Salinas, CA – Challenging race conditions teed up tire management as a key factor in both races during the Continental Tire Sports Car Festival Powered by Mazda at Mazda Raceway this weekend. In the final hour of the Rolex Series race, pit strategy became a determining factor for not only the race winner, but the hunt for the point’s championship. In the end, it was the No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Corvette, driven by Richard Westbrook and Antonio Garcia, who captured their third win of the 2012 season.
“The tires for us, no doubt, pretty good,” said Westbrook following the race. “We did have to manage it, it’s a tricky surface here. Very slippery and it’s really sensitive to temperature changes. It was going into the unknown in the race because we had never done a long run in practice so we were pleasantly surprised and I think that was key for us and I think that was key for the 99. That’s why we were battling for the lead at the end. I think we were the best two cars on the tires.”
After a formidable lead Ryan Dalziel was forced to pit late, taking fuel and tires and returning to the track third where he would finish in the No. 8 Starworks Ford. Dalziel’s podium finish places him just 13 points out of the Daytona Prototype (DP) championship hunt where anything is possible heading into Lime Rock.
The Grand Touring (GT) class saw lots of close racing and plenty of pit strategy as well. Wayne Nonnamaker and Dane Cameron navigated their way through the field with the No. 43 Sahlen’s Mazda RX-8 to take their first GT win of the 2012 season. The team’s ability to conserve tires on such a tricky surface was certainly a factor in the team’s big win.
“This place is always fairly hard on tires,” said Cameron. “It’s a lot of long corners and it’s always quite dusty and windy and lots of sand and they’re fairly heavy cars so they start to move around on top of the road a little bit. Fortunately for us, the Mazda is one of the lighter cars so we’re able to keep the tires on it better than some of our competitors and I think that definitely helped.”
With the Mazda’s and Ferrari’s looking strong on the Continental tires, it was no surprise that the No. 69 AIM Autosport Team FXDD Ferrari 458 clinched the 2012 GT championship while also locking down a third-place finish. It’s the team’s third GT championship, their first on Continental tires.
The Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge Series (CTSCCS) saw plenty of penalties, lots of carnage, and scenes reminiscent of the Dukes of Hazard. Similar to the Rolex Series race, the 2.238-mile circuit was plenty slick as the 60 car field fought to manage tires…and their patience.
Co-drivers John Edwards and Matt Bell piloted the No. 9 Stevenson Motorsports Camaro GS.R through the field to repeat their victory from 2011 at Mazda Raceway in the Grand Touring (GT) class. A number of leaders were penalized for jumping the re-start and with just four laps to go the first and second place GT cars served stop-and-go penalties putting Edwards in position for the win. Effortlessly navigating the track, Edwards brought the No. 9 Camaro home for the win, the team’s first win of 2012.
The Street Tuner (ST) class saw their fair share of off-track action but in the end, it was the duo of Derek Whitis and Tom Long who brought the No. 25 Mazda/Semperfifund.org Mazda MX-5 for the win. While there were plenty of cautions, it was the caution periods that helped Long and company manage their tires to garner the win and vault them into the points lead.
“The Continental tires were awesome for us today,” said Long from victory lane. “It was easy to manage them. A lot easier than normal just because the continual cautions. It’s always tricky here at Mazda Raceway because you’ve got a lot of sand on the track so it makes it real slippery. It’s hard to get the tires up to temp and keep all the dirt and sand off of them.”
The GRAND-AM Series returns to action September 28 and 29 at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut. Make sure to tune in to Speed and MRN for all the live racing action.
Source: Continental Tire