Even the GT Daytona winner barely made it to the starting grid.
UPDATE: IMSA officials inspected the fuel system of the winning GT Daytona car, the No. 97 Turner Motorsport BMW Z4, until 8:30 p.m., because the car appeared to get exceptional mileage. It passed.
LIME ROCK, Connecticut – For a while, it appeared no one wanted to win the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship race at Lime Rock Park, but the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Cutwood Prototype Challenge car of Tom Kimber-Smith and Mike Guasch finally took the checkered flag in the two-hour, 40-minute Northeast Grand Prix.
In the GT Daytona class, the No. 97 Turner Motorsport BMZ Z4 of Dane Cameron and Michael Marsal took the win, but it was not without drama, on and off the track.
Early on, it appeared the race would be a runaway victory for the fastest qualifier in the Prototype Challenge class, Stephen Simpson in the No. 85 JDC/Miller Chevrolet-powered Oreca, who put nearly a full lap on the entire field in the first hour of the two-hour, 40-minute Northeast Grand Prix before making a quick pit stop.
He returned to the track and almost immediately, the engine lost power and wouldn’t restart. After a tow to the pits, the crew found it was just a circuit breaker, which they reset and sent Simpson back out. But the delay, an “electrical gremlin,” Simpson said, cost him and teammate Mikhail Goikberg so much time that they finished sixth.
Then, with an hour and 17 minutes remaining, Conor Daly, driving the No. 38 Performance Tech Prototype Challenge entry, attempted to pass Christopher Haase in the GT Daytona No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Audi R8 LMS in the downhill turn leading to the front straight. They made contact, and both went hard into the tire wall.
Daly was leading the Prototype Challenge class and the race overall, and Haase was leading the GT Daytona class, so one misjudged corner – and both drivers blamed the other for the crash – and both leaders were suddenly out of the race.
Even the winner did it the hard way
And even that winning GT Daytona No. 97 Turner Motorsport BMW Z4 had a difficult trip to the winner’s circle: In Friday practice, Michael Marsal piled the car into the tire wall, causing so much damage that it seemed likely there wouldn’t be enough time to repair the car. But the Turner Motorsport team located a body shop 35 miles away that had a frame straightening machine, and after hours working on the frame, the mechanics finally got the car back together at 3 a.m. “If you open the trunk and look in, it still isn’t pretty under there,” Marsal said, but the car got the job done.
Barely, as it turned out. Marsal’s partner, Dane Cameron, who won the championship with the team in 2014, took the second shift behind the wheel and nursed the car along for a stunning 94 laps from the last pit stop to the end, saving tires and fuel to takea 3.505-second win over Jeroen Bleekemolen in the No. 33 ViperExchange.com Dodge Viper SRT, which he shares with team owner Ben Keating. Third in GTD was Kuno Wittmer, in the No. 007 TRG-AMR Aston Martin V12 Vantage he shares with Christina Nielsen.
In the series points, Haase and No. 48 Audi co-driver Dion von Moltke lead GTD, while Tom Kimber-Smith and Mike Guasch in the No. 52 lead in Prototype Challenge.
Three wins, and some good luck
This was the third win of the season for the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Prototype Challenge car, which finished eight seconds ahead of the No. 11 RSR Racing entry of Bruno Junquiera and Chris Cumming, and a lap ahead of the third-place No. 8 car of Renger van der Zande and Mirco Schultis.
Despite winning early in the season, “We’ve had a lot of bad luck this year,” Kimber-Smith said. “Going into this race we knew we needed to won to get back into the championship hunt. Today, everything seemed to go our way.”
“That’s what it’s all about,” said Guasch. “Who has the least amount of bad luck.”
In GT Daytona, there was a lot on the line for Marsal, driver of the winning No. 97 BMW. This is his home track, “and we have probably 50 people here, including my mom and dad.” And co-driver Dana Cameron flew in from California to race.
“When it looked like Friday that we wouldn’t be able to get the car fixed in time – it was tough.” But they did fix it, and the fuel-saving pit strategy won the race for them, though the cobbled-together car was certainly fast – Cameron had the quickest lap of the race in GTD, with a 53.695-second lap halfway through the race.
Lime Rock Park, at 1.5 miles, is the shortest road course on the TUDOR Championship schedule, so the Prototype and GT Le Mans classes got the weekend off. All four classes will be back in two weeks for the Continental Tire Road Race Showcase at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. At four miles, Road America is the longest track on the schedule. That race will air live on FOX Sports 1 August 9 from 3 to 6 p.m. ET.