TUDOR United SportsCar

TUSCC: Taylors Out-Duel Action Express To Win Petit Le Mans

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ATLANTA — Nine months ago at Daytona International Speedway, it came down to a 15-minute dash for the overall win in the Rolex 24 at Daytona. On that afternoon, Action Express Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais outlasted Wayne Taylor Racing’s Max Angelelli to take the victory. Fast forward to Saturday night at Road Atlanta, and it was the same two teams who battled to the finish, but this time WTR reversed the order. In the final seven minute dash, Jordan Taylor piloted his Dallara prepared Chevrolet Corvette DP across the finish line first edging Action Express Racing’s Christian Fittipaldi to win the Petit Le Mans Powered By Mazda. Taylor, who paired with his brother Ricky and Italian veteran Angelelli led a majority of the 400 total laps contested over the ten hour distance, surviving multiple dramas along the way that resulted in a race record 12 full course caution flags that were shown to the field.

Wayne Taylor Racing, who entered the 2014 TUDOR United SportsCar Championship as the defending Rolex Sports Car Series Prototype champions had only claimed one victory prior to the season finale, a race that also happened to involve a late duel with the Action Express Racing squad at Detroit in June. For Fittipaldi and his co-drivers Joao Barbosa and Bourdais Saturday was not a complete loss, as the second place result was enough to secure the TUSCC’s Prototype class Driver and Team championships for 2014 with Barbosa and Fittipaldi sharing the driver’s title honor.

While Chevrolet Corvette DPs dominated qualifying on Friday and in the race itself on Saturday, their Prototype class rivals also had their moments. Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Pruett, Memo Rojas, and Scott Dixon drove a competitive race to claim the final spot on the podium with their Riley-Ford EcoBoost DP. The trio could have challenged for the overall win, but contact with another car in the turn ten chicane with under two hours left ended their challenge. Also impressing everyone on Saturday was the improved performance from the odd looking DeltaWing coupe, which managed to claim the overall lead on two occassions during the ten hour event before settling for a fourth place finish. The DeltaWing driving team of Andy Meyrick, Katherine Legge, and Gabby Chaves had struggled just to finish races during the 2014 campaign, but managed a trouble free effort on Saturday to claim their best result of the season and for the machine in its coupe form. The Elan-powered vehicle featured a brand new front splitter and rear tail fin for Atlanta, some of the parts that will makeup a new and improved car for 2015.

For others in the Prototype division, it was a matter of what if. OAK Racing, entering their second race in North America with the new Ligier-Honda coupe, encountered mechanical difficulties early in the second hour of the event and later was eliminated from competition after incidental contact with the DeltaWing car sent the black and pink liveried machine into the barriers at turn one. Visitflorida.com Racing, who ran with the other two Corvette DPs for the first half of the race also found bad luck when an odd collision with a GT Daytona classed during a caution flag badly damaged the left side of their car and led to a result outside the top five in class.

For the victors, the win by Jordan and Ricky Taylor makes them the first American-born drivers to claim an overall win at the Petit Le Mans in the race’s 17-year history. They also become the first second generation drivers to win the event joining their father and team owner Wayne, who won the inaugural Petit Le Mans in 1998.

In Prototype Challenge, Starworks Motorsport overcame a lackluster effort in Friday qualifying to sneak in and claim an unexpected win on Saturday their third of the season. Mirco Schultis, Renger van der Zande, and Alex Popow had hung around the top five in class in a race where trouble found a majority of the PC runners at some point during the ten hour distance. The biggest dominoes however, would fall in the event’s final 15 minutes. 8Star Motorsports, which entered Atlanta off the strength of two straight victories had bounced back from a first hour spin to hold the lead for a majority of the race’s final four hours. However, with 15 minutes to go the chance for a three-peat to end the 2014 season was dashed when driver Sean Rayhall lost control in the Esses and made heavy contact with the outside wall. Rayhall would escape the accident without suffering injuries, but the win at that point looked ready to bounce over to the PR1-Mathiasen Motorsports team of Gunnar Jeannette and Frankie Montecalvo. Unfortunately, bad luck would also hit the Boggy Creek Camp sponsored entry when a flat tire occurred just as the field was approaching the green flag for the final restart. The ensuing unscheduled pit stop regulated PR1 to a third-place finish.

With the two misfortunes, van der Zande scooped up the lead and held off CORE Autosport’s Colin Braun over the final five minutes to claim the victory by just under 11 seconds. The runner up finish for Braun and his c0-drivers Jon Bennett and James Gue denied them a chance to win all four races in the 2014 North American Endurance Cup, but the result coupled with the DNF suffered by 8Star Motorsports was enough for CORE Autosport to secure the 2014 TUSCC PC Team Championship. Braun and Bennett had claimed the PC Driver’s Championship two weeks earlier in Texas.

In the GT Le Mans division, a bizarre incident during a third hour full course caution would greatly influence the remainder of the race and ultimately decide the team and driver’s series titles. At the pit exit, an IMSA officials showed the cars on the pit lane a stop sign, requiring those completing stops to wait till the field still on track had passed by the pits. The situation created a bottleneck of sorts that saw the Risi Competizione Ferrari, the No. 911 Porsche North America entry, and the No. 3 Corvette Racing C7.R collide, each suffering severe damage. The incident was devastating for the Corvette squad, which entered the weekend only seven points out of the GTLM championship lead.

With several contenders hampered, the scenarios eventually would move the defending Petit Le Mans champions from Team Falken Tire Porsche into contention and eventually into the lead for good to successfully repeat as the upper GT class winners at Petit Le Mans. The win is the second straight also for co-drivers Bryan Sellers and Wolf Henzler, while new team member Marco Holzer earned his first victory in a North American based event. The win is even more impressive when one considers that the Derrick Walker-run team is the only one in the GTLM division that does not receive direct manufacturer support. The factory-backed Porsche North America No. 912 machine of Patrick Long, Michael Christensen, and Earl Bamber would settle for second on Saturday, while the No. 91 SRT Motorsports Dodge Viper would round out the podium. The result secured the 2014 GTLM Driver’s championship for Kuno Wittmer, who shared the driving duties on Saturday with Ryan Hunter-Reay and Marc Goossens. SRT’s sister car would wrap up the 2014 team championship, despite only earning a sixth place finish.

Finally in the GT Daytona division, the Paul Miller Racing Audi R8 of Christopher Haase, Bryce Miller, and Matthew Bell would outlast a host of contenders to claim their long awaited first win of the season. Battling against a trio of Porsche GT Americas and a BMW Z4, the team which featured a special all black livery for the Petit Le Mans event used a strong final two hour surge from Haase to claim to the top spot for good with 20 minutes remaining. With the late full course caution, the veteran still had to fight hard to lock up the winning result, topping the Snow Racing Porsche of Jan Heylen and Madison Snow by three and a half seconds at the finish line. Magnus Racing’s John Potter, Marco Seefried, and Andy Lally placed a second Porsche on the GTD podium with a third place finish.

In the battle for the GTD class championships, Turner Motorsport’s Dane Cameron, Markus Palttala, and Christoffer Nygaard stayed near the front throughout the ten hour time limit before settling for a fourth place finish. With championship rivals AIM Autosport and Alex Job Racing finishing seventh and eighth respectively on Saturday, the Turner BMW squad was able to claim the team championship, while their driver Cameron claimed the driver’s championship.

Stay tuned to Rubbings Racing for coverage of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship off-season, leading to the start of the new season next January at Daytona.

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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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