Saturday's race at COTA will be critical to championship contenders.
With racing starting in January and ending in October, the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship is, start to finish, one of the longest seasons in motorsports.
With only two races remaining, you’d think a couple of teams would have, by now, stretched out a comfortable lead in the championship points battle.
And you’d be wrong. All four TUDOR Championship classes are up for grabs, especially in the Prototype class, where a scant two points separate the top three contenders.
Michael Valiante and Richard Westbrook, drivers of the No. 90 VisitFlorida.com Chevrolet Corvette Daytona Prototype, are in the lead with 248 points each.
With 247 points, the Action Express No. 5 Corvette DP drivers, Christian Fittipaldi and Joao Barbosa, are looking to defend their 2014 championship. But they will have to beat their Action Express teammates, Eric Curran and Dane Cameron, who have really come into their own this season driving the No. 31 Corvette DP. They each have 246 points.
So how close is that battle? The difference between first and second in this weekend’s Lone Star Le Mans at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, is three points. If one of these three teams win, they’ll likely carry the points lead to the final race, Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta October 3rd.
Ganassi needs another COTA win
Especially interesting is that none of those three teams won last year at COTA. The victory went to the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Ford-Riley of Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas. And fourth in the points standings are Pruett and 2015 co-driver Joey Hand, with 232 points. Pruett and Hand have two second-place finishes this year, and would love to cap the season with a win at COTA, or Road Atlanta, or both.
The two-hour, 40-minute race is expected to be a hot one. “To win,” said No. 5 Action Express driver Fittipaldi, “I feel that I have to believe in myself that we are the team to beat. The competition is going to be tough. Anyone who wins is going to have to have some luck on their side and the stars have to align a little bit.”
It’s their No. 31 team car, though, that is carrying the momentum to Austin, as Curran and Cameron won at the most recent Prototype race, at Road America, and scored a second-place finish at the race before that, at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.
“Eric and I will really look to use COTA as a place where we can move up one spot or maybe jump to the lead in the championship standings,” said Cameron. “It’s the last sprint race of the season so you’ve got to execute perfectly.”
Prototype challenge close, too
Prototype isn’t the only class where the points battle is fierce. In Prototype Challenge, Colin Braun and teammate Jon Bennett of CORE Autosport bring a five-point lead to Texas over Tom Kimber-Smith and Mike Guasch in the PT1/Mathasian car.
In GT Le Mans, Porsche North America driver Patrick Pilet has a five-point lead over Corvette Racing’s Antonio Garcia and his teammate, Jan Magunssen. And In GT Daytona, TRG-AMR Aston Martin driver Christina Nielsen hasn’t won a race this season, but consistency gives her a six-point lead over Scuderia Corsa Ferrari drivers Townsend Bell and Bill Sweedler.
The Lone Star Le Mans, Round 11 of the 2015 TUDOR Championship, will be televised live on FOX Sports 2, beginning at 12:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, Sept. 19. The race will be rebroadcast on FS1 on Sunday, Sept. 20, beginning at 1:30 p.m. ET