The #52 PR1 Oreca of Tom Kimber Smith and Robert Alon and #23 Alex Job Racing Porsche of Mario Farnbacher and Alex Riberas won the PC and GTD classes respectively in the second two-hour race of the IMSA split weekend at Laguna Seca.
It was a notably clean race with only one real incident, though both classes would have their fair share of action throughout the second half.
Down into Turn 1 at the start, Alon held his ground in the pole-sitting Oreca, running alongside Alex Popow’s #8 Starworks car. From there though, James French in the #38 Performance Tech car would fight through the top three to take the lead of the race, which he would hold for the rest of the first half of the race.
In GTD, Christina Nielsen fresh from her best qualifying to date attempted to take the lead from the word go into the first turn, running door to door with Alex Riberas’ AJR Porsche in her Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488. She couldn’t make it stick though, and slowly slipped back with Brandon Davis watching on in third place in the #007 TRG Aston. It was nevertheless an impressive performance from the Dane, who continues to improve her craft and turn heads this year.
GTD like PC would see a stale mate between the front runners until the round of stops approached. With the halfway mark approaching, much of the field was spread out, but an off from the #540 Black Swan Racing Porsche at Turn 4 brought out the race’s only safety car period. Pappas lost the rear end of the 911 on the entry to the left-hander, and slid backwards into the gravel, unable to return to the track.
The safety car period bunched the field up, just as the cars went in for their stops. It made some key differences running order for the second and final hour of the race.
When the race restarted, the #8 Starworks Oreca of Renger Van Der Zande had emerged in the lead, with Tom Kimber Smith in the #52 PR1 car right behind. Third spot was taken by Kyle Marcelli in the #38 which led until the stops.
Popow’s lead wouldn’t last though, as Kimber Smith nabbed the lead through traffic, before Stephen Simpson’s #85 JDC-Miller Oreca blew past Marcelli to take third and Van Der Zande to take second at Turn 1.
Towards the end of the race it all changed again though; Van Der Zande would snatch back second overall for Starworks, and consolidate the position for the final 15 minutes, coming home 1.7 seconds behind Kimber Smith. Third was taken by the Colin Braun-Jonathan Bennet Core Autosports entry which remarkably fought through the field after starting from the pit lane. Marcelli came home fourth, Simpson fifth.
In GTD, Mario Farnbacher held off Alessandro Balzan in the Scuderia Corsa Ferrari, who pressured him for the majority of his stint. Balzan wasn’t able to fully focus on the Porsche ahead though, as he had to check his mirrors for Jens Klinsmann’s #96 Turner Motorsport BMW which emerged third after the stops, ahead of the TRG Aston that in the end would regain the final podium spot in the dying minutes with James Davison driving.
Farnbacher successfully resisted Balzan’s challenge, keeping him at arms length before pulling away to take the win by 3.6 seconds. It was a truly dominant performance from the whole AJR team, who converted pole into a true lights-to-flag victory.
Next up on the IMSA Weather Tech SportsCar Championship calendar is on the 3rd and 4th of June at Detroit Belle Isle.