC round at Circuit of the Americas on September 19/20 but, before all of that, returns to European Le Mans Series action at the Red Bull Ring in Austria on July 19/20 at the wheel of ART Grand Prix’s #99 McLaren 12C GT3.