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IMSA Corvettes Have Big Day At Road America

| , RacinToday.com Monday, August 8 2016
The No. 31 Action Express Racing Corvette Daytona Prototype driven by Dane Cameron and Eric Curran raced to victory Sunday at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis. (Photo by Richard Prince for Chevy Racing)

The No. 31 Action Express Racing Corvette Daytona Prototype driven by Dane Cameron and Eric Curran raced to victory Sunday at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis. (Photo by Richard Prince for Chevy Racing)

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Action Express Racing scored its third consecutive 1-2 finish in IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship competition Sunday at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis.

Dane Cameron and Eric Curran defended their 2015 Road America victory while scoring their second consecutive win of the season in the No. 31 Corvette Daytona Prototype. Teammates Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi took second – 0.626 seconds back in the No. 5 Action Express Corvette DP – and saw their lead trimmed to one point (253-252) in a bid for a third consecutive title.

“It’s great to see what this team has done since building it up in 2010,” said Cameron, who scored his series-leading ninth victory in WeatherTech Championship competition. “You can see what we’ve come to in the last few weekends. The cars are very close, the results and pace weekend-to-weekend shows that when we come to the race track, they are almost identical and each car has the same chance to win. So we’re going to keep running our race right now and it seems to be working for us. We have our own battles to fight for our championship.”

Brothers Ricky and Jordan Taylor gave Corvette DPs a sweep of the podium, finishing 1.460 seconds back in the No. 10 Corvette DP, followed by John Pew and Ozz Negri in the No. 60 Michael Shank Racin Honda Ligier JS P2.

Polesitters Jonathan Bomarito and Tristan Nunez placed fifth in the No. 55 Mazda Motorsports Mazda Prototype. The pair led three times for 35 laps – with Nunez turning the fastest lap of the race – but a pair of out-of-sequence green-flag pit stops dropped them from contention.

The third caution flag of the race set up a three-lap sprint to the finish with five minutes remaining. Cameron was able to hold off Barbosa and Jordan Taylor, while Negri and Nunez were too far back in traffic to mount a challenge.

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In GT Le Mans:

Restarting fifth with only five minutes remaining, Corvette Racing pulled out a surprising victory Sunday at Road America as  Tommy Milner navigated a series of incidents in the closing laps and made a last-lap pass on the No. 67 Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT of Richard Westbrook to win get the victory with co-driver Oliver Gavin.

It was the fourth WeatherTech win and sixth podium of the season for the GT Le Mans points-leading No. 4 Corvette Racing Corvette C7.R.

“It was extraordinary, it was an epic win for us,” said Gavin, who watched Milner carve through the field. “Everyone was in disbelief. I think there were plenty of people at the truck thinking, how’d we win that?”

Lined up directly behind the Prototype leaders on the final restart, Westbrook tried to hold off the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE of Toni Vilander for the lead when the No. 911 Porsche North America Porsche 911 RSR of Nick Tandy got a run on the leading Ford and Ferrari from third. Tandy moved to the inside of the top two for the lead when contact forced his Porsche into a spin in Turn 5.

That moved Milner into the third position after he also got around the No. 912 Porsche North America Porsche 911 RSR of Frederic Makowiecki. Milner found himself in second with two laps remaining when Vilander’s Ferrari spun after making contact with the No. 55 Mazda Prototype of Tristan Nunez.

Despite a one-second lead, Westbrook’s wounded Ford was no match for Milner who made the winning pass on the final lap and went onto win by 0.730 seconds.

“It was a wild swing of emotions,” said Milner of the final three laps. “My mindset at the end of the race was to hopefully catch the Porsche in front of me and try to make something there. During the yellow they said on the radio there was a chance we could restart but we might finish under yellow. I went from bummed to not being able to race for fourth to seeing all of the guys ahead of us.

“Then seeing the Ford in the lead, knowing how close we are in points, I sort of hoped we’d be there. Everything happened in front of me. The Porsche spun, then the Ferrari got taken out, I got some help for sure. I was able to get by the 912 and then get close to the Ford. It looked like they were a little hurt, but I don’t know how we went from fifth with three laps to go.”

Westbrook and co-driver Ryan Briscoe finished second and now sit 13 points, 264-251, behind Milner and Gavin with just three races remaining.

The No. 100 BMW Team RLL BMW M6 GTLM of John Edwards and Lucas Luhr rounded out the GTLM podium. The series of late-race incidents relegated the Ferrari of Vilander and co-driver Giancarlo Fisichella to fifth, and the Porsche of Tandy and co-driver Patrick Pilet to seventh.

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In GT Daytona:

Jeroen Bleekemolen in the No. 33 Dodge Viper GT3-R beat the No. 73 Porsche 911 GT3 R of Joerg Bergmeister and Patrick Lindsey to the finish line by 1.76 seconds.

It was the second win of the season for Bleekemolen and co-driver Ben Keating, and closed their GT Daytona points deficit to 21 points, 243-222, behind the series-leading No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GTE of Christina Nielsen and Alessandro Balzan, who finished third.

“I didn’t like that last yellow,” said Bleekemolen. “I had Robin Liddell behind me, he was a little quicker. Then I got a break in the traffic and it was then that the yellow came out. It was like war out there; every class was fighting for position.”

Despite restarting second, Liddell and co-driver Andrew Davis wound up fifth following the closing laps in the No. 6 Audi R8 LMS GT3.

Andy Lally and John Potter finished fourth in the No. 44 Magnus Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3. Entering the race second in GTD points, 13 points back, Lally and Potter enter the final three-race stretch still second in the standings, but now sit 15 points, 243-228, behind Scuderia Corsa and the duo of Nielsen and Balzan.

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In Prototype Challenge:

Tom Kimber-Smith passed Jose Gutierrez to take the lead just before the midway point, and led the final 39 laps to score the second Prototype Challenge victory of the season in the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA FLM09. Robert Alon started the car on the outside of the front row and led twice for five laps during his stint.

A key moment came with 13 minutes remaining when Renger van der Zande and Stephen Simpson crashed in Turn 9 while battling for second, eliminating both contenders. Van der Zande and co-driver Alex Popow entered the race with a 17-point lead, winning three races among seven consecutive podium finishes for the No. 8 Starworks Motorsport ORECA. The DNF cut their lead to seven points over Alon and Kimber-Smith, 293-286.

“We knew we had to win, and I suppose we wanted the other team (Starworks) to have a bad race,” said Kimber-Smith, coming off a second-place finish at Lime Rock Park. “Now we have to do it again. The car was super quick. Robert did a great job with his limited driving experience, it shows he’s getting better every race. Knowing Colin [Braun], and racing him so many years, he’s always going to make a move after the safety car [on the final restart]. We raced pretty hard, but I was able to put a gap on him through the traffic.”

Braun and Jon Bennett finished second in the No. 54 CORE Autosport ORECA, 2.557 seconds behind. Kyle Marcelli and TOTAL Pole Award winner James French of nearby Sheboygan, Wis., finished third in the No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports ORECA, while Gutierrez finished fourth in the No. 7 Starworks Motorsport entry co-driven by Gustavo Yacaman.

 

| , RacinToday.com Monday, August 8 2016
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