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TUSCC: Diaz and Goikhberg Complete Clean Sweeps At VIR

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DANVILLE, Va. — Luiz Diaz did not need to be reminded about what happened a few months ago at Kansas Speedway in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship’s Prototype Challenge division. His 8Star Motorsports co-driver Sean Rayhall had given him the pole after a flawless run in race one of the doubleheader, only to have Diaz lose the advantage early in race two and never recover. On Sunday morning at Virginia International Raceway, Diaz took advantage of a second chance to claim glory.

Starting again from the pole, Diaz hung tough over the full 45-minute distance of race two of the Oak Tree Grand Prix and despite not holding a lead of bigger than 1.2 seconds at any point of the event managed to hold on to complete a clean sweep of the doubleheader for the Enzo Potolicchio-run team. It was not a free pass for the orange-liveried entry as three other drivers made sure of that.

CORE Autosport’s Colin Braun who denied Diaz the victory in the season’s first doubleheader at Kansas, quickly made his way through the field and into the top four, as did his points championship rival Renger van der Zande of Starworks Motorsport who started the race from last. Early on, the battle was between van der Zande and Braun themselves as they were held back by RSR Racing’s Alex Tagliani, who was not in the running for the win after the entry had hit mechanical problems in the opening race on Saturday when Chris Cumming handled the driving chores.

The defense by Tagliani allowed his RSR teammate Bruno Junqueira, who started alongside Diaz on row one to focus solely on the 8Star entry in the first twenty minutes of the Sunday sprint. Unfortunately, Junqueira would not be a contender for the finish as the Brazilian trying to avoid contact with slower Prototype Lites traffic spun off the course at the Oak Tree Corner. Although he would recover, the incident knocked him out of contention, No longer needing to aid his teammate, Tagliani moved aside for van der Zande and Braun allowing them to zero in on Diaz.

Braun’s best chance to claim the lead came with ten minutes to go, when Diaz got briefly held up by traffic and Braun darted to the inside at the same Oak Tree Corner. Diaz defended forcing Braun to slam on the brakes to avoid contact. The move however, inadvertently allowed van der Zande to re-pass him for second a move that would again be reversed before the checkered flag.

Diaz finally secured the win with six minutes to run, as Junqueira trying to salvage a finish lost control in the Snake turns and made heavy contact with the barriers. The car was badly damaged, but the RSR pilot was able to exit the car under his own power.

The win is the first in Prototype Challenge competition for 8Star, who debuted in the class at last year’s Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta. Braun held off van der Zande for second to further pad his lead in the points championship, while van der Zande’s Starworks teammate Kyle Marcelli finished fourth and Performance Tech Motorsports’ David Ostella finished off the first five.

In the Cooper Tires Prototype Lites division, Mikhail Goikhberg apparently enjoyed clinching the series title with a win Saturday afternoon at VIR, maybe too much so, as the Canadian in the early moments fell well behind his teammate Matt McMurry and Andrew Novich who both finished behind him in race one on Saturday. However, as the 45-minute event reached its final 15 minutes on Sunday morning, the champ proved why he’s the champ. With ten minutes to go, Goikhberg caught and passed a fading Novich for second, but still had almost three seconds to make up to catch McMurry. Amazingly, within two more laps Goikhberg had not only caught McMurry, but he was past him and pulling away as the previously mentioned full course yellow brought the race to an early end.

The 16-year old McMurry settled for second followed by Novich, Christian Potolicchio, and John Falb who led the Masters Division runners in fifth place.

 

 

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About Matt Embury

Matt Embury is the Senior SportsCar Writer at Rubbings Racing and can be followed on Twitter (@MattEmbury) for the latest sports car news and opinions. A native of Mishawaka, Indiana, he has been following sports car racing for nearly 20 years.

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