2016 IMSA Lone Star Le Mans at COTA - Race Report
Corvette DP continues dominance in Prototype class, while Porsche wins GT-LMby Michael Fira, on
On Circuit of the Americas, the U.S. home of the Formula 1 Grand Prix, a new page from the book of stories of the 2016 IMSA Weathertech Sportscar Championship season was written with 30-odd cars lining up to take the start of the Lone Star Le Mans under the scorching Texas sun. IMSA was at it again with a laid back approach to track limits, as opposed to the WEC’s way, the latter watching very closely over the on-track action as disobeying track limits was particularly enforced during the World Championship round that followed after the IMSA-sanctioned event.
Mazda was the pace-setter early on in qualifying as Tristan Nunez posted a 1:58:715 personal best, the No. 55 Lola-based prototype being followed by the sister No. 70. The Speedsource team did not achieve the front row lockup that seemed to be on the cards as Ricky Taylor found a lot of speed in the No. 10 Konica Minolta Wayne Taylor Racing Chevrolet Corvette DP and put down the session’s best time, a 1:58:712, which allowed the Dallara-built prototype to eek ahead of both Mazdas. Eric Curran was fourth fastest in the No. 31 Whelen Action Express Racing Corvette, his time on third being short as Joel Miller improved late in the session to start from behind his team-mate.
Being a spec class, Prototype Challenge offered close action during qualifying. Robert Alon walked away with pole position, the BR1 Motorsport driver being the only to go under 2:02 minutes. The BAR1 and Starworks ORECAs were on top before Robert Alon came through to claim the top spot in the shortened 15-minute session that ended early after Don Yount went into the gravel with three minutes to go.
The top spot went from Porsche to Ferrari, and then to Ford during the GT-LM qualifying session. Pilet was the quickest out there for a little bit in the No. 911 Porsche 991 GTE, but his high 2:04 time was soon bettered by Toni Vilander’s effort. Then came Ryan Briscoe with a 2:04:188 flying lap and that was that. Risi’s Flyin Finn did improve to a 2:04:522 but it wasn’t enough to beat Ford’s No. 67 car. The two works Corvettes and the BMWs filled the lower half of the GT-LM field.
Alex Riberas was the class of the field in GT-D, the No. 23 Alex Job Racing/Team Seattle Porsche starting from pole thanks to a blisteringly quick 2:08:568. Lawson Aschenbach shared the front row with Riberas, the Stevenson Motorsport driver posting a 2:08:944, the only other time in the 2:08s.
This was the second-to-last round of the season and, for next year, the event will be moved to May which might mean that it will no longer share the date with the FIA World Endurance Championship.
Continue reading for the full story.
Ricky Taylor made the best out of his pole and kept the lead through turn one. He continued by keeping everyone else at bay for the next 40 minutes until the first caution occurred, at which point Ricky had bridged a 10-second gap. The safety car period bunched the field back together but, as it was close to the pit window for the Prototypes, some of the top teams elected to jump at the opportunity and dive onto pit lane. Wayne Taylor Racing was one of those teams and the No. 10 car came in, out went Ricky and in went his brother, Jordan. The shorter stint for Ricky was according the plan as he was on double duty, also acting as the hot shoe for Jacques Leconte’s team in the ensuing WEC race where he drove Larbre’s Corvette C7.R in GTE-Am. In spite of the extreme heat, Jordan was able to drive the two hours that were left of the race.
Ricky Taylor made the best out of his pole and kept the lead through turn one.
Before the first round of pit stops, the Action Express Racing Corvettes came together while battling the SpeedSource Mazdas. Curran punted Christian Fittipaldi into a spin, the former being on the receiving end of a penalty for the incident. The drive-through, arguably, cost the No. 31 the victory. The caution period came in the aid of AXR, the cause of it being a driveshaft failure for the No. 90 VisitFlorida.com Racing Corvette. The Mazdas had run second and third prior to the first stops which were sluggish and lost them the podium places. After that, the No. 55 slowed down on track due to a fuel pump failure just 80 minutes after the start. Its sister continued and, despite a late stop for fuel, came home fourth. The restart following the caution wasn’t particularly good for Michael Shank Racing, the team’s Ligier being crashed from behind by the DeltaWing. As a result, Pew went straight at Turn One and collected one of the Weathertech banners that sit trackside. For whatever reason, the banner would not shake off the car and this led to another caution period as the banner in question got stuck between the fenders in such a way that it was blocking Pew’s vision ahead.
After a marshal came and abruptly ended the relationship between the Ligier and the banner, the French prototype was clearly in distress, Pew having to come in with a flat tire as a direct result of the incident.
Towards the end of the race, Jordan, who had built a 15-second gap between himself and the No. 31 Whelen Corvette, spun out of the last turn. Then the TC system played havoc with Jordan, who lost significant time, Curran closing to within two seconds of the leader. However, Wayne Taylor Racing kept ahead and won the race. With only one race left to go, the Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta, Curran and Cameron lead the standings by one point over their team-mates, Fittipaldi and Barbosa. Jordan and Ricky Taylor sit third, a mere seven points behind. It’s all to play for in the last round of the season (and of the NAEC)!
P Class Top 5 Results
|1||10||R.Taylor/J.Taylor||Konica Minolta||Chevrolet Corvette DP||75|
|2||31||Cameron/Curran||Action Express Racing||Chevrolet Corvette DP||75|
|3||5||Barbosa/Fittipaldi||Action Express Racing||Chevrolet Corvette DP||75|
|4||70||Long/Miller||Mazda Motorsports||Mazda Prototype||75|
|5||0||Legge/Rayhall||Panoz DeltaWing Racing||DeltaWing DWC13||74|
Ford’s start in GT-LM was anything but perfect as the No. 67 was quickly passed by both works Porsches and the Risi Ferrari. After dropping to fourth, the car was then involved into a fender-bending moment with the No. 4 Corvette of Gavin and Milner which resulted in steering issues for the Chip Ganassi-run Ford. The issues were resolved but it took 14 laps. And, with the sister car also involved in an incident with the No. 25 BMW, it’s safe to say that the Texan weekend was as bad as they get for Ford Chip Ganassi Racing.
Sadly, with some 25 minutes left to go, the No. 62 car, which had an advantage of over a dozen seconds ahead of the competition, started slowing down on track
With both Fords essentially out of the running and the BMWs and Corvettes unable to keep up, it was a three-way fight for victory between the two 991 GTEs and the lone 488 GTE – middle engine vs. rear engine or Stuttgart vs. Maranello. Risi took the lead only to lose in traffic then made his way back up, Nick Tandy bumping Giancarlo Fisichella multiple times, the Italian returning the favor to the former Le Mans winner – their on-tracks manners being punished with warnings from race control.
The Ferrari’s pace eventually shined through as Fisichella got back in the front and started to pull away. Sadly, with some 25 minutes left to go, the No. 62 car, which had an advantage of over a dozen seconds ahead of the competition, started slowing down on track. An electrical gremlin hit the team and Vilander, who’d taken over from Fisichella, scrambled for pit lane. The Finn got back going but only finished a frustrating eight. Up front, Antonio Garcia found some extra speed in his No. 3 Corvette late in the race and began closing the gap to the leading Porsches. Given the championship standings, the CORE crew called for team orders and Tandy allowed Earl Bamber through to take the win, Garcia coming home third. BMWs finished fourth and seventh while the championship-leading sister car came home fifth which means that, with one race to go, Gavin and Milner have an 11-point gap at the head of the GT-LM standings.
GT-LM Class Top 5 Results
|1||912||Bamber/Makowiecki||Porsche North America||Porsche 911 RSR||74|
|2||911||Pilet/Tandy||Porsche North America||Porsche 911 RSR||74|
|3||3||Garcia/Magnussen||Corvette Racing||Chevrolet Corvette C7.R||74|
|4||25||Auberlen/Werner||BMW Team RLL||BMW M6 GTLM||73|
|5||4||Gavin/Milner||Corvette Racing||Chevrolet Corvette C7.R||73|
Prototype Challenge Class
Prototype Challenge did not disappoint at COTA, Performance Tech, BAR1, Starworks Motorsport and PR1/Mathiasen all having a shot at victory and all leading at some point during the race. In the end, Ranger van der Zande’s final pit stop, which came roughly an hour before the end, put the No. 8 car in fourth. The Dutchman quickly passed Tom Kimber-Smith on his outlap while Bruno Junqueira, who took over from Matt McMurry, dropped out of contention with apparent brake trouble. This meant the Starworks driver was up to second and, with only a few laps to spare, he moved past James French to take the lead. Kimber-Smith followed suite to get up to second, but was ultimately unable to pass Ranger van der Zande who crossed the line less than a second ahead of the PR1/Mathiasen Motorsport driver. French and Boulle finished third for Performance Tech Motorsports.
PC Class Top 5 Results
|1||8||van der Zange/Popow||Starworks Motorsport||ORECA FLM09||74|
|2||52||Alon/Kimber-Smith||PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports||ORECA FLM09||74|
|3||38||French/Boulle||Performance Tech Motorsports||ORECA FLM09||74|
|4||20||McMurry/Junqueira||BAR1 Motorsports||ORECA FLM09||74|
|5||7||Gutierrez/Yacaman||Starworks Motorsport||ORECA FLM09||74|
Turner Motorsports’ luck turned around in Texas, Bret Curtis and Jens Klingmann winning GT-D with the team’s No. 96 BMW M6 GT3. It was all about perfect pitwork as Klingmann pitted for the last time from third only to find himself out in front by the time he pulled out of the pits. The German went on to extend his lead over the No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracan which came home 15 seconds adrift. That runner-up spot could’ve been AJR’s but the No. 23 Team Seattle 991 GT3 was classified seventh after running out of fuel on the very last lap of the race. Scuderia Corsa finished third, Balzan and Nielsen going into the championship decider with a 32-point cushion ahead of the No. 34 Viper which finished 13th.
GT-D Class Top 5 Results
|1||96||Curtis/Klingmann||Turner Motorsport||BMW M6 GT3||71|
|2||48||Sellers/Snow||Paul Miller Racing||Lamborghini Huracan GT3||71|
|3||63||Nielsen/Balzan||Scuderia Corsa||Ferrari 488 GT3||71|
|4||44||Potter/Lally||Magnus Racing||Audi R8 LMS GT3||71|
|5||73||Lindsey/Bergmeister||Park Place Motorsports||Porsche 911 GT3 R||71|
For the full results at the Circuit of the Americas, click here.