Taylors win 4th straight
Brothers Ricky and Jordan Taylor and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R program have moved into historic territory in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
They earned their fourth consecutive victory in Saturday’s Advance Auto Parts Sportscar Showdown, marking the longest win streak in WeatherTech Championship history and the longest in major U.S. sports car racing competition since Klaus Graf and Lucas Luhr won eight straight in the 2013 American Le Mans Series.
It was also the 11th career WeatherTech Championship victory for the Taylor brothers, making them the winningest drivers in series history. And, just for good measure, it was their second consecutive victory at Circuit of The Americas, as they also won in Austinlast September.
Today’s win capped a dominant weekend for the No. 10 team. They led two of three pre-qualifying practice sessions, including both of Thursday’s sessions. Ricky Taylor then obliterated the previous track record by three seconds in Friday’s qualifying session, and outqualified his next closest competitor, Johannes van Overbeek in the No. 22 Tequila Patrón ESM Nissan DPi, by more than a second-and-a-half.
And from the drop of the green flag in the two-hour, 40-minute Advance Auto Parts Sportscar Showdown, the No. 10 machine was in control. As the qualifying driver, Ricky Taylor started the race and as soon as the race got underway in earnest following an opening-lap incident among several top GT Le Mans (GTLM) class competitors, he quickly pulled out to a healthy advantage.
“It was really nice today,” said Ricky Taylor. “It was one of the best race cars I’ve ever had. The team has just done an amazing preparation for this car. We’re just getting to know it more and more. Every race weekend we’re learning. This weekend, it shows how much we’ve developed through the year. We unloaded off the truck really strong, then qualified really well. It was fantastic.”
“I think we surprised ourselves,” Jordan Taylor said. “We knew why the car was fast yesterday because we made a qualifying setup for the car. And then we went back to race settings and we thought it’d come back to us. It came back a little bit.
“We didn’t have the same gap, but I think it shows how well our team is operating with this Cadillac. We understand how it works and I think it goes back to September of last year when we were one of the first to get the car and start testing it. We’ve done a lot of work for it, but I’m happy we got our four race wins now and we can move on to Detroit.”
It was the second podium sweep in four races for the new Cadillac DPi program, as Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi finished third in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R. The No. 5 made it into podium position with slightly more than 10 minutes remaining, when the No. 2 Tequila Patrón ESM Nissan DPi being driven by Ryan Dalziel caught fire.
Dalziel expertly guided the car to a safe location near fire personnel and leapt from the machine. He was evaluated and release from the infield care center following the incident.
With the win, the No. 10 duo extended their lead in the Prototype championship standings to 22 points, 141-119, over Barbosa and Fittipaldi.
Perfect Season Rolls On For Performance Tech
Not unlike the Taylor brothers in the Prototype Class, the No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports ORECA FLM09 pairing of James French and Pato O’Ward are having a dominant season in the Prototype Challenge (PC) class.
After winning the opening two rounds of the season in the Rolex 24 At Daytona and the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida, French and O’Ward picked up their third straight win on Saturday in the Advance Auto Parts Sportscar Showdown.
The PC race followed a similar format to Daytona and Sebring. The No. 26 BAR1 Motorsports ORECA FLM09 – this time driven by Stefan Wilson – moved out into an early class lead, just as it did in the first two races. This time, Wilson’s lead lasted the first 10 minutes before French – who started the race from the class pole position – regained the top spot.
French stayed there until just past the halfway point, when he pitted to turn the car over to O-Ward, who was celebrating his 18th birthday. The Mexican driver rejoined the field third in class behind leader Nick Boulle in the No. 26 and 2004 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Rice in the No. 20 BAR1 Motorsports entry.
O’Ward moved into second at the one-hour, 45-minute mark and regained the lead with just prior to the two-hour mark when Boulle pitted. He pulled away over the remaining distance to win by one lap over the No. 26 machine.
“We had a bit of a challenge in the middle of the race,” O’Ward said. “We were about 50 seconds behind P1. I sort of put my head down and tried to do as perfect of laps as they could be."
Round five of the 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship schedule is the Chevrolet Sports Car Classic on Saturday, June 3, on the Streets of Belle Isle circuit in downtown Detroit, where Ricky and Jordan Taylor are the defending event winners and the team has won three of the last four years. The one-hour, 40-minute race will be broadcast live by FS2 beginning at 12:30 p.m. EDT.
Corvette Racing Survives First-Lap Crash to Win Advance Auto Parts SportsCar Showdown at COTA
One race after a heartbreaking loss on the final corner of the final lap at Long Beach, the No. 3 Corvette Racing Corvette C7.R of Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen survived a multi-car accident on the first corner of the first lap Saturday to win the Advance Auto Parts SportsCar Showdown at Circuit of The Americas.
Starting in sixth, Magnussen took the inside line in Turn 1 and by the time he cleared the melee, he had moved to third. By lap 27 of 73, the No. 3 Corvette moved into the lead and never gave it up, winning its second IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race of the season by 2.498 seconds over the No. 25 BMW Team RLL BMW M6 of Bill Auberlen and Alexander Sims.
“I definitely made the right choice to pick the inside line,” said Magnussen. “Everything was happening on the outside and a few cars got in big trouble and had some heavy damage. I’m really happy I escaped all that without a scratch.”
The Turn 1 incident damaged five cars, including the two Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GTs that entered the weekend first and third in the GT Le Mans (GTLM) standings. The No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT of Ryan Briscoe, No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE of Giancarlo Fisichella, and No. 4 Corvette Racing Corvette C7.R of Tommy Milner all suffered major damage.
The No. 66 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT of Dirk Mueller and the No. 912 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR of Wolf Henzler also were involved and lost multiple laps due to damage obtained from the incident.
It was the strongest run of the season for BMW with polesitter John Edwards and co-driver Martin Tomczyk in BMW Team RLL’s No. 24 BMW M6 rounding out the class podium. Edwards led 22 laps on the day, but a pit road penalty put the team too far behind the race-winning Corvette to contend for the win.
“I think it is the perfect way to come back after what happened at Long Beach,” said Garcia. “It’s a shame the No. 4 car had that contact in turn one., but it’s three wins in a row for Corvette Racing. I think no one expected that, but that is what it takes for those results: Zero mistakes."
ANTONIO GARCIA, NO. 3 MOBIL 1/SiriusXM CHEVROLET CORVETTE C7.R – GTLM RACE WINNER: "I think it is the perfect way to come back after what happened at Long Beach. We have had four races this year with zero mistakes by Corvette Racing in any of them. That is what it takes to be there if you have the pace to win. If you don't have the pace, you finish fourth - like what happened at Daytona. Then we took the win at Sebring; that one was a bit unexpected but we really worked for that.
“On pure pace we didn’t have the best car. But it is not the first time we have won here not being the fastest. It was a perfect call to pit just before the second yellow. That gave us track position. It feels like we put a lot of pressure on our competitors and they started to make mistakes. I'm very happy with that if that is what it takes. From then I just tried to maintain the gap to second place. We were all just counting down minutes and laps, and seeing how much slower I could go. I didn't care so much about the other car catching me because I don't mind winning by three seconds or 20 seconds. I knew that if there was a late yellow, which we had, I needed to have better tires.
"I don't know if I saved enough tires to be faster than (Alexander Sims), but in a way that was enough. I am very glad and very happy for Corvette Racing. It is a shame the No. 4 car had that contact at Turn One. That was very unfortunate. But again, it is three wins in a row for Corvette Racing. I think no one expected that, but that is what it takes for those results: Zero mistakes."
JAN MAGNUSSEN, NO. 3 MOBIL 1/SiriusXM CHEVROLET CORVETTE C7.R – GTLM RACE WINNER: "This is a nice way to move on from what happened at Long Beach. But it was a crazy race. So much stuff happened all the way through from Turn One when a few cars got taken out and got in trouble. I got a good start and got clear of all of that. My first stint I was trying to pay good attention to the tires and give good feedback to the team to the changes that needed to be made for Antonio. When he got in, the team made a fantastic call on that pit stop to beat everybody out… again! Then a few cars got in trouble and got some penalties that gave Antonio a massive lead which he was kind of nurturing. I don't think he was pushing too hard, just making sure not to make any mistakes. It is a fantastic result for the team. This is a really, really nice way to head to Le Mans."
OLIVER GAVIN, NO. 4 MOBIL 1/SiriusXM CHEVROLET CORVETTE C7.R – FINISHED SEVENTH IN GTLM: “Our race was ultimately shaped by what happened at Turn One on Lap One. Some over-optimistic driving by some of our competitors resulted in Tommy having nowhere to go at the first corner. We basically spent the rest of the race getting our Corvette right so we could go out and complete the race. That’s the never-give-up attitude within Corvette Racing. The car felt OK at points but we were burning through the tires really quickly. When the car is as damaged as it was at the right-front and left-rear, you have to change out so many parts to get it back out. The crew at Corvette Racing did a great job and worked as fast as they could to get us back out. It was a rough day for us but congratulations to the sister car, Antonio and Jan. They ran a clean, smart race, and that’s what you need to do.”
TOMMY MILNER, NO. 4 MOBIL 1/SiriusXM CHEVROLET CORVETTE C7.R – FINISHED SEVENTH IN GTLM: “It looked like one of the Fords and the Ferrari were a little off line at the exit of (Turn) One. There must have been some contact or something like that got the Ferrari coming back across the track. It looked like racing a little bit too hard at the start. We were just unlucky and got the right front into the Ferrari and then we got it from behind from someone unsuspecting as well. It’s not the way we wanted to start our race, but the guys did a great job working to get Oliver and I back out so we could get as many points as possible.”
DOUG FEHAN, CORVETTE RACING PROGRAM MANAGER: “When you’re good, you’re good. When you’re good and you’re lucky, you can be unbeatable. We had a great Corvette today, a great team effort and good fortune - all that allowed us to bring home a victory in the No. 3 C7.R. I don’t think there were many people on the grid that gave us much of a chance. Inside Corvette Racing, however, everybody believes. And today everybody executed. It’s unfortunate we lost one of the Corvettes on the first lap, we’ve been there before. Our experience came in today. Flawless execution is going to get you to the finish line. Once again Corvette Racing got there first.”
Keating Joins Bleekemolen, Mercedes in Home State Victory
The win was Bleekemolen’s third at the track, after joining Keating on the top step of the podium in 2014 and 2015.
It was another big win in his home state for Keating, who was born in Tomball, Texas and now resides in Victoria, graduated from Texas A&M in 1994, and has since opened 17 automotive dealerships throughout the state.
“Winning again, the home race…I love this place,” said Keating. “Nothing beats winning at home.”
It’s been impressive debut season for Mercedes-AMG as well, with Keating and Bleekemolen scoring the third consecutive WeatherTech Championship victory for Mercedes-AMG in the marque’s fourth race.
“We knew we had a strong car for the race, we knew we were in it,” added Bleekemolen. “For the fourth race in a row we had a perfect race, no mistakes. It’s been an unbelievable season so far. I can’t believe that not the smallest thing has gone wrong so far.”
Also having a strong start to the season is Ferrari, with the runner-up No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3 and co-drivers Christina Nielsen and Alessandro Balzan finishing on the podium for the third race this season.
The No. 75 SunEnergy1 Mercedes-AMG GT3 of Tristan Vautier and Kenny Habul led two laps to round out the podium, their second of the season.
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