Pat Jennings, Grand-Am correspondent
First DP victory for Spirit of Daytona and for Corvette
The Spirit of Daytona Corvette prototype dominated Saturday’s Porsche 250 at Barber Motorsports Park, with Antonio Garcia taking the checkered flag 2.326 seconds ahead of Alex Gurney’s GAINSCO Corvette to win the second round of the Rolex Sports Car Series season. Garcia and his teammate, Richard Westbrook, led 84 of 103 laps after starting from the pole. The win was the first for the Spirit of Daytona team, the first for the new Corvette Daytona Prototype, and the first Rolex Series win for Westbrook.
“We've come a long way since Daytona,” said Westbrook, referring to the team’s eighth-place finish (15 laps down to the winners) in the Rolex 24 at Daytona. “We expected a little better (at Daytona), but we have worked so hard since then. It feels so good to give Spirit of Daytona and Corvette their first DP wins.”
It feels so good to give Spirit of Daytona and Corvette their first DP wins.
Westbrook and Garcia said they spent most of the race managing their tires to avoid the degradation and lack of grip issues that have become a hallmark of the Barber track over the past few years. But no one was able to keep up with them. A caution period near the end of the race could have caused some drama for Garcia, but when the race went green again with about three minutes remaining he drove away from Gurney with ease.
Concerned that Scott Pruett in the Ganassi BMW Riley had stopped for new tires under the yellow, Gurney then switched his focus to conserving his worn out tires for the two final laps and hanging on to second place.
“We knew from last year that the (Spirit of Daytona) had something magic around here and we wondered whether it was going to transfer over to the Corvette and it seemed like it did,” stated Gurney. “We feel like we gained on them – at least compared to last year – but they still had the pace.”
The Ganassi car ended up third. Pit strategy allowed Memo Rojas to lead 16 laps in the early part of the race, but the BMW was no match for the Spirit of Daytona. And a 10-second penalty for contact with the No. 74 Audi R8 on lap 52 almost cost Pruett and Rojas the final spot on the podium.
“We were concerned with finding speed all weekend,” explained Pruett. “When that yellow came out at the end, we decided we had nothing to lose. So we stopped for a new set of tires. We didn’t know it was going to play out, but the worst thing that could have happened is that we could have lost one position. Tire degradation was a big deal today. And we managed that as best we could.”
The No. 8 Starworks Ford Riley shared by Ryan Dalziel and Enzo Potolicchio finished fourth, followed by the SunTrust Racing Corvette, and the second Starworks entry.
The SunTrust team had a difficult weekend. It started last in the nine-car Daytona Prototype field thanks to a spin by Ricky Taylor during qualifying. Then in the race Taylor and Max Angelelli took turns running into other cars, including the Action Express Corvette of Darren Law. The incident with Law happened while he and Angelelli were racing for position around lap 37. Angelelli made an aggressive move on the inside of Law going into a left-hand turn and then did not leave Law any room at the exit of the turn. The two cars touched and the contact forced Law off the track and into the grass, damaging his car’s front splitter. Angelelli received a 15-second stop and go penalty for the collision, which Law called the “worst piece of dirty driving” he had ever seen. Law ended up 27th overall and ninth in the Daytona Prototype class.
Seventh and eighth, respectively, in the Daytona Prototype class went to the second Action Express car and the Michael Shank Racing Ford Riley, which never recovered from being hit by an errant Mazda GT car.
The No. 70 MazdaSpeed Mazda RX-8 driven by Sylvain Tremblay and Jonathan Bomarito won the GT class and finished ninth overall. The winners finished one lap ahead of the No. 69 AIM Autosport Team FXDD Ferrari 458 Italia Grand Am of Emil Assentato and Jeff Segal and the No. 59 Brumos Porsche shared by Leh Keen and Andrew Davis.
“Logistically, we did what we needed to do,” said Tremblay. “Our car is definitely not as fast as the newer cars, but on long runs . . . we had good pace.”
The Rolex Series returns to the track April 29 at the Homestead-Miami Speedway.