TUDOR United SportsCar

TUSCC: Risi, Turner Repeat At VIR

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DANVILLE, Va. — Momentum is infectious in all sports and can allow any team whether perfect in everything or just semi that way to be in some ways unbeatable. For now in the grand touring ranks of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, Risi Competizione and Turner Motorsport clearly have that factor in their favor, or at least it looks that way as in the Oak Tree Grand Prix at Virginia International Raceway Sunday afternoon, both teams claimed repeat victories backing up their successes from two weeks ago at Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.

For the former of the two current front runners, it did not look promising early, as the pole-winning Ferrari 458 Italia in the hands of Pierre Kaffer went off course on the second lap of the race and repeated the error later in the same stint, dropping to the back of the GT Le Mans class field. However, once co-driver Giancarlo Fisichella took over at the first pit stop, the fire red No. 62 machine started to move back into contention as problems hit other cars in the field and teams went on different pit strategies.

In the final twenty minutes of the two hour, 45 minute distance, a major upset appeared to be in the works as the Derrick Walker-led Team Falken Tire Porsche of Wolf Henzler and Bryan Sellers found itself at the front of the order trying to extend its fuel to score a surprise victory. Their strategy was further enhanced by a late full course caution with 15 minutes remaining, when the No. 911 Porsche North America entry suffered an engine failure. While the Falken-shod Porsche could now make the distance on gasoline, the yellow also allowed the Risi Ferrari of Fisichella to close right on his tail for the final restart with eight minutes left.

Henzler, loaned to Falken by the Porsche factory squad, did all he could to hold back the former Formula One driver, but on the final lap the Risi Ferrari finally was able to cleanly overtake the Falken car at the end of the Oak Tree Straight and hung on through the final three corners to cross the finish line in first.

As mentioned, the win is the second in succession for Risi Competizione and the second straight win at VIR as the team won the final American Le Mans Series race at VIR one year ago. Although Henzler could not hang on, the runner-up finish is easily the best result in 2014 for Team Falken and their first podium finish of the season. The result is also the first podium for the Porsche 911 RSR in several races, as the factory Porsche North America team has encountered tough luck and Team Falken has been unable to hold their own against the factory backed teams.

Behind the top two, the pair of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing BMW Z4s would come home in third and fourth overall with the entry of John Edwards and Dirk Mueller finishing in front of the sister entry of Andy Priaulx and Bill Auburlen. In terms of the battle for the GT Le Mans series championship,  the SRT Motorsports’ Dodge Viper of Jonathan Bomarito and Kuno Wittmer finished in fifth on Sunday, gaining further ground on Corvette Racing. The lead Corvette finished seventh with Antonio Garcia and Jordan Taylor, who replaced Jan Magnussen in the No. 3 Corvette C7.R after the Danish driver suffered a hard crash in practice on Saturday morning and was not cleared to compete. With Magnussen not earning any points this weekend, the focus on the drivers’ title is now solely with Garcia in the remaining two races at Austin, Texas and Atlanta.

As for Turner Motorsport, they found themselves in the winning spot after chasing the lead early thanks to a blistering first stint from Snow Racing Porsche driver Jan Heylen. As the No. 58 Porsche fell out of contention due to fuel strategy, the Turner BMW used an aggressive plan to claim the lead when Dane Cameron took over for Markus Palttala. However, Turner still had to fight off a stern challenge from Scuderia Corsa Ferrari’s Alessandro Balzan in the final moments to grasp the win.

The victory is the fourth in 2014 for the Turner Motorsport team allowing them to close in further on the championship contenders. The result puts Cameron less than 10 points behind the Alex Job Racing Porsche of Leh Keen and Cooper MacNeil, whose fifth place finish Sunday at VIR was good enough to push them ahead of former title leaders Townsend Bell and Bill Sweedler of AIM Autosport Ferrari, who finished a disappointing eighth on Sunday.

Among the top five, Balzan and his Scuderia Corsa teammate Jeff Westphal claimed runner-up honors on the day, while the Oak Tree Grand Prix was also a breakthrough moment for the Porsche supported team of Patrick Dempsey Racing. The Grey’s Anatomy star made a strong charge from the back of the grid in the first stint of the race, before handing the car over to co-driver Andrew Davis in prime position at the first pit stop. Despite multiple attacks from others in the remaining 90 minutes, Davis managed to bring the car home in third place, the best result for the team in the 2014 TUSCC campaign.

Also gaining ground in the championship hunt was the Paul Miller Racing Audi R8 of Christopher Haase and Bryce Miller who overtook the Alex Job Porsche on the final restart to finish fourth.

The TUDOR United SportsCar Championship is off until mid September, when the series arrives at the Circuit of the Americas for the much anticipated Lone Star Le Mans Grand Prix.

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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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