It’s here. The unofficial start of the 2014 racing season and the debut event of the combined Tudor United SportsCar Championship. For the first time a head-to-head battle between the open-roofed LMP2 machines of the American LeMans Series and GRAND-AMs Daytona Prototypes will be waged. Performance leveling has occurred, but the basic design differences remain as the champions from each series – Wayne Taylor Racing’s Corvette DP and Muscle Milk/Pickett Racing’s HPD ARX-03b – take the grid.
On pole ahead of either, however, was the #99 Gainsco/Bob Stallings Racing Corvette DP piloted by Alex Gurney. Former GRAND-AM teams held down the first three rows, with the fastest ex-ALMS qualifier actually the #0 DeltaWing Racing Cars DWC13 Elan starting at P7 with Andy Meyrick behind the wheel. Marc Goosens sat on the GTLM pole in the #91 SRT Motorsports Viper GTS-R, with the #911 Porsche North America 911 RSR driven by Nick Tandy qualifying P2.
Goosens collided with a Prototype Challenge car during Lap 1, dropping the Viper to fourth in class as teammate Jonathan Bomarito took the lead in the #93. Nine minutes in, Gurney remained at the overall race lead. Bruno Junqueira (#09 RSR Racing) led PC, with Christopher Haase (#48 Paul Miller Racing Audi R8 LMS) out front in GTD.
The first caution came out near 23:45 following a single-car GTD accident. Goosens had advanced back to P2 in GTLM prior to the caution. Mika Salo (#72 SMP/ESM Racing Ferrari 458 Italia) took the GTD lead 10 min later.
Renger van der Zande (#8 Starworks Motorsport) took the PC lead at 23:24. Gurney pitted from the overall lead at 23:11 for four tires and fuel. The #01Chip Ganassi Racing Riley-Ford DP and #90 Spirit of Daytona Corvette DP also pitted, Scott Pruett and Richard Westbrook remaining in each respective cockpit.
Scott Dixon ran in first place in the second Ganassi car at 22:51, followed by Gurney and last year’s GRAND-AM season champion Ricky Taylor (#10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP). Bill Auberlen (yesterday’s Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge Series winner…before it got stripped from him for an unspecified technical infraction) led GTLM in the #55 BMW Team RLL Z4 GTE, with Goosens running second. Jan Heylen (#58 Snow Racing Porsche 911 GT America) led GTD.
Leh Keen (#22 Alex Job Racing Porsche 911 GT America) had taken the GTD lead with 22:42 to go. Gurney was closing in on Dixon for the overall lead. Goosens retook the GTLM top spot, with Haase doing the same in GTD.
The #10 Wayne Taylor machine came in at 22:39, with Ricky Taylor staying behind the wheel. The #01 Ganassi entry also pitted, hitting a crew member with the rear wing on exit as the left-rear was not fully attached, and having to return to the box. The Gainsco #99 pitted shortly after, with Memo Gidley taking over, as did the #90, with Michael Valiante getting in.
Dixon pitted from the lead at 22:25, staying in the car with Tony Kanaan getting ready for the next stint. The #01 was assessed a penalty for colliding with the crew member.
Dixon remained in the lead with 1 hr, 45 min gone, followed by Joao Barbosa in the #5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP and Ricky Taylor. Alex Tagliani led PC in the #08 RSR Racing machine. Goosens led GTLM, with Gianmaria Bruni having taken second in the #62 Risi Competitzione Ferrari 458 Italia, and Tandy’s Porsche running third. Bill Sweedler led GTD in another Ferrari 458, the #555 of Level 5 Motorsports.
Dominic Farnbacher took over the #91 Viper with 21:51 left, with Bruni pitting moments later and Matteo Malucelli taking the wheel. The #911 Porsche took the lead, driven by Patrick Pilet. Mauricio Mediani piloted the #72 Ferrari at the front of GTD.
Dixon pitted at 21:41, with Kanaan getting in the cockpit for his first stint. Barbosa took over the race lead, with Chris Cumming driving the #08 at the front of PC and Alessandro Balzan leading GTD in the #63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari.
Christian Fittipaldi maintained the #5’s lead with 21:27 to go, followed by Kanaan, and Max Angelelli in the #10.
At just before 21:12 to go, the #99 with Gidley behind the wheel collided directly and at speed on the Turn 4 infield kink with the #62 GTLM Ferrari piloted by Malucelli, which had lost power and was barely underway. Flame engulfed the #99’s drivers’ compartment momentarily immediately following the collision.
Malucelli was removed from his car and transported by stretcher. Gidley was also removed, several minutes later, and placed on a stretcher for transport directly to a nearby hospital. Malucelli also went to an area hospital. The red flag was still in place 35 minutes after the crash. Bob Stallings reported Memo as conscious in the hospital at 5:55 pm local time.
The green flag waved at 19:47. Fittipaldi led the race at the restart, with Cumming in front of PC, Farnbacher GTLM, and David Empringham in the #64 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari on the point in GTD. Kanann ran second, with Wayne Taylor having taken over from his son to run third. Oliver Webb (#42 OAK Racing Morgan-Nissan) was P4, the highest place yet for an ex-ALMS entrant.
With 19:20 to go, Martin Fuentes led PC in the #7 Starworks Motorsports entry, with Jeff Segal in front of the GTD field in the #555 Ferrari.
Wayne Taylor finished his only stint 4 hr and 51 min into the race, with Angelelli taking over. A few minutes later, with 4:55 gone, Colin Braun led PC in the #54. A caution came out 1 min later, with the #91 Viper in front of GTLM. GTD had Segal in the #555 Ferrari P1, the #22 Porsche P2, and the #58 Porsche P3. Hunter-Reay took over the #91.
Kanaan led under yellow, followed by Webb, and Justin Wilson in the #60 Michael Shank Racing with Curb Riley-Ford DP. The #93 Viper was the new GTLM leader, with Kuno Wittmer behind the wheel. The #48 Audi piloted by Rene Rast led GTD. Angelelli passed the #60 on track a few laps later.
The OAK Racing entry piloted by Webb pitted from overall P3 with an alternator failure and was hauled back to the garage. Fittipaldi led overall with 18:15 to go, followed by Kanaan and Angelelli, who turned the fast lap of the race. The Action Express #5 came into the pits four minutes later, with Sebastien Bourdais taking over as driver.
Mike Rockenfeller drove the #90 Corvette DP into third on track, then moved into first at 18:08 following the Fittipaldi stop. Kanaan pitted from third and turned the #02 over to 21-year old NASCAR driver Kyle Larson. One minute later a yellow flag came out due to debris from a Starworks entry. Memo Rojas led in the #01 at the yellow, followed by #10 Angelelli and #5 Bourdais.
Another yellow saw the #60 with Justin Wilson in first with 17:37 to go, followed by Bourdais and Rockefeller. GTLM had the Vipers running 1-2, Rob Bell in the #93 leading Hunter-Reay in the #91. Richard Lietz ran third in the #911 Porsche. A pit stop under the caution saw AJ Allmendinger take over the #60. The #10 suffered minor damage to its grill.
Still under caution at 17:28, Rockenfeller led Bourdais and Jamie McMurray in the #01. GTLM was Lietz, Jan Magnussen (#3 Corvette Racing C7.R), and Jorg Bergmeister (#912 Porsche 911 RSR) when the race went back to green. Several cars spun in the bus stop on the restart, with 6 others taking evasive action. Word also began to emerge that both Gidley and Malucelli had been admitted to the hospital for further observation and testing but were awake and talking.
Magnussen took the GT lead with 17:22 to go. When the fireworks went off 10 min. later at 9 pm, Rockenfeller led McMurray and EJ Viso in the #78 Starworks Motorsports Riley-Dinan DP. Lietz and Bergmeister chased Magnussen. Rusty Mitchell led PC in the #08 RSR Racing, with Rene Rast putting Audi in front in GTD, followed by Toni Vilander in the #63 Ferrari, and Jan Heylen in the #58 Porsche.
At 17:05 Bourdais turned in the race’s fastest lap in the Action Express #5. Lietz took over the GTLM lead 7:11 in. Viso ran P2 overall. A caution came out minutes later. Westbrook led Viso and Jordan Taylor under caution at 16:27. Taylor moved to the front as pit stops cycled, with McMurray and Brian Frisselle (#9 Action Express Corvette DP) second and third. When the green flag waved Tandy led Magnussen and Patrick Long in the #912.
Bourdais moved into P2 on track at 16:06, pushing McMurray to third, with Frisselle taking that spot from him moments later. Bourdais turned in the fastest lap of the race along the way at 1:39.399. With 8 hours gone Tandy, Long, and Magnussen made up the Top 3 of GTLM. James Gue led PC for CORE autosport. GTD had Lorenzo Case out front in the #63 Ferrari, followed by Heylen and James Davison (#007 Aston Martin Racing V12 Vantage).