Faulkner, Keating score second consecutive GT Challenge win for TRG
ALTON, Va. (Oct. 5, 2013) – With a tooth-and-nail fight for the 2013 American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patrón GT championship happening behind him, Matteo Malucelli pulled away over the closing laps of Saturday’s Oak Tree Grand Prix at Virginia International Raceway to give Risi Competizione its first ALMS victory since Road America in 2011.
It was Malucelli’s first career victory in ALMS competition, while co-driver Olivier Beretta picked up his 43rd career victory in the series. The moment of truth came with just under 30 minutes remaining in the two-hour and 45-minute race when Malucelli powered the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari F458 Italia past Patrick Long in the No. 06 CORE autosport Porsche 911 GT3 RSR heading down the long back straightaway of VIR’s 3.27-mile layout.
From that point on, Malucelli set sail to score an easy victory in what has been a tough season for the Risi team, which returned to full-time ALMS competition this season after a one-year absence.
“It is always nice to be back and we had a really good race today,” Beretta said. “We have been unlucky since Sebring, and at Long Beach, and Laguna we had pole. The luck has not been on our side. I’m really happy for Risi and Matteo, it is his first win. I hope to go to Petit (Le Mans, Oct. 19) and get another win for this team. The 458 is a great car, but coming out this season we struggled a bit. To get the win now is great for the team, and to get a win for Ferrari. Now we’ll go to Petit and do our best.”
Long and co-driver Colin Braun finished second ahead of GT points co-leaders Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia in the No. 3 Compuware Chevrolet Corvette C6 ZR1 for Corvette Racing. Magnussen and Garcia extended their lead in the championship to 16 points, 125-109, over Dirk Muller, who finished fourth at VIR in the No. 56 BMW North America/Crowne Plaza BMW Z4 GTE alongside co-driver Joey Hand.
While the driver championship is still up for grabs with 24 points available to the race winner in the season-ending Petit Le Mans powered by Mazda, the third-place run by Magnussen and Garcia was enough to clinch the ALMS GT team championship for Corvette Racing and the manufacturer’s championship for Chevrolet.
In the GT Challenge (GTC) category, No. 66 Port Lavaca Group/Viper Exchange/Adobe Road Winery Porsche 911 GT3 Cup co-drivers Damien Faulkner and Ben Keating parlayed their second consecutive class pole position into their second consecutive victory.
As he also did two weeks ago at Circuit of The Americas, Keating started the No. 66 machine from the GTC pole courtesy of Damien Faulkner’s qualifying efforts on Friday. Keating kept the TRG Porsche well in contention throughout his opening stint before giving way to Faulkner to close out the race and secure the victory.
“It was just a dream weekend, to be honest, from start to finish,” Faulkner said. “We could be a lot more aggressive since we’re not in the championship hunt but Ben did a great job at the start. He felt bad giving me the car in second, but imagine being disappointed to be in second. The team did a great job, we didn’t make any mistakes, and they made the car perfect. It ran flawlessly all day. Thanks to the TRG team for doing a great job and hitting our strides today. I said over the radio, knowing everyone could hear it, “I’ll fight to the death today.”
Jeroen Bleekemolen and Cooper MacNeil extended their lead in the GTC driver championship with a second-place run at VIR in the No. 22 WeatherTech Porsche 911 GT3 Cup for Alex Job Racing. Heading into the season finale, the duo leads Henrique Cisneros by 13 points, 131-118, with 24 points still available.
Cisneros and co-driver Sean Edwards took third in the No. 30 MOMO Porsche 911 GT3 Cup for NGT Motorsport. Also still alive in the GTC championship chase are No. 45 Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 Cup co-drivers Spencer Pumpelly and Nelson Canache Jr., with 115 points. Pumpelly and Canache finished seventh on Saturday.
The Oak Tree Grand Prix will be televised on ESPN2 at 5:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, Oct. 6. The 2013 American Le Mans Series season closes with the Petit Le Mans powered by Mazda at Road Atlanta on Saturday, Oct. 19.