Faced with a restart amidst heavy traffic midway through Saturday’s Chevrolet Sports Classic Presented by the Metro Detroit Chevy Dealers, Jordan Taylor passed three cars on his way to the lead. That proved to be the key to give the No. 10 Konica Minolta Corvette DP its third victory in four years at the Raceway at Belle Isle Park.
Jordan and Ricky Taylor scored their family-owned team’s third win in the past three years at the Detroit Belle Isle circuit, backing up their triumph in 2014 with Jordan Taylor also having shared a 2013 victory in the #10 Corvette DP with then-co-driver Max Angelelli.
Action Express Racing’s pole setter Christian Fittipaldi led the opening 26 laps before pitting under caution shortly before the one-hour mark of the 100-minute event, when he turned the #5 Mustang Sampling Corvette DP over to Joao Barbosa.
The timing of a late race caution saw a group of lapped GT Daytona (GTD) class cars and a pair of Prototype Challenge (PC) cars ahead of the lead Prototypes. When the green flag waved with 48 minutes remaining, Jordan Taylor threaded his way past Barbosa and the two PC cars to take both the class and overall lead – which he held for the remainder of the event.
“We talked about being conservative, but when I saw the opportunity so wide open we jumped on it,” Jordan Taylor said. “It was odd when we restarted in the middle of the pack – it doesn’t happen often. Going through the kink I saw Joao wanted to go to the inside and the other two (PC) cars were blocking each other. So I went on a clean line around the outside, and I was able to get around them all.”
Taylor took the checkered flag 1.740 seconds ahead of Barbosa to give the brothers their second win of the season and sixth of their WeatherTech Championship careers. Entering the event fourth in the Prototype standings, they leave Detroit tied for the lead with Fittipaldi and Barbosa with 151 points apiece.
Jonathan Bomarito and Tristan Nunez finished third in the #55 Castrol/ModSpace Mazda Prototype, giving Mazda Motorsports its first podium finish in WeatherTech Championship competition.
The race took a dramatic turn at the 14-minute mark. Marc Goossens went wide in Turn 7 while running third, clipping a tire barrier which tore off the rear wing of the #90 Visit Florida Racing Corvette DP. That allowed the fourth-place #31 Whelen Engineering/Team Fox Corvette DP of Eric Curran to close up.
Lacking downforce, Goossens spun entering Turn 12. He hit the barrier and bounced back into the path of Curran, who struck his left rear with his right front. The incident took out the Visit Florida entry, while former points leaders Curran and Dane Cameron rejoined the race after a lengthy stop for repairs. They finished sixth, and are now four points behind the new co-leaders.
On the final restart with 34 minutes remaining, Ozz Negri pitted from fourth-place in the #60 Michael Shank Racing Ligier Honda JS P2 started by Katherine Legge with suspension damage. He returned to the race three laps down, finishing fifth.
Ricky Taylor: “We weren’t the fastest car for sure, the #31 and 5 were faster than us, but this morning we woke up and said to each other, these are the kinds of races you win. Not being the fastest, something will come together and you can get the win. Jordan made great work of the traffic on the restart and then controlled the lead from there. Great day for Chevrolet, with a 1-2 here in Detroit.”
Starworks Motorsport Take Prototype Challenge
Renger van der Zande pressured Colin Braun into making a rare mistake with less than five minutes remaining to win in the Prototype Challenge (PC) class at Detroit for the second consecutive year in the #8 Starworks Motorsport ORECA FLM09 started by Alex Popow.
Van der Zande was mired in traffic running in third position after the driver change under the caution, trailing Tom Kimber-Smith in the #52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA started by pole winner Robert Alon, and Braun, who took over for Jon Bennett in the #54 CORE autosport entry. Those cars, along with many of the GT Daytona (GTD) competitors, pitted under the green flag but found themselves running ahead of the Prototype leaders who elected to pit under caution.
Van der Zande took second with 30 minutes remaining, and then managed to run down Braun to challenge for the PC lead. With less than five minutes left, Braun spun in Turn 6 while working through GTD traffic. That gave the lead to the Starworks driver, who won by 3.474 seconds.
“This was a real nice race,” van der Zande said after scoring his seventh career WeatherTech Championship victory. “We got real unlucky with the yellow after the pit stops, so I had to get by several cars. Once I got clean air I was able to chase down Colin. I gave it my all, and I think it was the fastest lap ever on this track. I think it was the fastest lap I ever done in my life. This one tastes very sweet.”
The victory unofficially gives van der Zande and Popow a three-point lead in the PC standings over Alon and Kimber-Smith, 162-159.
Saturday morning’s 30-minute warm-up saw a two-car incident in Turn 13 between Misha Goikhberg in the #85 JDC-Miller Motorsports ORECA FLM09 and Joel Miller in the #70 Mazda Motorsports Castrol/ModSpace Mazda Prototype.
“I was following a Mazda, and he spun,” Goikhberg said. “It was either hit him, or hit the wall. I hit the wall.”
While Goikhberg was cleared to race following a mandatory trip to the care center, an inspection of the car revealed major left side wreckage which included damage to the tub, which put it out of the race. The team then borrowed a spare car from BAR1 Motorsports two hours from the green flag, transferring the engine and electronics from the #85 car to the #16 which last raced at the Rolex 24. The car made it to the track 23 laps down.
#33 Dodge Viper GT3-R Earns First 2016 Victory
Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen and the #33 ViperExchange.com / Gas Monkey Garage Dodge Viper GT3-R team picked a fine time to win their first race of the season as the made-in-Detroit race car scored a hometown victory in Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Chevrolet Sports Car Classic presented by the Metro Detroit Chevy Dealers.
After qualifying sixth on the GT Daytona (GTD) grid Friday, Keating made his first appearance inside the top five just past the 30-minute mark in the 100-minute timed race. He eventually made it into the class lead for the final lap of his stint before pitting at the 37-minute mark in the race to hand the car over to Bleekemolen.
The Dutchman rejoined the field in second place behind the #96 Turner Motorsports BMW M6 GT3 of Jens Klingmann, but regained the lead after two laps when Klingmann pitted. Bleekemolen would hold the GTD lead for the remainder of the race, but not without heavy pressure from behind from Joerg Bergmeister in the #73 Park Place Porsche 911 GT3 R and Alessandro Balzan in the #63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3.
“This is a street circuit, so the smallest mistake can take you out of the race,” Bleekemolen said. “But at the same time you have to push right until the end. Ben did a lot of great laps at the end of his stint. I knew with Joerg Bergmeister behind me it wouldn’t be easy. He is famous for a lot of last-lap passes. It’s great what the team did with the pit stop. We knew it would be our chance so we took it and it worked out for us. So yes, it feels really great.”
He beat Bergmeister to the stripe by 2.489 seconds to collect the first victory for himself and Keating since the WeatherTech Championship race at Circuit of The Americas last September. It was Bleekemolen’s 16th major U.S. sports car victory (three in the WeatherTech Championship, 13 American Le Mans Series) and fifth for Keating (three WeatherTech Championship, two ALMS).
“It’s a huge deal winning with the Viper in its hometown,” Keating said. “I am Viper Exchange, the No. 1 volume Viper dealer in the nation and so I have a lot of great relationships with all the Viper people the Conner Avenue plant where they are hand-built right here in Detroit. So, it’s a big deal. There were a lot of emotional people who take a lot of pride in the Vipers. Hopefully we win on Saturday and sell on Monday.”
Bergmeister and Patrick Lindsey finished second in the #73 Porsche for Park Place Motorsports, followed by Balzan and co-driver Christina Nielsen, who finished third in the #63 Ferrari.
Balzan and Nielsen came into the race with a six-point lead in the GTD standings and extended that lead to eight, 126-118, over # 23 Heart of Racing Porsche GT3 R co-drivers Mario Farnbacher and Alex Riberas. Farnbacher and Riberas finished fourth for Team Seattle / Alex Job Racing.
Robin Liddell and Andrew Davis completed the top five in the #6 Stevenson Auto Group Audi R8 LMS GT3 with the #16 Change Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3 co-driven by Spencer Pumpelly and Corey Lewis sixth.
GTD Race-winner Keating noted in the post-race news conference that all three cars on the GTD podium had drivers that will be making their way to France overnight to participate in Sunday’s test day for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. Keating and Bleekemolen will share the Gas Monkey Garage liveried #48 Murphy Prototypes Oreca 03-R Nissan in the race on June 18-19, while Porsche factory driver Bergmeister is part of the manufacturer’s effort in the GTE Pro class and third-place finisher Christina Nielsen will race the #60 Formula Racing Ferrari 458 in the GTE Am class.