In what turned out to be a thrilling race at Road America, Action Express Racing scored its third consecutive 1-2 finish in IMSA competition tightening the Prototype class championship battle with only two races remaining.
Dane Cameron and Eric Curran defended their 2015 Road America victory while scoring their second consecutive triumph of the season in the #31 Whelen Engineering Corvette Daytona Prototype. Teammates Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi took second – just 0.626 seconds back in the #5 Mustang Sampling Corvette DP – and saw their lead trimmed to one point (253-252) in a bid for a third consecutive title.
“We’re only one point ahead in the championship,” said Barbosa. “But you only need to win by one point. We’re still ahead, but now we go to COTA. A lot can happen in two races, and I’m looking forward to it.”
“It’s great to see what this team has done since building it up in 2010,” said Cameron, who scored his series-leading ninth victory in WeatherTech Championship competition. “You can see what we’ve come to in the last few weekends. The cars are very close, the results and pace weekend-to-weekend shows that when we come to the race track, they are almost identical and each car has the same chance to win. So we’re going to keep running our race right now and it seems to be working for us. We have our own battles to fight for our championship.”
Brothers Ricky and Jordan Taylor gave Corvette DPs a sweep of the podium, finishing 1.460 seconds back in the #10 Konica Minolta Corvette DP, followed by John Pew and Ozz Negri in the #60 Michael Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Honda Ligier JS P2.
The pole-sitting Mazda of Jonathan Bomarito and Tristan Nunez came home fifth. The pair led three times for 35 laps – with Nunez turning the fastest lap of the race – but a pair of out-of-sequence green-flag pit stops dropped them from contention.
The third caution flag of the race set up a three-lap sprint to the finish with five minutes remaining. Cameron was able to hold off Barbosa and Jordan Taylor, while Negri and Nunez were too far back in traffic to mount a challenge.
In GTLM the big story was Tommy Milner’s performance, scoring Corvette Racing its 101st victory. Restarting fifth with only five minutes remaining, Tommy Milner charged through the pack and made a last lap pass on the #67 Ford GT of Richard Westbrook to hand himself and teammate Oliver Gavin the win.
It was the fourth IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship win and sixth podium of the season for the GT Le Mans (GTLM) points-leading #4 Corvette Racing Corvette C7.R.
“It was extraordinary, it was an epic win for us,” said Gavin, who watched Milner carve through the field. “Everyone was in disbelief. I think there were plenty of people at the truck thinking, how’d we win that?”
Lined up directly behind the Prototype leaders on the final restart, Westbrook tried to hold off the #62 Ferrari 488 GTE of Toni Vilander for the lead when the #911 Porsche North America Porsche 911 RSR of Nick Tandy got a run on the leading Ford and Ferrari from third. Tandy moved to the inside of the top two for the lead when contact forced his Porsche into a spin in Turn 5.
That moved Milner into the third position after he also got around the #912 Porsche North America Porsche 911 RSR of Frederic Makowiecki. Milner found himself in second with two laps remaining when Vilander’s Ferrari spun after making contact with the #55 Mazda Prototype of Tristan Nunez.
Despite a one-second lead, Westbrook’s wounded Ford was no match for Milner who made the winning pass on the final lap and went onto win by 0.730 seconds.
““It was a wild swing of emotions,” said Milner of the final three laps. “My mindset at the end of the race was to hopefully catch the Porsche in front of me and try to make something there. During the yellow they said on the radio there was a chance we could restart but we might finish under yellow. I went from bummed to not being able to race for fourth to seeing all of the guys ahead of us.
“Then seeing the Ford in the lead, knowing how close we are in points, I sort of hoped we’d be there. Everything happened in front of me. The Porsche spun, then the Ferrari got taken out, I got some help for sure. I was able to get by the 912 and then get close to the Ford. It looked like they were a little hurt, but I don’t know how we went from fifth with three laps to go.”
Westbrook and co-driver Ryan Briscoe finished second and now sit 13 points, 264-251, behind Milner and Gavin with just three races remaining.
The #100 BMW Team RLL BMW M6 GTLM of John Edwards and Lucas Luhr rounded out the GTLM podium. The series of late-race incidents relegated the Ferrari of Vilander and co-driver Giancarlo Fisichella to fifth, and the Porsche of Tandy and co-driver Patrick Pilet to seventh.
The GTD class saw Jeroen Bleekemolen and Ben Keating take their second class win of the season in the #33 Viper.
Coming home second, and close behind following the restart was the #73 Park Place Porsche 911 GT3 R of Joerg Bergmeister and Patrick Lindsey, with the championship leading duo of Christina Nielsen and Alessandro Balzan in the Scuderia Cora Ferrari third.
“I didn’t like that last yellow,” said Bleekemolen. “I had Robin Liddell behind me, he was a little quicker. Then I got a break in the traffic and it was then that the yellow came out. It was like war out there; every class was fighting for position.”
Despite restarting second, Liddell and co-driver Andrew Davis wound up fifth following the closing laps in the #6 Stevenson Motorsports Audi R8 LMS GT3.
Andy Lally and John Potter finished fourth in the #44 Magnus Racing Audi R8 LMS GT3. Entering the race second in GTD points, 13 points back, Lally and Potter enter the final three-race stretch still second in the standings, but now sit 15 points, 243-228, behind Scuderia Corsa and the duo of Nielsen and Balzan.
And finally in LMPC, Tom Kimber-Smith passed Jose Gutierrez to take the lead just before the midway point, and led the final 39 laps to score the second Prototype Challenge (PC) victory of the season in the #52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA FLM09. Robert Alon started the car on the outside of the front row and led twice for five laps during his stint.
A key moment came with 13 minutes remaining when Renger van der Zande and Stephen Simpson crashed in Turn 9 while battling for second, eliminating both contenders. Van der Zande and co-driver Alex Popow entered the race with a 17-point lead, winning three races among seven consecutive podium finishes for the #8 Starworks Motorsport ORECA. The DNF cut their lead to seven points over Alon and Kimber-Smith, 293-286.
Photo courtesy of IMSA