Recent “Balance of Performance” made for two exciting races of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship this weekend at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
The pole-sitting No. 2 Extreme Speed Motorsports HPD ARX-03b car driven the duo of Johannes van Overbeek and Ed Brown, earned the first Prototype win for both drivers and placed a P2 car atop the podium for the first time in four TUDOR Championship races. As Brown started the race, the Pro-Am driver fell more than 10 second back and was the first to pit, handing the car over to Overbeek at the 22-minute mark. Overbeek worked tirelessly cut down the gap and eventually took the lead from Jordan Taylor in the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP with only minutes left in the two-hour event.
Corvette Racing’s Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia also won from pole in the No. 3 C7.R. “Corvette racing did a great job, the C7.R was perfect,” said Garcia “We knew we had a very good car coming into this race and we proved that yesterday [in qualifying] and everything was running up to where we wanted.”
BMW led thanks to using an alternate strategy, and Bill Auberlen put in a mighty drive to haul the No. 55 Z4 up to second at the finish only 4.7 seconds behind Garcia. Porsche’s Nick Tandy, who held second until the final corner, took third after Auberlen’s pushed the No. 911 RSR’s rear tires from the tarmac.
As the race began, pole-sitter Ed Brown fell immediately to second and ended the first lap in fourth as Spirit of Daytona’s Michael Valiante took the lead in the No. 90. Oak Racing’s Gustavo Yacaman made a fearless move heading downhill into Turn 2, sweeping around the outside to move from fourth to second. Michael Christensen in the No 912 Porsche spun at Turn 3 on the opening lap, dropping to last place, while the No. 3 Corvette C7. R of Jan Magnussen led John Edwards in the No. 56 BMW Z4 around the circuit.
At the 10 minute mark, Gustavo Yacaman sat 0.09sec behind Michael Valiante as he attacked the Corvette DP with his Morgan-Nissan P2. Their battle allowed the No. 90 Action Express Racing Corvette DP of Christian Fittipaldi and the No. 1 ESM HPD ARX-03b of Scott Sharp to cut the gap and allowed for a four-car train at the front of the field.
Jan Magnussen felt similar pressure from John Edwards in GTLM.
Christian Fittipaldi took second from Yacaman at the 20-minute mark as the Oak Racing driver understeered off the exit of Turn 4 while trying to keep pace with Valiante. Ed Brown sitting well off the pace pitted to hand over to van Overbeek, who returned to the circuit in 21st. Gustavo Yacaman handed the Oak Racing Morgan-Nissan No. 42 over to teammate Alex Brundle after 35 minutes as a mass of Prototypes followed them into the pits.
Magnussen, who saw Edwards pit early to replace flat-spotted tires and swap with Dirk Muller, pressed on with Porsche’s Richard Lietz in the No. 911 Porsche and Andy Priaulx in hot pursuit with the No. 55 BMW Z4.
Valiante pitted and Richard Westbrook climbed in to take the car the remainder of the race. With the No. 90 pitting, Scott Sharp briefly inherited the lead, but pitted 42 minutes handing the No. 1 ESM over Ryan Dalziel. As the Prototype pit stops finished, Jordan Taylor left the pits in front with Dalziel, Joao Barbosa in the AXR Corvette DP, Westbrook and Brundle trailing. Alex Brundle committed the only significant questionable move of the day as he and Westbrook fought for position heading up the hill to the Corkscrew. The Oak Racing driver, out of room on the left while attempting to pass Westbrook, shot across the sand, smashed into the left side of Barbosa as he was turning left at the apex, and with the force of the hit, Barbosa was launched into the left side of the No. 07 MazdaP2 piloted by Joel Miller. Brundle’s impact would ruin the day for the Mazda and require his Morgan-Nissan to go behind the wall for repairs.
Magnussen pitted the Corvette at the halfway point, handing over to Garcia. A questionable pit release by the Corvette Racing team saw Garcia pull away just as the No. 912 Porsche was attempting to pull in to its stall. Contact was avoided, but the Porsche was left at an odd angle in its box, slowing its service and driver change between Christensen and Patrick Long.
An unfortunate broken gearbox for Ryan Dalziel’s P2 with 55 minutes remaining ended a fierce battle between the ESM car and race-leader Jordan Taylor. Expecting a yellow flag for Dalziel’s stranded Extreme Speed Motorsports HPD ARX-03b, Taylor, Barbosa and Westbrook pitted for fuel. Van Overbeek stopped with 50 minutes remaining, and unlike some of the Corvette DPs ahead of him, he could push without having to save fuel until the checkered flag.
Taylor held 6.3 seconds over Barbosa with 45 minutes left to run, while Overbeek sat 11 seconds back. BMW sat 1-2 in GTLM due to their early stops, but would eventually surrender the positions. Risi Competizion, started from the back of the field as a result of choosing to start the race on brand-new Michelin tire. Yet, driver Pierre Kaffer used the extra grip to scythe through the field, handing the No. 62 Ferrari F458 over to Giancarlo Fisichella. Fisichella sat in in third, filled with fuel, and waited for the BMWs to pit.
Traffic allowed Overbeek to cut down Taylor’s lead, working it down to seven seconds with 38 minutes remaining. Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Pruett ran third, 7.5 seconds back from Taylor, as the Ford EcoBoost turbo DP tried to keep touch with the leaders.
Fisichella sat 24 seconds behind Bill Auberlen’s BMW, however instead of pushing to catch the Z4, Fisichella effort was directed at trying to keep Corvette’s Garcia behind him. Auberlen’s stop with 28 minutes to go handed the lead to the Ferrari, with Garcia less than a second behind.
With 21 minutes remaining, Overbeek finally had the gap to Taylor less than one second, while Fisichella built a 1.2-second cushion to Garcia. A slight off by the Ferrari driver at Turn 6 promoted Garcia to the lead, and once there, the Spaniard checked out.
A slight twitch by Taylor on the exit of Turn 2 allowed Overbeek to set the Corvette DP up for a pass exiting Turn 3.
BMW’s Bill Auberlen and Porsche’s Nick Tandy spent the last two laps trading paint as they tussled over second in GTLM. A bump under braking into Turn 11 on the final lap was all it took for Auberlen to claim second, ahead of an unimpressed Tandy.
Van Overbeek sealed the win with a 5.8-second margin of victory over Taylor, with Pruett taking third.
Photos provided by: Extreme Speed Motorsports, BMW Team RLL, Risi, Oak Racing, Corvette Racing