Renger van der Zande and Alex Popow piloted their No. 8 Starworks Motorsports Oreca FLM09 to win the IMSA WeatherTech NorthEast Grand Prix at Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Connecticut. Also taking class wins were the Corvette Racing C7.R of Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner in the GTLM category and Magnus Racing team of Andy Lally and John Potter in their Audi R8 LMS.
Van der Zande held off the charging No. 52 of Tom Kimber-Smith late in the race for the victory. The LMPC category had their work cut out for them as the short 1.5-mile circuit placed host to 31 racecars for the two-hour, forty-minute sprint race. With a field of race cars that looked more like battle-scarred pod racers, there was action all through the traditional sports car feature. The Kimber-Smith/Robert Alon PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports No. 52 finished second, followed by James French and Kyle Marcelli in the No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports entry.
Taking the checkered flag in GTLM, Gavin led a Corvette Racing 1-2 with Antonio Garcia closely in tow. Gavin gives Corvette their 100th win and the team earned the marque’s 60th 1-2 finish. Gavin was able to move past the No. 62 Ferrari of Giancarlo Fisichella after a couple of off-track excursions resulted in the Italian driver losing three positions after the final pit stop cycle.
After late-race pit stops allowed the Riley Motorsports Dodge Viper GT3-R of Jeroen Bleekemolen to jump from eighth to first in class, a frantic GTD class provided for a great battle to the end. The Viper suffered from a broken rear diffuser, but Lally took firm control over the class with a very commanding pass into the lead. The Viper would finish third, just behind No. 6 Stevenson Motorsports Audi of Robin Liddell and Andrew Davis.
A total number of five full course cautions plagued the green flag racing as side-by-side racing, along with plenty of contact, was in no shortage for the bullring of road racing; the first of which came before the green flag. As the field was coming to the line, Mischa Goikhberg in the No. 85 JDC-Miller Motorsports entry made contact with the No. 8 of Alex Popow, delaying the green flag.
The fourth yellow flag was waved after Goikhberg spun and collected the No. 63 Ferrari 488 GT3 driven by Christina Nielsen. The contact required repairs for both cars with the No. 63 borrowing a right-side door from the sister No. 68, complete with patriotic stripe. The No. 85 returned to competition, but several laps down.
The final full course yellow resulted from a less-than universally respected move by Earl Bamber in the No. 912 Porsche as he attempted to get around Dirk Werner in the NO. 25 BMW. The Porsche hit the curbs at the apex of the final corner then made contact with the No. 25, sending both cars hard into the tire barrier. The two makes joined their sisters cars in bringing out yellow flags of their own.
The incident threw all pit stop strategy out the window, with almost all teams electing to pit for the final time. Van der Zande in the No. 8 Starworks entry, Giancarlo Fisichella in the No. 62, and Jeroen Bleekemolen’s No. 33 Dodge Viper GT3 would lead each class out of the pits.
It did not take long for a couple of on-track excursions to remove Fisichella from contention for the GTLM win, allowing Gavin by in the Corvette. The sister No. 3 Corvette was able to hold off the Ford GT of Ryan Briscoe, who finished on the last step on of the podium, to bring home the third double-podium for Corvette this season, and third win for the No. 4.
The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship next heads to Road America for the Continental Showcase Road Race. The Prototype field will rejoin LMPC, GTLM, and GTD at the sweeping moraine hills of Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. The Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge joins the action on August 6 while the main event will be held on August 7.
Featured Image: Jon Tenca