Despite witnessing the slowest qualifier in the Prototype division claim the overall win earlier in the day at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, the TOTAL Pole Award winners in Prototype Challenge and GT Daytona were neither fazed as both held their ground to take class victories in Sunday’s second race at the Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix.
Despite giving way early to Performance Tech’s James French, PR1-Mathiasen Motorsports’ Robert Alon maintained the pressure in the early going and then his pit crew put teammate Tom Kimber-Smith in command during the two-hour event’s one and only pit stop, held during the only full course caution of the event. Kimber-Smith and Starworks Motorsport’s Renger Van der Zande hit the pit lane exit nearly dead even. Although initially it appeared Van der Zande had the lead for the restart, the order was reversed via IMSA rules. The rulebook indicates that if cars exiting the pit lane are too close to call in terms of who reached the line first, the car in the fast or outside line get first priority in the order.
With Kimber-Smith in control of the restart, Van der Zande eventually lost out to JDC-Miller Motorsports’ Stephen Simpson for the runner-up spot, a maneuver that would be overturned twenty minutes later. Although PR1’s lead driver maintained the top spot, he was never able to build a lead of over five seconds on the popular Starworks pilot, as traffic influenced the margins. However, with fuel mileage becoming a concern late, Van der Zande got one final shot at the British driver entering turn five with six minutes to race. Kimber-Smith defended the inside line and held on eventually taking the checkered flag first by 1.7 seconds. Van der Zande and co-driver Alex Popow settled for second, followed by CORE autosport’s Jon Bennett and Colin Braun who completed the podium.
Braun’s charge from a lap down could have been the highlight of the race as he overtook Performance Tech Motorsports’ Kyle Marcelli with under three minutes to run. The CORE driver had pitted after the restart for extra fuel and possibly could have stolen the race win had both Kimber-Smith and Van der Zande run dry. Marcelli and French finished fourth, while Simpson and co-driver Misha Goikhberg faded to fifth at the finish after having to conserve fuel to avoid making a late pit stop. The results mean that JDC-Miller and PR1-Mathiasen are now equal on points on the Prototype Challenge points table after four races, with JDC holding the tiebreaker with two wins versus PR1’s lone win on Sunday.
In GT Daytona, Team Seattle Porsche’s Mario Farnbacher and Alex Riberas drove the perfect race on Sunday, going from start to finish in position number one to take the win. It was far from a walkover however, as Farnbacher had to fight off a persistent Alessandro Balzan from Scuderia Corsa Ferrari over the final hour to secure the top step of the podium. Farnbacher and Balzan were never separated by more than three seconds at any point in the race’s second half, but Balzan was never able to mount a serious attack for the lead position. The runner-up finish secured by Balzan and co-driver Christina Nielsen was the second of the day for Corsa who saw their GT Le Mans class teammates Alessandro Pier Guidi and Daniel Serra place second behind Chip Ganassi Racing’s Ford EcoBoost GT in Sunday’s first IMSA event of the day.
Behind the two pacemakers, parity was the word of choice as the top seven positions in GTD, were earned by seven different manufacturers. TRG’s Aston Martin V12 Vantage of Brandon Davis and James Davison made a late surge to take the final step on the podium. Audi runners Robin Liddell and Andrew Davis of Stevenson Motorsports placed fourth. After running third for most of the distance, the Turner Motorsport BMW M6 of Jens Klingmann and Bret Curtis faded in the final five minutes, but still completed the first five. Riley Motorsports’ Dodge Viper GT3-R of Jeroen Bleekemolen and Ben Keating placed sixth, with the Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracan of Madison Snow and Bryan Sellers finishing seventh.
With three races in the books for the GT Daytona class in 2016, Scuderia Corsa maintains a six-point lead on Team Seattle Porsche. Magnus Racing’s Andy Lally and John Potter, who led the championship entering Laguna Seca, struggled home to a 14th-place finish on Sunday and dropped to third in the standings.
The next stop for the teams of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will be two-fold. The teams in the Prototype, Prototype Challenge, and GT Daytona divisions will head to The Raceway at Belle Isle in Detroit on Saturday, June 4th for the Chevrolet Sports Car Classic. The GT Le Mans teams meanwhile, will begin preparations to cross the Atlantic Ocean for the official test day at Circuit de la Sarthe in France on Sunday, June 5th in advance of the 2016 running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. The 84th edition of the Grand Prix of Endurance is set for June 18th and 19th.
Stay tuned to OnPitRoad.com for continued coverage of both the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and the Road to the 24 Hours of Le Mans.