Van Der Zande, Schultis Take Second PC Win For Starworks Motorsport
Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi prevailed in Sunday’s
Continental Tire Road Race Showcase at Road America. The drivers of the No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP recovered from an early spin and brake problems, dodged six cautions and made a timely pit stop to score their third TUDOR United SportsCar Championship victory of the season – padding their lead in the Prototype point standings in the process.
Barbosa took the checkered flag 2.240 seconds ahead of Ozz Negri, who had his best finish of the season in the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian Ford EcoBoost/Riley started by John Pew. Scott Sharp and Ryan Dalziel completed the podium in the No. 1 Extreme Speed Motorsports Tequila Patrón HPD ARX-03b/Honda.
Fittipaldi spun while leading early in the race after contact with Ricky Taylor, driving the No. 10 Konica Minolta Corvette DP. Fittipaldi pitted under caution on lap 22, turning the car over to Barbosa, with most of the leading teams using that stop to change drivers.
“It was a pretty wild race, but we can’t be happier,” Fittipaldi said. “At one point during my stint, I thought it was all over. I was having huge brake problems. But we managed to fix it on our first stop, and we had a solid car the rest of the race.”
The turning point of the race came on lap 38, when the Action Express team pitted under caution while a number of contenders elected to stay out. That allowed the three eventual podium finishers to maintain their track position while the remaining contenders pitted during a later caution with 45 minutes remaining, effectively splitting the Prototype field.
Jordan Taylor was leading the race in the car started by his brother Ricky when the fifth caution waved for an incident involving Olivier Pla in the No. 42 OAK Racing Morgan/Nissan in Turn 3.
Before the caution ended, Taylor hit a barrier in Turn 9, and his race was ended with a steering failure. That incident extended the caution. When racing resumed with 20 minutes remaining, the cars that pitted were mired in traffic with Prototype Challenge (PC) and GT Le Mans (GTLM) cars, with not enough time remaining to get back into contention. Barbosa led the remainder of the race, while Negri managed to pass Dalziel on the final restart to take second.
“The car was really perfect today,” Barbosa said. “The team did unbelievable strategy. We pitted at just the right time, and the last few yellows really made us good to go all the way to the end. I didn’t have to worry about conserving fuel – I could push as hard as I could. I think we would have been good to go regardless, but the extended caution really helped us.”
Entering the race with a two-point lead, Action Express Racing unofficially increased its lead to 16 points over the Taylors with two Prototype races remaining, with VisitFlorida.com Racing co-drivers Richard Westbrook and Michael Valiante another two points back after a fourth-place finish.
VAN DER ZANDE, SCHULTIS TAKE SECOND PC VICTORY FOR STARWORKS
Renger van der Zande held off Sean Rayhall by 0.415 seconds to give the No. 8 Starworks Motorsport Martini ORECA FLM09 its second Prototype Challenge (PC) victory of the season.
Mirco Schultis started the winning car, which ran in contention throughout the race while problems eliminated many of their top contenders. Van der Zande took the lead on his second and final pit stop, fighting off Rayhall throughout the stretch run to back up the team’s earlier victory at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
“I went in third and came out with the lead on my final pit stop,” van der Zande said. “The team did an amazing pit stop. From there on, it was all a matter of controlling the race. Every restart was a challenge to stay in front. I don’t think we had the fastest car out there, but we still won.”
Rayhall finished second in the No. 25 8Star Motorsports Takis/Speedsters ORECA FLM09 started by Luis Diaz – matching their best result of the season at Mazda Raceway. Chris Miller and Stephen Simpson rounded out the podium in the No. 85 JDC/Miller Motorsports entry.
Four-time 2014 winners Colin Braun and Jon Bennett were knocked out of contention when Braun was hit from behind while running third in Turn 12, bringing out the fourth of six caution periods. The resulting eighth-place finish saw the drivers of the No. 54 CORE autosport entry’s lead unofficially trimmed from 44 to 35 points (224-189 points), with van der Zande taking over second with three PC races remaining
Both of RSR Racing cars had problems after the team finished 1-2 in the class at Indianapolis. Jack Hawksworth spun in Turn 2 late in the race while running in podium contention in the No. 08 RSR Racing entry started by Chris Cumming, which eventually finished fourth. RSR’s No. 09 entry was eliminated on the third lap, when race leader Duncan Ende was involved in a crash in the car qualified on the PC pole by Bruno Junqueira after contact with a Prototype.
Next up for the TUDOR Championship will be the Oak Tree Grand Prix at Virginia International Raceway for the PC, GT Le Mans (GTLM) and GT Daytona (GTD) classes on Sunday, Aug. 24. The next event for all four classes will be the Lone Star Le Mans at Austin’s Circuit of The Americas on Saturday, Sept. 20.