Spirit of Daytona Racing fights to 5th place finish at Long Beach

The team will return out West in three weekends and will look to build momentum with a return to victory lane at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

A battle broke out on the streets of Long Beach on Saturday, and Visit Florida Racing emerged bruised but not beaten as the squad recovered from an early incident to come home sixth in the Tequila Patron Sports Car Showcase at the Long Beach Grand Prix.

Michael Valiante and Richard Westbrook combined to bring the No. 90 VISITFLORDIDA Corvette DP with new Kidz1stFund support home fifth in Round 3 of the 2014 TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.

Michael Valiante opened the race from sixth on the grid, and pounced at the start to move up to fourth on the first lap before losing the spot to a lighter P2 machine. Valiante stayed in the top-five, but the run for a podium suffered a setback when Valiante, who was fighting with a balky gearbox throughout his run, spun while passing a lapped car.

The two made contact and the Florida-blue sky Corvette DP slid backwards into the concrete barriers that line the temporary circuit, but Valiante was able to return to the fray as he took to the pits to turn the car over to Westbrook.

“We had a competitive car today, and were able to run with the leaders,” said Valiante. “I don't think we had the car to win, but probably could have been on the podium had I not made that mistake. I’m not sure exactly what happened with the spin—we had gearbox issues all weekend, and it was the same in the race. It was tough. We just have to continue to improve the car and get more competitive.”

The race, which is the shortest of the season and ran at a flat-out pace with zero caution periods, saw Westbrook take the controls to run to the checkered flag. But with so much damage on the back of the car, and a gearbox that continued to give the drivers an extra challenge, the sprint race became an endurance test for the team to make it to the points-paying checkered flag.

“The car had lost a lot of rear body work and some aerodynamic bits, so I just had to save fuel and bring it home,” said Westbrook. “Which is a shame, because it seemed like we had a pretty good race car apart from the niggling gearbox issue. So we’ll just try to put this one behind us, and get on to the smooth tracks, which should suit our car much better. Just keep digging away, that’s all we can do.”

The team will return out West in three weekends and will look to build momentum with a return to victory lane at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

“We had gearbox gremlins all weekend,” said team owner Troy Flis. “We just have to work through it, and we didn’t have much track time to work on it here with the schedule the way it was. We put up with a car that was pretty banged up for the second half of the race, so it was good the gearbox lasted to the finish. Just have to get to the bottom of what was causing the problems that we had with it. We turned one of the fastest lap of the race, and the guys did a good job, Michael was battling for position and it just got a way from us, so we’ll have to go after it in the next race!”

The Continental Tire Sports Car Festival will be staged on May 4th at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The team won the 2012 edition of the race.

Spirit of Daytona Racing

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Series TUSC
Article type Qualifying reports
Tags long beach, michael valiante, richard westbrook, spirit of daytona racing

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