October 1, 2020

IMSA Road Atlanta: Acura survives ultra-late restart to win

Prototype

The second half of the race started with Dane Cameron’s Acura Team Penske ARX-05 running 6sec ahead of Renger van der Zande’s Cadillac DPi-V.R of Wayne Taylor Racing, and Olivier Pla around a second behind in the #77 Mazda RT24-P. Then came Action Express Racing’s Filipe Albuquerque, Jonathan Bomarito in the second Mazda and a dozen seconds further back, Castroneves in the #7 Acura.

Van der Zande stopped the #10 with 2hr30m to go, and 15mins later, Pla was putting Cameron under pressure for the lead, when the Acura pitted and Pla tried to nail a super-fast lap before pitting. The tactic worked perfectly, co-driver Tristan Nunez emerging ahead of Cameron and then holding off the Acura, despite cold tires. Nunez then rocketed away from his pursuer, pulling 8sec in 4 laps.

Meanwhile Pipo Derani now in the #31 AXR Cadillac and Bomarito in the #55 Mazda had emerged ahead of van der Zande, and they started applying the pressure to Cameron before the four-hour mark.

Traffic then allowed Derani to pass Cameron but as he passed the GTD Lamborghini of GRT Magnus, then piloted by Spencer Pumpelly, the pair made contact which fired the Italian car off the track at high speed at Turn 4. That brought out the fourth caution of the race and all Prototypes pitted.

Nunez emerged easily in front, with Derani second, Cameron next, but the big gains came for the #7 Acura which came out in fourth with RTaylor at the wheel, and Wayne Taylor Racing which had installed Ryan Briscoe.

The Aussie emerged ahead of the #55 Mazda which Bomarito had relinquished to Ryan Hunter-Reay who would now have former IndyCar rival Sebastien Bourdais behind him. Then came news that Derani was to be given a drive-through penalty for incident responsibility.

Although they now had a clear run at the leading Mazda, the Acuras of Cameron and Taylor couldn’t gain substantially on him although they also remained unthreatened by Briscoe’s WTR Caddy. But then Nunez trailed into the pits after 4hr35min, and shut off the engine after hitting severe braking issues. That handed Acura a 1-2, 3sec ahead of Briscoe who was coming under pressure from Sebastien Bourdais in the JDC Miller Cadillac which had passed Hunter-Reay.

As they encountered traffic, Taylor moved ahead of Cameron to grab the lead and they pitted 6sec apart, the latter handing over to Juan Pablo Montoya. The former open-wheel ace soon came under severe pressure from Harry Tincknell who had taken over the #55 Mazda from Hunter-Reay and had jumped the WTR Cadillac and left behind Tristan Vautier who had replaced Bourdais in the JDC Miller car.

With Montoya having fallen 14sec behind teammate Taylor, he soon came under pressure from Tincknell, and with fewer than 55mins to go, the Mazda came through ahead and swiftly dropped him.

Multimatic stopped the #55 Mazda stopped with 35mins remaining, and Penske responded the following lap, bringing in Taylor and installing Castroneves. They emerged 9sec apart but within a couple of laps that would be down to 6.6sec.

Montoya and Briscoe pitted together next time by – a little too together, in fact – as the WTR Cadillac struck the rear of the #6 Acura. Briscoe ended with a fragment of the Acura in his front bodywork, and the rear bodywork of the Acura was rumpled. Briscoe emerged from the pits in third, but was given a drive-through for causing the incident, while replacement of the rear end of the ARX-05 caused Montoya to fall behind Vautier’s JDC Miller Cadillac.

Briscoe’s penalty caused fury for Wayne Taylor, who told NBCSN: “I got notification from journalists in Europe to say ‘Why the hell did Montoya brake-check you?’ And clearly Ryan was in the car, and he knows that [Montoya] brake checked him. But the starter stand says ‘no, it was before the [pit speed] line.’

“It’s disgraceful for a professional driver to do that. This would have put us into the lead of the championship by a long way, he just screwed our race. There’s nothing wrong with the car, but we’re going to be last. It’s pathetic.”

Briscoe said: “I was following Montoya in the pits, I got down to the speed limit and then sorta cruised into it, and then as I did that and we were inside the pitlane, I don’t know what he was doing, he hit the brake pedal. And I hit the brakes, but it was too late.

“We were going about 15mph under the speed limit of pit lane at that point. I’d like to talk to him, to see what was going on, he must’ve missed his mark or something. Unfortunately in this series there’s no tolerance if you hit someone up the back.”

Tincknell got his deficit to Castroneves down to 5sec with 25mins remaining, but then it expanded and contracted according to traffic. In fact the bigger battle, with 20mins to go, was occurring 40sec behind them. Vautier’s third place came under pressure from Montoya and Felipe Nasr in the Action Express Cadillac.

Then with 12mins remaining, the trio came up to pass Toni Vilander’s GTD Ferrari and Vautier looked as if he may have knocked the 488 off the track at Turn 4. It rejoined the track just in time to punt Montoya’s Acura into a spin and into the wall.

The race got restarted with time for two laps, Castroneves holding off Tincknell, Nasr, Vautier and Briscoe.

GT Le Mans

While Frederic Makowiecki in the #911 Porsche 911 RSR held the lead ahead of the two BMW M8s of Bruno Spengler and John Edwards and the two Corvette C8.Rs, there was dreadful luck for the Earl Bamber/Laurens Vanthoor combo. The #912 car lost three laps with 2hr30m to go, with a long stop to repair a broken rear brake line, caused by tire debris.

With the fourth caution of the race, everyone pitted and Makowiecki retained the lead ahead of Spengler, but Edwards’ BMW fell to fourth behind Jordan Taylor’s #3 Corvette. The #4 Corvette, with Tommy Milner at the wheel, was now back in the game… but only in terms of numbers. The M8s had the edge over the C8s at this stage, and just before the 4hr30m mark, Edwards muscled his way past Taylor to claim third.

In the final stop, Makowiecki handed off to Tandy, but in the early stages of his final stint, Tandy dropped behind Connor De Phillippi (replacing Spengler in the #25 BMW), Milner who would soon set the fastest GTLM lap of the race, and Jesse Krohn (taking over from Edwards in BMW #24). By contrast, Antonio Garcia in the #3 Corvette running fifth was able to keep Tandy’s Porsche in sight but couldn’t get close enough to pass without the aid of traffic. Later, Garcia missed out altogether, thanks to a puncture.

Following the late restart, BMW held onto its 1-3, Milner keeping the Corvette between them, and Krohn holding off Tandy.

GT Daytona

Corey Lewis in the Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracan held an 8sec lead over Matt McMurry in the #86 Meyer Shank Racing Acura, while Spencer Pumpelly was third in the GRT Magnus Lamborghini, ahead of Aaron Telitz in the #12 Lexus RC F, Pat Long in the Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R, and Cooper MacNeill’s WeatherTech Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488.

Pumpelly would soon pit and drop to seventh, but then made contact with the AXR Cadillac, which fired the Lamborghini off the track into the interim tire wall, which slowed him remarkably well before he struck the second. Mercifully, Pumpelly was able to walk away.

The pitstop sequence held in the subsequent yellow saw Meyer Shank Racing send its #86 car out in the lead, now with Mario Farnbacher in the lead, with Townsend Bell second for AIM Vasser Sullivan. Paul Miller Racing had fallen to third with Madison Snow at the wheel, just ahead of the second Lexus now piloted by Jack Hawksworth. Jeff Westphal in the WeatherTech Racing Ferrari 488 ran fifth ahead of Jan Heylen in the Wright Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R.

Those latter two would swap at the restart, and a couple of laps later, Hawksworth passed Snow for third, but the former IndyCar driver suffered a cut right-front tire, that allowed Snow, Heylen and Westphal into third, fourth and fifth. Not long after, Bell in the other Lexus would also lose out to Snow and Heylen, and he would later slip behind Westphal’s Ferrari.

Following the final stops, Farnbacher remained in front as Bryan Sellers’ PMR Lambo and Pat Long in the Wright 911 waged an intriguing battle over second, with Vilander closing in on them. Lawson Aschenbach ran fifth in the Riley Mercedes-AMG GT3 ahead of Bell’s Lexus.

Vilander’s demise allowed Bell back into fifth ahead of the Heart of Racing Aston Martin Vantage.

Race results:

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