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USCC: Circuit of the Americas – Pruett, Hand repeat; CORE, BMW, Viper also win

Photo: Chris Smith

Last year’s Lone Star Le Mans race winners the #01 Chip Ganassi Racing Riley-Ford (Scott Pruett, Joey Hand) started on the pole this year, the #60 Michael Shank Racing Ligier JS P2-Honda (Oz Negri, John Pew) on the outside of Row 1. The Shank entry was carrying special Justin Wilson livery, in honor of his life and time spent with the team, including an overall  victory at the 2012 24 Hours of Daytona. Christian Fittipaldi and Joao Barbosa (#5 Action Express Corvette DP) started P3, with Ricky and Jordan Taylor (#10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP) lining up fourth.

Porsche North America’s 911 RSR’s took first and third in GT Le Mans qualifying, Patrick Pilet (driving with Nick Tandy) putting the #911 on pole and Earl Bamber starting the #912 third with Jorg Bergmeister. Slotted between them was the #25 BMW Team RLL Z4 GTE (Dirk Werner, Bill Auberlen). Antonio Garcia put the #3 Corvette Racing C7.R, co-driven by Jan Magnussen fourth on the grid.

Dion von Moltke won GT Daytona pole in the #48 Paul Miller Racing Audi R8 LMS, with Chris Cumming—winner of the 2013 PC class at COTA--posting the fastest Prototype Challenge time in the #11 RSR Racing entry.

Negri fell to fifth through Turn 1 of the first lap, Pruett maintaining the lead with Michael Valiante (#90 VisitFlorida.com Corvette DP) leaping into second and Fittipaldi running third. By the end of Lap 1 Taylor had moved into second, dropping Valiante to third. Pilet and Bamber ran 1-2 in the GTLM, followed by Wolf Henzler in a third 911 (#17 Team Falken Tire). Seven minutes into the 2 hr and 40 min race Von Moltke and Cumming remained in the lead of their classes.

 The first full-course caution came out 23 min in to retrieve a PC competitor which spun and stalled following contact with a GTD machine. Pruett led Taylor and Valiante. Pruett had posted a race-best lap of 1:59.782 on the last green lap before the caution. Taylor, Valiante, and Fittipaldi all pitted, leaving Pruett and Negri 1-2.

The #24 BMW (John Edwards) stayed on track while the rest of the GTLM field pitted under the caution. Pilet returned to the track first of those who stopped, but Henzler beat Bamber out.

Cumming led PC, followed by James French (#38 Performance Tech Motorsports) and Mike Guasch (#52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports). Bill Sweedler (#63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 Italia) and Christina Nielsen (TRG-AMR Aston Martin V12 Vantage) remained on track to take GTD 1-2. Von Moltke received a stop +30 sec penalty for not abiding by pit lane exit red light.

The green flag flew with 2:01 left. Bamber passed Henzler on track. Eric Curran (#31 Action Express Corvette DP), who had pitted, moved into third overall behind Pruett and Negri. Sweedler pitted 50 min into the race, moving Nielsen to the front of GTD. Nielsen followed one lap later, with Patrick Lindsey (#73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche 911 GT America) cycling to the front, having already stopped. Mario Farnbacher (#23 Alex Job Racing) passed Lindsey on track a few minutes later to take the class lead.

Pruett and Negri remained on track 1 hour into the race, with Pruett’s Lap 10 time still standing as the race’s fastest. His lead over Negri was 2.750 sec. He led Curran by 7.227. Pruett pitted the next lap, Hand taking over behind the wheel. Cumming also finally pitted from the PC lead, ceding it to Matt McMurry (#85 JDC/Miller Motorsports) who made his stop under the caution.

Negri pitted the next time around, stalling while attempting the pits with John Pew driving. Curran led Jordan Taylor by 0.444 sec and Valiante by 7.780 sec once everyone had pitted. Edwards pitted from the GTLM point 1:09 into the race, Auberlen taking over and the Top 3 in class reverting to Pilet, Bamber, Henzler.

When the second caution flew shortly before the 1:30 in mark Hand led Ricky Taylor—the #10 having made its second stop—and Richard Westbrook in the #90. The #60 received a pit land penalty, but served it before the caution. McMurry continued to lead PC but had yet to make his second stop. Pilet, Henzler, and Bamber ran 1-3 in GTLM, with Farnbacher and Lindsey in front of Townsend Bell in the #63 Ferrari.

When the GTLM field pitted Tandy came out first in the #911, followed by Bergmeister in the #912 Porsche, with Lucas Luhr, who had stayed on track in thte #24 BMW slotting in between them.

The overall Top 3 remained intact through the first green flag lap which came with just over 1 hr left in the race. Bruno Junqueira led PC in the #11, McMurry having stopped under the caution. Tom Kimber-Smith ran second in the #52. Colin Braun (#54 CORE autosport) passed TKS to take second.

Luhr passed the #911 to take the GTLM lead. Kuno Wittmer lead GTD in the #007, but had yet to take the car’s second stop. Farnbacher ran second, having already stopped twice. With 53 min left Braun passed the #11 for the PC lead.

Joey Hand pitted from the overall lead with 44 min left, his second stop of the race, taking four tires and fuel. Luhr stopped from the GTLM lead one lap later, his second as well, making the Top 3 in class Tandy, Bergmeister, and Giancarlo Fisichella (#62 Risi Competitizione Ferrari 458 Italia), all of whom had already stopped twice.

With 40 min to go, Wittmer remained on track in the GTD lead but with only one stop completed. Memo Rojas led overall in the #0 DeltaWing-Elan, but also had one more stop to make. Hand and Taylor passed the DeltaWing on track to take first and second. Bell spun the #63 while following Wittmer, moving Farnbacher to lead when Wittmer pitted seconds later.

Hand led Taylor by 2.150 sec and Rojas by 5.419 with 31 min left. Jeroen Bleekemolen (#33 Riley Motorsports Dodge Viper SRT) passed Farnbacher for the GTD lead. The DeltaWing left the course while still running third with 25 min to go, moving Westbrook into the spot.

Hand’s lead over Taylor was 6.995 sec with 21 min left. Westbrook ran 26.047 sec back. Braun continued to lead PC, Tandy GTLM, and Bleekemolen GTD by 5.896 sec over Markus Pattala (#97 Turner Motorsport BMW Z4) and 6.832 sec over Farnbacher.

With 11 min to run, Hand had grown his lead over Taylor to 11.331 sec, with Westbrook 36.056 behind the leader. Braun led PC by 28 sec over Junqueira. Tandy was 6 sec up on Bergmeister and 10 up on Werner’s BMW. Bleekemolen led Pattala by 3.722 and Farnbacher by 10.663.

Tandy and Bergmeister pitted from 1-2 with less than 3 min to go, each taking a splash of fuel but falling to 3-4 in the process, behind Werner and Fisichella. Pruett and Hand took the win with Ganassi’s two-stop strategy. Negri made a charge for third overall through the final corners, but finished fourth.

 

The podiums for each class:

Prototype:

1. #01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Riley-Ford; Scott Pruett, Joey Hand

2. #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP; Ricky Taylor, Jordan Taylor

3. #90 VisitFlorida.com Corvette DP; Richard Westbrook, Michael Valiante

 

PC:

1. #54 CORE autosport; Jon Bennett, Colin Braun

2. #11 RSR Racing; Bruno Junqueira, Chris Cumming

3. #38 Performance Tech Motorsports; James French, Conor Daly

 

GTLM:

1. #25 BMW Team RLL BMW Z4 GTE; Bill Auberlen, Dirk Werner

2. #62 Risi Competitizione Ferrari 458 Italia; Pierre Kaffer, Giancarlo Fisichella

3. #911 Porsche North America 911 RSR; Nick Tandy, Patrick Pilet

 

GTD:

1. #33 Riley Motorsports Dodge Viper SRT; Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen

2. #97 Turner Motorsport BMW Z4; Michael Marsal, Markus Paltalla

3. #48 Paul Miller Racing Audi R8 LMS; Christopher Haase, Dion von Moltke

 

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