One word can easily sum up the Lone Star Le Mans for the Tudor United SportsCar Championship: HOT! Track temperatures exceeded 116°F while drivers experienced an estimated 118°F in the cockpits of their machines. The race came down to fuel strategy as many of the teams had issues with finding the right balance between speed and efficiency.
Joey Hand and Scott Pruett were the class of the field in the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing Ford EcoBoost Riley DP. During the last stint of the race, it was hard to find a lap where Joey Hand wasn’t a full second faster than the next fastest car. It was speculated that maybe turbocharged cars could have an advantage with the extreme heat. However it’s looked at, the Ford EcoBoost technology proved superior under the high sun of the Texan skies.
Ricky Taylor piloted his Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP to the end. They were fast and had a great strategy, but knew early in the weekend that they would be outpaced. Their effort was good for second place, but only wins will bring smiles for a team that is out of the championship running.
Michael Valiente and Richard Westbrook will extend their championship lead with their podium finish at the Lone Star Le Mans. They now lead the Action Express sister teams by six points heading into the final race of the year at Petit Le Mans.
Both Action Express entries experienced trouble throughout the race including spins as well as car-to-car contact and penalties. The No. 31 Eric Curran/Dane Cameron entry spun due to the massive traffic jam into Turn 1 of the race. Later contact with the No. 8 LMPC entry required a drive-through penalty. Late in the race, contact between the No. 5 Joao Barbosa driven machine and Townsend Bell’s GTD required penalties for both machines, resulting the entry to P6 in class. This makes the 73rd lap of the Lone Star Le Mans to be the first lap that the No. 5 entry has not completed this year. Until today, they had completed every lap of the 2015 season.
The LMPC category played host to another exciting round of close fender-to-fender racing. Colin Braun and Jon Bennett brought home the victory, extending their points lead in the championship. Not long after Colin jumped into the car, the power steer system failed, leaving Colin with nothing but his own upper body strength to muscle the car around to the win. Bruno Junqueira and Chris Cumming finished in second in their No. 11 machine with James French and Conor Daly completing the podium in the No. 38 entry. Of note, Renger van der Zande finished the day early with the car expiring due to damage from an incident on track.
The GTLM field hosted some late-race drama as the class leader, Nick Tandy, including Porsche North America teammate, Joerg Bergmeister, were forced to head to the pits for fuel in the very late stages of the race. The lead and win were relinquished to BMW Team RLL’s Bill Auberlen who drove to the top sport in his No. 25 BMW Z4GTE. Pierre Kaffer in the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari F458 finished second, just under two seconds back. Third place went to the No. 911 Porsche driven by Tandy, not a bad salvage to a late race strategy call. Tandy’s teammate, Patrick Pilet, continues to lead the GTLM driver’s championship with a point lead of only three points over Auberlen and Dirk Werner.
Hometown heroes, Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen and the ViperExchange.com Riley Motorsports Dodge Viper SRT team won an exciting GTD race. Keating reported that he knew the car wouldn’t have the best pace, but the race came to them as several competitor found issues on the track. Michael Marsal and Markus Palttala finished the race in second in their No. 97 BMW Z4. The podium finished out with Christopher Haase bringing the No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Audi R8 LMS home with teammate Dion von Moltke.
The GTD class spent most of the field nose-to-tail snakelike through the curves of Circuit of the Americas. The championship is shaking out to be similar to the race leading into the final round. Christina Nielsen retains the lead after her eighth place finish. Just one point back is the Haase/von Moltke duo. Three points back in third is Townsend Bell and Bill Sweedler.
We’re getting set up for an exciting finish to the 2015 Tudor Championship. The final round is just two weeks away at Road America for the 10 hour classic, Petit Le Mans. Keep it tuned to @SlipstreamNET and SlipstreamNetwork.com for more on IMSA and the Petit Le Mans.