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USCC: Circuit of the Americas – Pruett, Rojas take win with 2-stop strategy

Alex Brundle put the #42 OAK Racing Ligier JS P2-Honda on the pole in its USCC debut, beating out Jordan Taylor in the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP by 0.834 sec. The pole is a great start for the chassis, the Nissan powered variant of which also took the top spot in its FIA World Endurance Championship debut yesterday, piloted by Roman Rusinov and Olivier Pla.

And though power is as necessary at COTA as any circuit, the track has also put a premium on maneuverability, both Mazda MX-5s and Honda Civic Si-s having enjoyed Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge success here and the AF Corse Ferrari driven by Gianmaria Bruni and Toni Vilander taking the GTE Pro pole over higher-powered competition for tonight’s WEC 6 Hours of Circuit of the Americas.

Sean Rayhall took the Prototype Challenge pole in the #25 8Star Motorsports Oreca FLM09. In GTLM, however, power prevailed, Jonathan Bomarito taking the first spot on the grid in the #93 SRT Motorsports Viper ahead of Porsche North America’s #911 911 RSR, driven by Nick Tandy. J. Davison took the GT Daytona pole in the #007 TRG Motorsports Aston Martin V12 Vantage.

The grid started to race before hitting the main straight, placing the field under yellow for a restart. Gustavo Yacaman in the #42 Ligier was caught in a sandwich between Memo Rojas (#01 Chip Ganassi Riley Ford) and Ricky Taylor in the #10 Corvette DP going into Turn 1, but emerged with the lead intact. Taylor pitted at the end of the first lap with a cut tire. The Top 3 were Yacaman, Rojas (+1.710) and Christian Fittipaldi (#5 Action Express Corvette DP).

Kuno Wittmer held the GTLM lead from the start in the #93 Viper, followed by Michael Christensen in the #912 North American Porsche 911 RSR, and Dominick Farnbacher in the #91 Viper. Christensen passed Wittmer for the lead during Lap 8.

Michael Valiante (#90 Spirit of Daytona Corvette DP) took third from Rojas during Lap 12, with Farnbacher passing Wittmer for second in GTLM. By Lap 19 Yacaman had built a 18.134 second lead over Fittipaldi. Valiante pitted at the end of Lap 19. Yacaman pitted one lap later, with 2 hrs to go in the 2 hr 45 min race.

Luis Diaz led PC in the #25, with Markus Paltalla (#300 Turner Motorsports BMW Z4) running in front of GTD. Turner won GT last year in the Grand-Am series with Bill Auberlen and Paul Dalla Lana driving.

The #5 pitted on Lap 22, with Joao Barbosa taking over behind the wheel. The yellow flag came out for debris on the track, with Rojas making it into the pits just before the yellow waved and Yacaman cycling back to the lead. A light rain started during the caution.

Valiante turned Yacaman in Turn 1 on the restart, dropping the Ligier to fifth, 10.462 sec off the lead. Valiante ran first, followed by Barbosa (+1.330) and Rojas. The #90 was given a drive-thru penalty for the contact, moving Barbosa to the lead and elevating Johannes van Overbeek (Extreme Speed Motorsports HPD ARX-03b) to third.

After the first round of pit stops in GTLM, Tandy led in the #911 Porsche followed by Bomarito and Christensen.

Yacaman, running P4, had closed back to within 2.674 sec of the lead at the end of Lap 32. Rain returned, a little heavier, during Lap 34. 2-3-4 were fighting hard for position in Lap 36, with Barbosa stretching his lead to 6.734 sec. Yacaman took third from van Overbeek in the final turn of Lap 36.

Yacaman pitted during Lap 39, Alex Brundle getting behind the wheel of the #42 with 1 hr 13 min left. Jack Hawksworth (#08 BAR1 Motorsports) led PC after Colin Braun (#54 CORE autosport) was penalized while in the lead for contact with the #25.

  Barbosa pitted from the lead during Lap 49 with 57 min left. Rojas came in two laps later, Scott Pruett taking over. Brundle led the race after the second cycle of stops, followed by Barbosa (+3.324) and van Overbeek.

Hawksworth came to a stop in pit lane short of his stall, running of fuel while coming in for his second service. In GTLM, Tandy led the two Vipers, Bomarito and Marc Goosens (#91).

Brundle came in for the #42’s final stop during Lap 57 with 40 min left in the race. Van Overbeek had made his final stop in the #2 three laps earlier. Barbosa pitted from the lead on Lap 59 with 35:30 to go and took second from Brundle. The #01 had still only made two stops with 20 min left.

The #911 Porsche pitted from the GTLM lead with mechanical problems and 18 min left in the race, giving the spot to Bomarito. Goosens ran second and Patrick Long in the #912 Porsche third.

Traffic allowed Brundle to pull within 0.5 sec of Barbosa with 15 min to go. With 10 min left the Top 3 were separated by just 0.838 sec; Barbosa and Brundle chasing Pruett. Pruett, however, managed to make it through lapped traffic more efficiently than his chasers, while Brundle used the traffic to pass Barbosa. Barbosa tried to take the position back but had contact with the two dueling Team RLL BMWs and had to back off. Brundle ran 4.352 sec behind Pruett with 5 min to go. With 2 min left he had narrowed the gap to 3.711 and when the white flag flew 3.222.

Pruett took the checkers 2.336 sec ahead of Brundle, their two-stop strategy having carried the day. He ran out of fuel on the cooldown lap. Barbosa finished 11.016 sec back. Rayhall took the PC victory ahead of Braun. GTLM finished Bomarito, Goosens, Long. Jeroen Bleekemolen (#33 Riley & Scott Racing Viper) won GTD over Andy Lally (#44 Magnus Racing Porsche 911).

 

 

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