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TUSCC: Visitflorida.com Racing Makes It Four Winners In Four Races

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The numbers may be more limited than the inaugural season of the TUDOR United Sportscar Championship could offer, but based on the results of Sunday’s Continental Tire Monterrey Grand Prix at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, the field of contenders in the headliner Prototype division features many teams capable of claiming the big trophies on any given race day. Troy Flis’ Visitflorida.com Racing Chevrolet Corvette DP team proved this by becoming the fourth different team in four events this season to claim the top step of the podium. The performance was far from a win that just fell into their lap. From the drop of the green flag to the finish two hours, 40 minutes later, co-drivers Michael Valiente  and Richard Westbrook, plus their pit crew out-dueled the competition.

Valiante charged from the inside of the second row to get the lead before the end of the first lap and then held off the pole winning Corvette DP of Wayne Taylor Racing’s Jordan Taylor until the Canadian got boxed in by slower GT traffic 27 minutes into the race, allowing the Konica Minolta-backed machine to claim the top spot. When Richard Westbrook and Ricky Taylor took over, the top two had pretty much split from the remainder of the top class rivals and began their two-way duel. The battle was ultimately decided during the final round of pit stops. WTR blinked first and despite having a clean pitstop, Ricky Taylor would be badly balked by slower traffic costing him valuable time over the course of the next three laps. With clear space ahead of him, Westbrook fired off fast lap after fast lap before coming onto the pit lane for his final required service. The Visitflorida.com crew were equally quick and managed to get the British veteran to the pit exit just before Taylor arrived. Traffic would continually hamper the WTR driver over the final 25 minutes and despite never falling more than five seconds behind, Taylor would never get in a position to challenge Westbrook for the lead and would settle for second place honors.

The win is the first for the former Spirit of Daytona squad since they claimed the overall win at last year’s Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen at Watkins Glen International in New York. Despite settling for runner-up honors, Wayne Taylor Racing claims the championship lead after four rounds on the strength of three consecutive finishes of second or better dating back to the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring in March. Michael Shank Racing’s Ligier-Honda coupe rounded out of the podium at Laguna Seca on Sunday, but their own issues prevented them from making the finish a three-way affair. Starting driver John Pew, in an attempt to clear slower traffic on a restart was forced off the road exiting the Andretti Hairpin, possibly causing damage to the car that affected its performance once Pew handed off to teammate Oswaldo Negri, Jr. Despite posting some laps equal to the lead duo, the off course excursion put Negri too far behind to allow for a comeback. MSR was hoping to repeat the feats of fellow LMP-2 eligible prototype runners Extreme Speed Motorsports, who won the overall event at Laguna Seca one year ago.

In the Prototype Challenge class, Paul Gentilozzi’s RSR Racing team used impressive fuel mileage going an amazing 35 laps on its last fuel stint to claim the team’s first victory since last year’s Brickyard Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Starting driver Chris Cumming held firm at the head of the class in the first half of the race and Bruno Junqueira further extended the lead, even outrunning CORE autosport’s Colin Braun, who most experts say is the top driver in the division. Although CORE is still winless in 2015, their runner-up finish makes up significant ground in the points championship on PR1-Mathiasen Motorsports, who finished well back on Sunday after being forced to make repairs to multiple mechanical maladies during the two hour, 40 minute distance. Brent O’Neill’s Performance Tech Motorsports team claimed third place at the checkered flag for the second consecutive race to complete the podium.

The 2014 winless campaign for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing in the GT Le Mans class has been all but forgotten in the past three weeks as the team claimed their second win in succession on Sunday. The Continental Tire Monterrey Grand Prix became an inter-team scrimmage for the beemer brigade as an opportunity in traffic at Laguna Seca’s tight turn 11 allowed Lucas Luhr to make an outside pass on Dirk Werner 3o minutes into the race, a pass that would give the No. 24 BMW Z4 GTE the upper hand on its No. 25 sister car for good. Even when Bill Auburlen took over at half distance, the Long Beach race winner could not bring back the other German machine back, as it was taken to the finish by John Edwards.

Behind the BMWs, Porsche North America would finish out the first three with Michael Christensen and Patrick Pilet at the controls. It was a busy day for the former of the two, as Christensen started the team’s second 911 RSR, which Jorg Bergmeister brought home to a fifth place finish.

Finally in the GT Daytona class, Patrick Lindsey turned his outstanding TOTAL Pole Award run on Saturday into a victory on Sunday for his Park Place Motorsports Porsche GT America, he co-drove with Spencer Pumpelly. The victory was hard earned by Pumpelly in the final minutes as the veteran had two fronts to deal with. The first was a persistent Paul Miller Racing Audi R8 LMS driven by Christopher Haase behind him, the second was concerns about whether the No. 73 Porsche would have the necessary fuel to finish. Thankfully both issues turned to the advantage of Pumpelly, who claimed a bit of revenge at Laguna Seca in the process when he crossed the finish line. Just one year ago, Pumpelly had dominated the race in GTD for Flying Lizard Motorsports only to lose it in the last half a lap after running out of fuel exiting the famous Corkscrew corner.

Despite falling short Sunday, the second place finish for Haase and co-driver Dion von Moltke is the best effort for an Audi R8 entrant this season. Sebring GTD winners Team Seattle would place a second Porsche on the podium, with Indianapolis 500 bound Townsend Bell pairing with Bill Sweedler to finish fourth on Sunday for Scuderia Corsa’s Ferrari team.

 

 

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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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