Action Express 1-2, Corvette take shock win in GTLM

Dane Cameron and Eric Curran headed a well-deserved win for Action Express Racing at Road America, but the big story was the GTLM battle in which Tommy Milner stole victory from Ford with five minutes to go.

Action Express 1-2, Corvette take shock win in GTLM
Race winners #31 Action Express Racing Corvette DP: Eric Curran, Dane Cameron
#31 Action Express Racing Corvette DP: Eric Curran, Dane Cameron
#5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP: Joao Barbosa, Christian Fittipaldi
Joao Barbosa, Action Express Racing
#10 Konica Minolta Corvette DP for Wayne Taylor Racing: Jordan Taylor, Ricky Taylor
#55 Mazda Motorsports Mazda Prototype: Jonathan Bomarito, Tristan Nunez
#4 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7.R: Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner
#4 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7.R: Oliver Gavin, Tommy Milner
#67 Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT: Ryan Briscoe, Richard Westbrook
#100 BMW Team RLL BMW M6 GTLM: Lucas Luhr, John Edwards
#912 Porsche Team North America Porsche 911 RSR: Earl Bamber, Frédéric Makowiecki
#62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE: Toni Vilander, Giancarlo Fisichella
#62 Risi Competizione Ferrari F488: Toni Vilander, Giancarlo Fisichella
#911 Porsche Team North America Porsche 911 RSR: Nick Tandy, Patrick Pilet
#911 Porsche Team North America Porsche 911 RSR: Nick Tandy, Patrick Pilet
#33 Riley Motorsports SRT Viper GT3-R: Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen
Jeroen Bleekemolen, Riley Motorsports
#9 Stevenson Motorsports Audi R8 LMS GT3: Matt Bell, Lawson Aschenbach
#73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche GT3 R: Patrick Lindsey, Jörg Bergmeister
#73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche GT3 R: Patrick Lindsey, Jörg Bergmeister
#6 Stevenson Motorsports Audi R8 LMS GT3: Andrew Davis, Robin Liddell
#63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GTD: Christina Nielsen, Alessandro Balzan
Alessandro Balzan, Scuderia Corsa
#52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports Oreca FLM09: Robert Alon, Tom Kimber-Smith
#38 Performance Tech Motorsports ORECA FLM09: James French, Kyle Marcelli
#54 CORE autosport Oreca FLM09: Jon Bennett, Colin Braun

Prototype

Jonathan Bomarito’s Mazda maintained its advantage at the start, holding off Christian Fittipaldi’s Action Express Racing Corvette DP, Ricky Taylor’s Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP, and Tom Long in the second Mazda, while Marc Goossens took the VisitFlorida.com Corvette just ahead of defending race-winner Eric Curran in the second AXR car with the DeltaWing of Sean Rayhall behind.

Tom Long pitted the #70 Mazda on Lap 7, and went behind the wall with an engine issue.

Following a yellow for spun PC cars, Bomarito rocketed away to a four-second lead once more, but by Lap 19, that had been cut in half by Taylor, as Fittipaldi and Curran pitted their AXR cars and made a driver change to Joao Barbosa and Dane Cameron respectively.

Bomarito pitted the leading Mazda on Lap 22 and handed over to Tristan Nunez, who emerged from the pits only just ahead of Barbosa and, on cold tires, couldn’t hold him off. In fact, it became a struggle for Nunez to even keep back Cameron who was now ahead of Jordan Taylor, Ryan Dalziel who had taken over the VisitFlorida car, Rayhall and Oswaldo Negri who was pedaling the Michael Shank Racing Ligier-Honda.

A second yellow on lap 26 prompted a pitstop for both AXR Corvettes, the MSR Ligier, and the DeltaWing, from which Rayhall handed over to Katherine Legge. This stop allowed Taylor and Dalziel to move up to second and third in class.

The Lap 30 restart saw Barbosa rapidly fall back, with Cameron moving the #31 car forward to pressure Dalziel for third, a move he completed at Turn 5 on Lap 35, with 1h20m still to run.

Up front Nunez was some 1.5sec faster than Taylor and had a 26sec lead by the time he pitted on Lap 40, with 70mins to go, but it was clear that he, like the Daytona Prototypes behind, would have to stop again, unless there were long periods of full-course-yellows. Nunez emerged from the pits sixth in class, 40sec behind new leader Taylor who ran just 0.6sec ahead of Cameron, and 3sec ahead of Barbosa.

On Lap 44 Cameron passed Jordan Taylor for the lead at Turn 3 as they lapped the GTD leaders and then pitted on 52, with Barbosa and Taylor both stopping a lap later and retaining relative positions. Cameron was 30sec behind the Mazda now, but when Nunez stopped on Lap 56, with barely more than half an hour left, the maroon prototype fell to fifth, 40sec off the lead.

That lead was being disputed by the AXR cars, with Cameron also trying to save fuel while taking major chances through traffic, but his fueling issues were resolved by the full-course-yellow 12mins from the end. At the restart he was able to take a 0.6sec lead and hold off Barbosa to the checkered flag, with Taylor a similar distance behind in third.

Nunez drove hard following his final stop, and even had a clash with the BAR1 #20 PC car, as he zoomed onto the tail of the misfiring MSR Ligier on Lap 68 which he then passed. But punting Vilander’s Ferrari into a spin over the final five minutes cost him his hard-earned fourth, and he dropped behind Negri. Dalziel/Goossens took sixth.

GT Le Mans

The polesitting #66 Ford of Dirk Muller fell to fifth on the opening lap, as Patrick Pilet’s Porsche 911, Giancarlo Fisichella’s Ferrari 488, Earl Bamber’s #912 Porsche, and the #3 Corvette C7.R of Antonio Garcia ran top four. But then Muller fell off the track and trailed into the pits with a steering issue and a right-front suspension failure. It was fixed but he resumed four laps down.

On the first restart, Bamber moved up to make a Porsche 1-2, as Fisichella went off at Turn 3, dropping to fourth behind Garcia. However, by Lap 15, the Italian ex-F1 driver had recovered his composure to regain second with a move down the inside of Bamber at Turn 5 and then started pressuring Pilet for the class lead, which he grabbed on Lap 19 in a slightly heavy-handed move out of Turn 6.

Also moving forward was Ryan Briscoe, who had had to start at the back of the GT field in the #67 Ford, but passed Oliver Gavin’s #4 Corvette for fifth place and began threatening Garcia’s sister car by Lap 18.

Fisichella and Briscoe stayed out longer than their GTLM rivals, and it paid off beautifully for Ford in particular who got the #67 GT turned around and sent Briscoe’s replacement, Richard Westbrook out ahead of not only the Ferrari but the whole class. Toni Vilander, who’d taken over from Fisichella, looked set to retain second until Nick Tandy, who’d replaced Pilet in the #911 Porsche, muscled past on the run down to Turn 3. 

Thus when the yellows came out for a spun PC car, the order was Westbrook/Ford, Tandy/Porsche, Vilander/Ferrari, Makowiecki/#912 Porsche, Magnussen/#3 Corvette, John Edwards and Dirk Werner in the BMW M6s and Tommy Milner in the slow-stopping #4 Corvette.

Edwards took the resurgent #100 M6 past Makowiecki to grab fourth on Lap 46 in a beautiful move around the outside of Turn 5. Two laps later, just before Tandy’s final pitstop in the second-placed Porsche, he and Vilander got in a NASCAR-type rubbing battle between Turns 5 and 6 as the 488 attempted to pass and then squeeze the 911. Officials reviewed the squabble, but the pitstops resolved it in the Ferrari’s favor anyway. On the plus side for Porsche, a slightly stronger stop had allowed the team to get Makowiecki back ahead of Edwards so that the Porsches ran 3-4.

Behind, Milner drafted past Edwards on the pit straight to send the #4 Corvette into fifth ahead of the #100 BMW. Its action was by no means over...

Vilander pulled away from Tandy over the closing stages to pile the pressure on Westbrook’s Ford, but the full-course yellow with a dozen minutes left changed all that. Westbrook was hounded on the restart by Vilander and had to go majorly defensive, but Tandy – trying to take advantage and pass the pair of them – then spun exiting Turn 5.

Westbrook and Vilander battled until 3 laps from home, when Nunez’s Mazda Prototype punted the Ferrari into a spin. That should have allowed Westbrook an easy run to the checkers but instead the charging Corvette of Tommy Milner was now filling the Ford's mirrors, with Edwards' BMW close behind in third. A superb run through Turn 3 gave the #4 Corvette the momentum to draft past the #67 Ford, and take the lead even before Turn 5 braking zone, and Milner held on to score a stunning win from apparently nowhere  for himself and Oliver Gavin.

Makowiecki saved face for Porsche with fourth, while a fuming Vilander recovered to take fifth, ahead of Magnussen’s Corvette, Tandy’s Porsche and Werner’s #25 BMW. 

GT Daytona

Alex Riberas’ polesitting Alex Job Racing Porsche led from Andrew Davis at the start, but Ben Keating got his Dodge Viper between the Stevenson Audi R8s to demote Matt Bell to fourth. Bell  would return the favor on the first restart. Fifth ran Luca Persiani in the Dream Racing Lamborghini, with Christina Nielsen initially sixth in the Scuderia Corsa Ferrari, before Patrick Lindsey’s Park Place Motorsports 911 got ahead of her.

Madison Snow pitted the Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini on Lap 11, mixing up its strategy, but it didn’t pay off because when the yellows came out for the second time, Snow pitted with his prime GTD opposition stacked up behind him and gave up too much track position.

That left the class lead to Jeroen Bleekemolen after Riley Motorsports did yet another astounding stop to put the #33 Viper ahead of the Stevenson Audis now driven by Robin Liddell and Lawson Aschenbach.  Jorg Bergmeister ran fourth in the PPR Porsche and the top six was completed by Alessandro Balzan who’d replaced Nielsen in the Ferrari, and Gunnar Jeannette in the one-off third AJR Porsche.

Bleekemolen brought the Viper in for its final stop on Lap 45, with 52mins left, and the Stevenson Audis came in just a lap later. Liddell got the #6 R8 out just ahead of Bleekemolen, but the Viper driver on warm tires had more grip and momentum coming off Turn 3 and on the long run down to Turn 5 retook the lead. Bergmeister, meanwhile, also took the Park Place car past the second Audi of Aschenbach to claim third, with Balzan and Andy Lally’s Magnus Racing Audi then also deposing Aschenbach.

There were some worries for Bleekemolen following the stop as the faster classes came past and allowed Liddell to draw close, but by Lap 60, with 20mins left on the clock, the Viper had pulled a 2.3sec lead.

That obviously got wiped out by the final yellow, but Bleekemolen held on at the restart, and his job was made somewhat easier by the sudden demotion of the Stevenson Audis. Bergmeister drove his PPR Porsche into second, with Balzan and Lally completing the top four, as Liddell slipped to fifth, just ahead of teammate Aschenbach. 

Prototype Challenge

James French’s Performance Tech Motorsports entry led away from Alex Popow (Starworks), Robert Alon (PR1/Mathiasen Motorsport), Matt McMurry (BAR1 Motorsport), Jon Bennett (CORE autosport) and Misha Goikhberg (JDC-Miller Motorsport). But the latter came off the track at Canada corner, and then Don Yount spun the #26 car on Lap 7.

French led throughout his first stint, but following the second pitstops, his co-driver Kyle Marcelli emerged sixth in class. At half distance, it was the #52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsport car of Tom Kimber-Smith running ahead of Stephen Simpson in the JDC-Miller car, Jose Gutierrez and Renger Van Der Zande in the two Starworks entries, and Colin Braun in the CORE car.

That changed when championship leader Van Der Zande took second from Simpson, but 5.3sec behind Kimber-Smith. However the P2 and P3 cars then collided with 12 minutes to go, causing the final caution.

Justice was done at the restart, Kimber-Smith not even close to losing his lead, while Braun went on to claim second for CORE, with Marcelli third in the Performance Tech machine.

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