The Daytona Prototype (DP) championship battle has tightened and a new team has taken the points lead heading into this weekend’s Diamond Cellar Classic at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. While Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates entered the last race at Belle Isle Park with a seven-point lead in a bid for a fourth consecutive title, a first lap crash leaves drivers Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas on the outside looking in for the first time this season.
Belle Isle winners Jordan Taylor and Max Angelelli, drivers of the No. 10 Velocity Worldwide Corvette DP, now hold a two-point lead over Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty, drivers of the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Corvette DP (148-146). Ryan Dalziel and Alex Popow, driving the No. 2 Starworks with Alex Popow Ford/Riley, are only seven points behind, with 141 points.
Defending Mid-Ohio winner Richard Westbrook – who now shares the No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Corvette DP with Ricky Taylor – is tied for fourth with Pruett and Rojas at 128 points, 20 points behind the leaders.
Jordan Taylor and Angelelli are now two-time winners in 2013, also winning at Barber Motorsports Park. Gurney and Fogarty ended a losing drought dating back to 2011 by winning at Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Tex., in March.
Pruett (40 DP victories, including three at Mid-Ohio) and Rojas (27) opened the year by winning the Rolex 24 At Daytona in addition to scoring a victory at Road Atlanta.
Nine Rolex Series drivers to make trek from Mid-Ohio to Le Mans
Saturday’s checkered flag ending the Diamond Cellar Classic will also mean the green flag for nine Rolex Series drivers who will hustle across the Atlantic Ocean to compete in next weekend’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Enzo Potolicchio will have the dual role as owner/driver in both races with his 8Star Motorsports fielding a Corvette DP at Mid-Ohio in addition to a Ferrari 458 in the French classic.
GRAND-AM double-duty drivers Bill Auberlen and Paul Dalla Lana – who drive Turner Motorsport BMW M3s in both the Rolex Series and CTSCC – will co-drive an Aston Martin Vantage in the GTE Pro class at Le Mans. Starworks Motorsport teammates Ryan Dalziel and Brendon Hartley will drive for different teams at Le Mans. Dalziel – a former Le Mans class winner – drives for SRT Viper, while Harley drives a Nissan/ORECA for Murphy Prototypes in the LM P2 class.
Brothers Jordan and Ricky Taylor will drive Corvettes in two different classes. Jordan drives for Corvette Racing in the GTE Pro class, while Ricky makes his Le Mans debut for Larbre Competition in GTE Am. Richard Westbrook will drive for Corvette Racing in GTE Pro.
Also making the trek is Patrick Long, with the Park Place Racing driver posting the third-fastest time in GTE Am during last weekend’s test day at Circuit de la Sarthe. Long will co-drive with Patrick Dempsey and Joe Foster for Dempsey Del Piero-Proto in a Porsche 911 GT3, turned a lap of 124.958 mph on the 8.4-mile circuit.
Team Sahlen, Michael Shank Racing expect strong local support in home race
Ohio-based Rolex Series teams Michael Shank Racing and Team Sahlen both will have many friendly in the crowd at Mid-Ohio cheering for their Daytona Prototypes in Saturday’s Diamond Cellar Classic.
Team Sahlen will race its new BMW/Riley DPs for the first time at the circuit. Dane Cameron and Wayne Nonnamaker drive the No. 42 for the North Canton team, while Joe Sahlen joins Joe and Will Nonnamaker in the No. 43. The team will be celebrating Father’s Day in style, with Nonnamaker patriarch Joe joined by his two sons in the race.
Michael Shank Racing will carry new colors on its lead No. 60 Roberts Electrical Construction Ford/Riley to be driven by John Pew and Ozz Negri. The car suffered major front-end damage at the most recent race at Detroit Belle Isle, with the team spending long hours to repair the car. MSR also will have the No. 6 Ford/Riley for Antonio Pizzonia and Gustavo Yacaman.
Former Cincinnati resident John Edwards will have a homecoming of sorts when he returns to Mid-Ohio with Stevenson Motorsports. Edwards and Robin Liddell are riding a three-race winning streak in the Rolex Series’ GT division at the wheel of the No. 57 Stevenson Auto Group Chevrolet Camaro. Edwards also won the most recent Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge race at Road Atlanta, paired with Matt Bell.
Valiante to sub for 8Star Motorsports, Negri returns for Shank at Mid-Ohio
Last year, Michael Valiante came home a winner at Mid-Ohio when he landed a substitute role with Spirit of Daytona, joining Richard Westbrook in the No. 90 Corvette.
Saturday, Valiante has landed another one-off DP ride at the circuit. With Stephane Sarrazin in France preparing for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Valiante will co-drive with Enzo Potolicchio in the No. 3 Motorola-ONO Corvette for 8Star Motorsports.
Ozz Negri returns to action at Mid-Ohio after sitting out three races for Michael Shank Racing when he partners with John Pew in the No. 60 Roberts Electric Ford/Riley. Negri was injured in an off-season mountain bike spill. He ran one stint in the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona, but then sat out three races when his injured leg was not healing properly.
“It seems like it’s been a year since I last raced,” Negri said. “I’m really looking forward to coming back.”
Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge returns to action
The mid-season break is over for the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge, which returns to action this weekend at the Diamond Cellar Classic at Mid-Ohio. After nearly a two-month layoff, the series will compete at all seven of the remaining Rolex Sports Car Series weekends.
The championship battles are in full swing in both divisions. Nick Longhi and Matt Plumb, drivers of the No. 13 Rum Bum Racing BMW M3, hold a six-point lead in the Grand Sport (GS) standings over John Edwards and Matt Bell (116-100), with the drivers of the No. 57 Stevenson Auto Group Chevrolet Camaro coming off a victory at Road Atlanta.
Defending Mid-Ohio winners Billy Johnson and Jack Roush Jr. return in the No. 61 Roush Performance Ford Mustang Boss 302R, looking to rebound from bad luck after winning the 2013 season opener at Daytona. Johnson prevailed in a last-lap shootout last year at Mid-Ohio, beating Matt Plumb to the checkered flag by .307 seconds.
Terry Borcheller and Mike LaMarra took the Street Tuner (ST) lead when they scored Burton Racing’s first victory at Road Atlanta in the No. 23 BMW 128i. Compass360 Racing’s Kyle Gimple and Ryan Eversley are three points behind (96-93), with i-MOTO Mazda Speed 3 drivers Pierre Kleinubing and Jayson Clunie another point back.
Doran Racing, HART celebrate home race with Ohio drivers
Both Doran Racing and HART – the Ohio-based teams in the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge – will each have a car with an all-Ohio driver lineup in the Diamond Cellar Classic.
Doran Racing, based in Lebanon, Ohio, will have Cincinnati veterans Brad Jaeger and BJ Zacharias in the No. 14 Doran Racing Nissan 370Z.
Zacharias has competed in 78 career CTSCC races dating back to 2001. He has three second-place finishes in the series, most recently with Doran Racing at Mid-Ohio and Homestead-Miami Speedway in 2011. Zacharias also was Mid-Ohio’s GT winner in the 2003 Rolex Series race. This will be the second CTSCC appearance for Jaeger, a former regular in the Daytona Prototypes for Doran Racing.
East Liberty-based HART (Honda of America Racing Team), comprised of Honda employees, will have John Schmitt of Sunbury and Luke Wilwert of Marysville in the team’s No. 92 Red Line Oil Honda Civic Si. Marysville’s Chad Gilsinger joins Canadian Michael Valiante in the team’s No. 93 entry, which is the defending winner of the event.
Ray Mason of Columbus will co-drive the No. 76 Compass360 Racing Columbus Truck Honda Civic with Adam Burrows. He is the owner of Columbus Truck, Ohio’s largest Mack and Volvo truck dealer.
Corey Fergus of nearby Powell, Ohio – an instructor at the Mid-Ohio School – will co-drive the No. 197 Cruise America/Thor Motorcoach Honda Civic Si with Owen Trinkler.