Both Grand-Am races settled by less than a second at Mid-Ohio

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Eric Mauk

Grand-Am put on one of its best races of the 2012 season on a sunny Summer Saturday at the Mid-Ohio Sports Course, as both the Daytona Prototype and GT classes featured late-race nose-to-tail battles over the last 30 minutes, with the issue being settled by less than a second in both classes.

Story Highlights

  • Both classes decided by less than a second
  • SunTrust suffers second-straight late-race accident
  • Big changes help Ganassi BMW

Richard Westbrook outdueled the Scott Pruett/Memo Rojas BMW Riley down the final minutes of the race to score the win, getting his Spirit of Daytona Chevrolet Corvette to the line a scant 0.326 seconds ahead of the Target Chip Ganassi Racing machine, while the Belle Isle runner-up Action Express Corvette of Terry Borcheller and David Donohue rounded out the podium.

BMW icon Bill Auberlen repeated the feat in the GT class, getting to the checkers 0.952 seconds ahead of Jeff Segal. Auberlen ran a strong final stint in the Turner Motorsports BMW M3, holding off the hard-charging Ferrari of AIM Autosport Team FXDD.

“I was thinking that after Detroit, we needed to get a good finishing position but that late restart was pretty nerve-wracking,” Westbrook admitted. “(Co-driver) Michael (Valiante) gave me the car in such a good position and I just wanted to get it home for the guys. They deserved a weekend like this.”

Despite that the top-three in both classes had been going at it hammer-and-tong as soon as the clock got down to 45 minutes, things tightened up even more as the SunTrust Racing Corvette saw a likely podium finish scuttled by a late-race accident for the second consecutive weekend.

A dive to the inside gave Pruett for second place ahead of Max Angelelli with 18 minutes to run, but Donohue tried to come along in his wake. Angelelli responded by crowding Donohue, resulting in a broken right rear wheel for Angelelli and a spin for Donohue.

The lengthy cleanup gave the field just seven minutes to decide the outcome, but even with the formidable Pruett on his tail, Westbrook pulled out to the lead and held on. Pruett made a last, desperate move for the win on the last turn and went as deep as he could go into the Carousel turn, but came up just short of reaching Westbrook’s Corvette.

“We made some aggressive setup changes on our car today and the engineers did a great job. They gave us a great chance to make up some spots,” Rojas said. “We weren’t the fastest car out there but we were among the fastest and that gave us a chance.”

The GT race was even closer than the scant margin of victory would show. The Auberlen/Paul Dalla Lana car was under constant attack from Segal and the Stevenson Camaro piloted by Robin Liddell over the last hour. Auberlen used his experience on the last restart and was able to build a gap over Segal over the last four laps to get the victory.

“It felt great to get the win,” Auberlen said. “The guys gave us a great car in every way, and the BMW power was strong as always.”

The series has next week off before heading to picturesque Road America June 23.

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Series GRANDAM
Tags auberlen, corvette, daytona, featured, grand-am, mauk, spirit