Sports Car

TUSCC: Taylor and BMW Bank Wins At Long Beach


The nightmare conclusion at the Rolex 24 at Daytona that has haunted Wayne Taylor Racing’s Chevrolet Corvette DP team since January can perhaps now be put on the back burner. Thanks to the efforts of brothers Ricky and Jordan Taylor, the Konica-Minolta sponsored machine went nearly wire-to-wire from the pole position Saturday afternoon to win the Tequila Patron Sports Car Showcase at Long Beach, the third stop of the 2015 TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.

Despite constant pressure from the Chip Ganassi Racing Ford EcoBoost Riley DP of Scott Pruett and Joey Hand, the Taylor brothers were the class of the field for most of the 100-minute distance and were quick to reverse a post pit stop advantage gained by Hand when Jordan Taylor outdueled the Ganassi driver at the end of the Shoreline Drive straight with 44 minutes remaining. Hand would close up to the rear wing of the No. 10 Corvette DP several times prior to the finish, but could never get in a position to make a serious challenge for the lead before the checkered flag.

The win is the first for the Taylor squad since they concluded the 2014 TUSCC season with an overall victory at the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta. Behind the lead duo, three more Corvette DPs would round out the top five. Racing’s Michael Valiante was able to stay with the leaders in the first 20 minutes, but slowly began to fade back off the P1 fight and despite the efforts of Richard Westbrook, the former Spirit of Daytona squad settled for the final spot on the podium. Action Express Racing would claim fourth and fifth overall, with Dane Cameron getting around his teammate Joao Barbosa just prior to the race’s conclusion. It is first time in 2015 that the Whelen-backed No. 31 entry has topped the No. 5 Mustang Sampling team in the final results, surprising considering the latter entry won at Sebring convincingly last month.

While the DPs had their way upfront, Long Beach was a rough ride for the LMP2-eligible cars. Michael Shank Racing, running essentially a brand new Ligier-Honda coupe after all but destroying their former entry at Sebring would lead the charge with a sixth-place finish, while mechanical issues once again eliminated the DeltaWing Racing entry in the early moments. Both Mazda diesels were running at the finish, but never posed a major challenge to the front runners in the Prototype division.

The major action on Saturday afternoon at the twisty 1.9 mile street circuit occurred in the GT Le Mans division, as Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing ended a nearly two-year winless streak for the BMW Z4 as Dirk Werner and local Californian Bill Auburlen grabbed the top step of the podium. The pair of RLLR beemers swept the front row in the grand touring class in Friday qualifying, but quickly lost out to Risi Competizione Ferrari’s Giancarlo Fisichella who jumped from third to first before the field had reached turn one on the opening lap.

The Italian then proceeded to handle extreme pressure from both Auburlen and John Edwards over the first 40 minutes, when he handed off to teammate Pierre Kaffer at the only pit stop required to make the 100-minute distance. BMW’s challenge took a hit during the stops, as a problem relegated the Auburlen entry, now in the hands of Werner back to fourth place. Perhaps using the new adversity as motivation, Werner quickly chased down Corvette Racing’s Antonio Garcia to earn third place and then was allowed through by teammate Lucas Luhr for second. Werner then began his pursuit of Kaffer, who held a comfortable five second with 20 minutes to go.

Suddenly however, the Risi Competizione Ferrari 458 Italia began to come back to Werner, the victim of worn down tires and fading brakes. The BMW driver quickly caught Kaffer and was right on his bumper as the battle made its way down the Seaside Way backstraight. The Risi pilot would outbrake himself for turn nine, opening the door for Werner to move on past and quickly pull away with ten minutes to run.

Despite the setback, Risi Competizione team would hang on to the checkers to secure runner-up honors. While the No. 25 BMW squad celebrated, the mood was more bittersweet for the sister No. 24 machine as Lucas Luhr spun away a podium finish at turn eight in the final moments. The error promoted Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen of Corvette Racing onto the podium for the third time this season, but not before a late challenge from Porsche North America’s Fred Makowiecki, who along with co-driver Patrick Pilet would claim fourth at the finish. The spin would relegate Luhr and BMW co-driver Edwards to fifth.

Round four of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship will take place on Sunday May 3rd at Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca. All four classes will be present on the track at the same time this year as opposed to two separate events held a season ago.


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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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