Laguna notes: Long day for Ganassi team, DeltaWing, Viper and others

Ferrari wins DEKRA Green Challenge -- again.

Laguna notes: Long day for Ganassi team, DeltaWing, Viper and others
#01 Chip Ganassi Ford/Riley: Scott Pruett, Joey Hand
#01 Chip Ganassi Ford/Riley: Scott Pruett, Joey Hand
#62 Risi Competizione Ferrari F458: Pierre Kaffer, Giancarlo Fisichella, Olivier Beretta
Continental Tires
#33 Riley Motorsports SRT Viper GT3-R: Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen

While the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship’s Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix Powered by Mazda was a triumphant weekend for multiple teams, it was a long day for several others that had hoped for a good weekend at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

One of the most disappointed: The No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Ford EcoBoost Riley Daytona Prototype of Scott Pruett and Joey Hand, which qualified a strong second behind the polesitting Chevrolet Corvette DP of Wayne Taylor Racing.

The Ganassi Ford suffered transmission problems and struggled to maintain speed, finishing 23rd overall, and seventh in the Prototype class, nine laps down. The team had been gathering momentum, with a second-place finish at Long Beach two weeks ago.

Also not having the sort of weekend they wanted was the No. 33 GT Daytona Riley Dodge Viper SRT of Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen, the winning team from the season-opening Rolex 24 Hours at Daytona. In the first few laps Keating slid off the pavement into the dirt after hitting a part of the track's metal drainage grating that came lose, wiping out a few track signs and slicing off a chunk of the front end. They fixed the car and persevered, but finished 32nd of the 35 starters.

The innovative DeltaWing started sixth, and drivers Katharine Legge and Memo Rojas were hoping for some luck, but it didn’t come: The exhaust manifold broke, and the team replaced it and returned to the track, before brake issues sidelined them for good. “We know we’re not that far off, we just need to keep working hard and keep pushing,” Rojas said. They finished 34th, one spot ahead of the No. 07 Mazda SKYACTIV Prototype of Tom Long and Joel Miller, which retired early with a spun bearing in the diesel engine. The sister No. 70 SKYACTIV car ran well, as Jonathan Bomarito and Tristan Nunez qualified eighth and finished seventh, leading seven laps at the manufacturer’s home track.

GREEN CHALLENGE GOES TO FERRARI AGAIN: First Sebring, then Long Beach, and now Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca: The No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 458 Italia won the DEKRA Green Challenge Award for the third time. It is a separate competition within the GT Le Mans class The DEKRA Green Challenge Award is presented to the most environmentally clean, fast and efficient GTLM competitor at each TUDOR Championship race.

The DEKRA Green Challenge award is determined through Green Racing protocols established by the United States Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency and Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) International as part of a strategic alliance with IMSA. Risi drivers Pierre Kaffer and Giancarlo Fisichella finished the race 13th overall, fourth in the GTLM class.

IT IS, AFTER ALL, MAZDA RACEWAY: The weekend saw a doubleheader for the Battery Tender Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BF Goodrich tires series, a training ground for many of the competitors in the TUDOR Championship. John Dean won race 1, and Patrick Gallagher took race 2. There was also an invitational race for NASA MX-5 champions – that was won by Matthew Powers. In addition, the all-new 2016 Mazda MX-5 Cup race car made its first public appearance on track – next year the car will be used in global racing series.

A LOT OF RUBBER: Continental brought about 3,000 tires to the Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix Powered By Mazda. Many were, necessarily, rain tires, but those weren’t needed under the near-cloudless skies.

POINTS STANDINGS: Today’s victory by the VisitFlorida.com Prototype Corvette sent drivers Richard Westbrook and Michael Valiante to the top of the charts, moving past Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi of the No. 5 Action Express DP. There’s a long way to go, though – we’re about one-third of the way through the TUDOR Championship season, with eight races remaining.

NEXT UP: For the TUDOR Championship Prototype, Prototype Challenge and GT Daytona classes, it’s the Chevrolet Sports Car Classic in Detroit May 29-30. The GT Le Mans teams are off that weekend, as it conflicts with practice for the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which several of the teams plan to contend. All four classes will be back together for the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen at Watkins Glen in New York on June 26-28.

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Westbrook, Valiante take TUDOR Championship win at Laguna

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