Porsche North America dominates GT Le Mans in TUDOR Championship race.
ELKHART LAKE, Wisconsin – Dane Cameron made it look easy, driving his No. 31 Action Express Whelen Chevrolet Corvette Daytona Prototype to a win in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship race at Road America.
Cameron, who shares the car with Eric Curran, finished 14.359 seconds ahead of his Action Express teammate Joao Barbosa in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Corvette. Barbosa’s co-driver is Christian Fittipaldi.
The one-two finish benefitted both teams in the points. The drivers of the No. 90 VisitFlorida.com Corvette DP came into the race with a healthy lead, but they finished a disappointing fifth. The team’s drivers, Richard Westbrook and Michael Valiante are still in the lead, with 248 points. But just one point back, with 247, are Fittipaldi and Barbosa, and the win elevated Cameron and Curran to third, with 246 points.
“It can’t get much closer than that,” said Barbosa. “The No. 90 had some issues today and we were able to make up some points on them It’s just like I predicted – I think it could go down to the last lap of the last race in the season to determine the championship. I think the fans are going to have a great show all the way to the end. It’s very intense.”
Third in the Prototype class was Scott Pruett and his teammate Joey Hand, who had qualified the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Ford Ecoboost Riley on the pole. Pruett was 25.140 seconds behind the winning Corvette in the two hour, 40-minute race on the 4.048-mile road course.
If the gap was impressive between the top three cars in the Prototype class, the other three classes made up for it with battles right down to the checkered flag. Easily the best fight of the day was the final few laps in the GT Le Mans class, with a side-by-side battle between the No. 911 Porsche North America 911 RSR, driven by Patrick Pilet, and the No. 62 Risi Ferrari F458 Italia of Pierre Kaffer.
On the final lap, Pilet was just behind Kaffer, who running on older tires, struggling to hold off the Porsche. Kaffer ran off the track and into the dirt, and before he could get back on the pavement, the No. 912 Porsche North America 911 RSR driven by Jorg Bergmeister, a team car to the No. 911, squeezed by.
And that’s how they finished – the No. 911 Porsche driven by Pilet and teammate Nick Tandy, who was on the winning overall Porsche team at the 24 Hours of Le Mans – took first, followed by the No. 912 Porsche co-driven by Bergmeister and Earl Bamber, just ahead of Kaffer in the No. 62 Ferrari he shared with Giancarlo Fisichella. The battle between Kaffer and Pilet was some of the best racing of the season, and obviously the drivers enjoyed it – they embraced moments after the got out of the car.
Fittipaldi: 'Rubbing is racing!'
As Christian Fittipaldi said when asked about a little side-by-side contact with his team car: “Hey, rubbing is racing!”
“We had almost a perfect weekend,” said Porsche driver Tandy, “although we did have a small problem in qualifying.” That “small problem” resulted in a complete engine change, and as a penalty, IMSA requires cars that change engines between qualifying and the race to start from the rear.
Finishing in fourth in GT Le Mans was the No. 3 Corvette Racing C7.R, driven by Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen. Those two drivers remain in the points lead, but that’s a tight battle, too, as only five points separate first, second and third.
Prototype Challenge was exciting to the end as well, as the No. 11 RSR ORECA FLM09 Chevrolet-powered team of Bruno Junqueira and Chris Cumming took the win, just ahead of the No. 38 Performance Tech car of Conor Daly and James French.
“I thought it was now or never,” Junquiera said, “and really started pushing.” Daly was ahead of Junquiera when he went wide on a turn and spun, giving the lead, and the win, to Junqueira. Third was the No. 54 CORE Autosport entry of Jon Bennett and Colin Braun. That team leads the Prototype Challenge points.
Viper tops GTD
The GT Daytona finish may not have been as close at the GT Le Mans finish, but the No. 33 ViperExchange.com Dodge Viper SRT of Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen came home nearly 13 seconds ahead of the No. 007 TRG-AMR Aston Martin V12 of Christina Nielsen and her new partner, Kuno Wittmer, who joined the team one race earlier. Third was the No. 73 Porsche 911 GT America of Spencer Pumpelly and Patrick Lindsey, which Lindsey qualified on the pole.
“It’s been a difficult season for us,” said Keating. “We’ve had a good car all year, and it’s really great to finally stand on the top step of the podium with the No. 33 car. We ran a mistake-free race, and I feel like the race kind of came to us at the end.” Indeed, Wittmer was faster in the Aston Martin, but had to pit for a splash of fuel near the end.
Next up for the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship: The Oak Tree Grand Prix at Virginia International Raceway on August 21-23.