Taylor Brothers win again at Long Beach
LONG BEACH, Calif. – The closing driver in the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi V.R may have been different, but on Saturday the result was more of the same as Jordan Taylor – after watching his older brother and co-driver Ricky drive to victory in the opening two races on the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship calendar – made it three wins in a row by winning the BUBBA burger Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach.
This time it was Jordan Taylor who had the wheel on the final stint in the Cadillac DPi, and it was a move in Turn 1 with five minutes remaining that was the winning maneuver. Taylor got a run on race-leader Ryan Dalziel down the frontstretch and swung around the outside of Dalziel’s No. 2 Tequila Patrón Nissan DPi, utilizing GT lap traffic to pull ahead to a 6.349 second victory.
The win was also the Taylors’ third consecutive on the streets of Long Beach.
“Jordan was on a mission,” said Ricky Taylor, who joins his brother atop the WeatherTech Championship wins list with 10 wins. “I was out of the car, and when I looked at the timing screen it said there was 37 minutes to go. That was torture watching that. But at the same time, I wouldn’t want to be under the pressure that Jordan had to be under. I was nervous either way.”
“We had the fastest car all weekend, but when we saw how fast Ryan was going we knew it was going to be a battle,” said Jordan Taylor. “Then I knew it would have to be him making a mistake or if we caught really heavy traffic. It’s difficult to judge where to brake when you’re offline, so when we hit traffic I was able to take advantage when a GTD car took the same line as Ryan and I had the open track.”
“There were plenty of race moments where things went well for me and bad for Jordan, but not always,” added Dalziel. “I hit the brakes, went one way, and it was the same as the GTD car. I tried to go the other way, but then I saw a big black Cadillac drive right by me and that was the end of it.”
It was first time in WeatherTech Championship history that the same car won the opening three races on the schedule. The Taylor brothers were joined in victory at the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona by Jeff Gordon and Max Angelelli, and the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida by Alex Lynn.
Three different manufacturers made up the top-three spots on the Prototype podium for the first time since Circuit of The Americas in 2014. Jonathan Bomarito and co-driver Tristan Nunez finished third in Mazda Motorsports’ No. 55 Mazda DPi, matching Mazda Motorsports’ best finish in the WeatherTech Championship Prototype class.
Rounding out the top five was the No. 85 JDC-Miller Motorsports ORECA of Stephen Simpson and Misha Goikhberg in fourth, and the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Ligier of Will Owen and Tom Kimber-Smith in fifth.
Milner, Gavin Score Last-Lap Victory for Corvette
The iconic hairpin turn at the Long Beach street circuit played a central role in the fate of the No. 4 Corvette Racing team and co-drivers Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner two years in a row.
Last year, this was the turn where Milner was spun out of the lead late in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race by Porsche driver Frederic Makowiecki, enabling Makowiecki’s Porsche teammate, Nick Tandy, to sneak past for the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class victory. This year, the hairpin gave one back to the No. 4 teammates.
A multi-car incident in the hairpin on the final lap of Saturday’s 100-minute BUBBA burger Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach had the entire racetrack blocked as race-leading Antonio Garcia approached the turn in the No. 3 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R ahead of Milner and Richard Westbrook in the No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT. Garcia attempted to maneuver around the outside of the incident, while Milner opted for the inside lane.
Moments later, the No. 52 Prototype managed to get going and drive away after the incident, opening the inside lane. With Garcia still blocked by cars on the outside, Milner passed through the incident scene and headed for the checkered flag, with Westbrook following close behind.
“I tried going to the outside in the same situation last time and lost spots,” Milner said. “This time I went on the inside. I wasn’t even full speed (after the incident); I was cruising thinking we were under caution. Then I saw the green flags and the guys on the radio said we were P1.
“Racing is a lot about luck in a lot of cases. I don’t think I’ve seen it play out this way for me or for anyone else. It’s good to just get some points for me and for Chevrolet and Corvette.”
When all was said and done, Milner and Gavin were standing atop the victory podium, with Westbrook and co-driver Briscoe in second and the No. 912 Porsche GT Team of Kevin Estre and Laurens Vanthoor in third. It was the fourth consecutive race in which the GTLM podium featured three different manufacturers.
Garcia and co-driver Jan Magnussen – who qualified on the GTLM class pole fell to fifth at the finish, behind the No. 25 BMW Team RLL co-drivers Bill Auberlen and Alexander Sims.
Milner and Gavin, the 2016 WeatherTech Championship GTLM champions, picked up their first victory of the season, but it was the second in a row for Corvette Racing, which won last month’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida with the No. 3 team. Overall, Corvette Racing now has 104 victories.
Milner now has won 15 times in major U.S. sports car racing between the WeatherTech Championship, American Le Mans Series and GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series, and it’s the 47th victory for Gavin.
Vanthoor led the first 42 minutes of the race in the No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR before pitting to turn the car over to Estre. That handed the GTLM lead to Martin Tomczyk in the No. 24 BMW M6 GTLM, and a few laps later, the former DTM champion found himself in the overall lead when the Prototype class made their final pit stops of the race.
With less than 15 minutes remaining, the No. 24 car slowed dramatically with an apparent mechanical problem, handing the lead to Garcia. The No. 24 ultimately wound up seventh in class.
An opening-lap crash ruined the day for both the No. 66 Ford GT co-driven by Joey Hand and Dirk Mueller and the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE of Toni Vilander and Giancarlo Fisichella.
WeatherTech Mercedes-AMG Team Takes First WeatherTech Championship Win
The No. 50 WeatherTech Racing Mercedes-AMG team played its race strategy to perfection in the BUBBA burger Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach, enabling co-drivers Cooper MacNeil and Gunnar Jeannette to earn their first victories in WeatherTech Championship competition in the GT Daytona (GTD) class.
After a 13th-place class qualifying performance on Friday, the team elected to start the race on fresh tires, moving the No. 50 Mercedes-AMG GT3 to the back of the field. When the second of the race’s five full-course cautions came out after 18 minutes, MacNeil brought the car into the pits for service and handed over the controls to Jeannette.
Jeannette then inched his way forward through the field as others made their stops, making his way to the head of the GTD field at the 47-minute mark in the race. He stayed there for the rest of the way, winning by 7.492 seconds over teammate Jeroen Bleekemolen in the No. 33 Mercedes-AMG entry.
“We qualified pretty far toward the back but times were tight,” MacNeil said. “We made the strategy call to change to four fresh tires and to go absolutely last. So, it’s pretty good to go from last to first.”
MacNeil had five previous victories in ALMS competition, while Jeannette won six ALMS races and one GRAND-AM race previously. It was the second consecutive WeatherTech Championship win for Mercedes-AMG, which earned its first victory in the series last month at Sebring, and was the manufacturer’s first 1-2 sweep.
“I kind of blacked out for a minute and the next thing I know the checkered flag is out and I’m crossing the finish line,” Jeannette said playfully in the post-race press conference. “A lot of things can happen if you roll the dice and take a risk and taking a chance was the only card we had to play.
“I knew my job was to go back out and go as fast as I could and not use any fuel. We might have had to take one more splash but with enough yellows we didn’t have to. With 35 cars going around we kind of lucked out and we didn’t have to risk it and it worked out our way.”
The runner-up result for Bleekemolen and co-driver Ben Keating allowed them to extend their lead in the GTD point standings to 21 points, 98-77, over No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3 co-drivers and defending GTD champions Christina Nielsen and Alessandro Balzan, who finished third in the race.
The next round for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is the Advance Auto Parts Sports Car Showdown at Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas on Saturday, May 6.
OLIVER GAVIN, NO. 4 MOBIL 1/SiriusXM CHEVROLET CORVETTE C7.R – GTLM RACE WINNER: “This was a very bizarre day and finish. We will take this victory, and we’re glad that Corvette Racing and Chevrolet have won again at Long Beach. It was just a very unfortunate way that it worked out for Antonio and Jan. We’ve all raced together for so many years now. It’s definitely not the way Tommy and I would have liked to have won. But at the end of the day, a victory is a victory. The good thing for Tommy and I is that it has gotten us back in a good direction heading to COTA for the next round.
“The start was pretty interesting. Coming down into Turn One, it looked like Jan had been jumped by a couple of cars. On first laps here, you’re always looking to see who has their tires up to temperatures, who is using a little bit of extra road and who is taking chances. When I came to Turn Five, the Patron car was already backward going over the apex curb. Knowing that the camber falls away, I knew everyone would be going outside and into the wall. Three of us managed to avoid any contact and got through. From there, it was a lot of insane racing. “Yes it’s a 100-minute race but some people were trying to win it with 75 or 80 minutes left. My goal was to keep the Corvette clean and hand it off to Tommy at the appropriate point whenever the team called us in. We managed to do that and our crew managed to get us out and in front of the cars we felt we were racing. Even past that point, the race kept getting turned on its head. You never knew which way it was going to go.”
TOMMY MILNER, NO. 4 MOBIL 1/SiriusXM CHEVROLET CORVETTE C7.R – GTLM RACE WINNER: “It was a weird race today for sure. There was a lot of giving and taking throughout the day. As for the finish, I’ve never seen things work out that way for me or anyone else for that matter. You feel bad for the No. 3 guys, for Antonio and Jan. They had a great race and did everything right. It was just unlucky to lose it that way in a big pack. You need luck in racing sometimes, and today we had that on our side. It feels good for us to get a win and to get points for our No. 4 Corvette and Chevrolet.
“We were a bit behind at one point and it didn’t look like our strategy would play out for us. All those cautions allowed the cars who pitted early could make it on one stop for fuel. Our hope was to get past them if they had to make a late splash for fuel. That didn’t happen. I was hoping for another yellow to get us bunched back up again, which is what happened. I had 13- or 14-lap newer tires and I was able to get around the 24 and I went door-to-door with the 67. That allowed Antonio to get out in the clear, and then so was I. He was quick but then his tires started to go away. In that situation, getting by him was going to be really tough.
“In the last corner at the end, my first reaction was that the race was over. Antonio had a gap over me and also over the 67. I figured it would end up like that but I heard on the radio that there was another crash at the hairpin. At first the track was clear and then it wasn’t. I was in that exact situation earlier in the race and went to the outside; it didn’t work and I lost a spot there. I went to the inside this time, and it opened up. When I got out of the hairpin, I saw green but thought the race was over until they told me on the radio that we had won. It was definitely an unusual way to take a victory. Now we have to regroup as a team and get ready for the next race at COTA.”
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