Ricky Taylor and brother Jordan picked up their fourth win in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship with a superb drive at the Circuit of the Americas on Saturday.
The #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Konica Minolta Cadillac led from start to finish and never looked like being caught despite three full-course cautions, the last of which occurred with less than 10 minutes of the two-hour and 40 minute race remaining.
An intriguing race with close battles in the GTLM and GTD classes saw significant action unfold on the very first corner, as the #62 Ferrari 488 driven by Giancarlo Fisichella tangled with the #67 Ford GT of Ryan Briscoe.
Tommy Milner, in the #4 Corvette Racing Corvette and the #912 Porsche 911 RSR of Wolf Henzler got caught up in the incident, with all four cars sustaining serious damage and requiring substantial repairs.
The Ford and Corvette eventually made it back on track but for Fisichella and co-driver Toni Vilander the race was over.
At the head of the field in the Prototype class, Taylor was able to stay out of trouble and quickly opened up a healthy lead over second-placed Johannes van Overbeek in the #22 Tequila Patron Nissan DPi.
A tense battle was developing between van Overbeek in second, the No 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac of Eric Curran in third and the #5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac of Christian Fittipaldi.
But the #22 Nissan’s hopes of a podium place were dealt a severe blow on lap 14 when contact with the #75 SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes GTD driven by Kenny Habul required a lengthy pitstop to repair damage. The incident moved Curran into second but he did not hold on to the place for long as he was leapfrogged after the first round of pitstops by the #5 car now driven by Joao Barbosa.
The race was neutralised somewhat with an hour and three quarters remaining when a full-course caution was declared due to the #16 Change Racing Lamborghini of Jerome Mul coming to a standstill out on track. But when racing resumed 15 minutes later, Taylor made a fine getaway and quickly began to disappear into the distance before coming into the pits with just under an hour to go to hand the car over to Jordan.
Barbosa was running comfortably in second but lost valuable time when he ran out of fuel entering the pitlane and had to be pushed into his box before changing tyres and taking on more fuel.The incident saw him drop to sixth, with Dane Cameron re-taking second for the #31 Cadillac and Ryan Dalziel moving up to third in the No 2 Tequila Patron Nissan.
As Taylor continued his brother’s good work and built up a good 10 second lead over Cameron, second, third and fourth remained up for grabs.
Then with just under 10 minutes to go Dalziel’s race came to an abrupt end when his engine caught fire.
After a brief full-course caution, racing resumed for the final five minutes with Taylor maintaining his healthy lead to take the chequered flag for the Wayne Taylor Racing team for the fourth time in the series this year.
Cameron held on to second place, with Barbosa completing a good recovery drive to take third having earlier passed Stephen Simpson in the #85 JDC Miller Motorsports Oreca to move back in contention for a podium spot.
In the GTLM class, the incident at turn one and damage sustained by other cars in the opening laps resulted in there only being four cars in contention for the class win. But it proved to be a good battle, as BMW and Porsche fought for the early advantage, only for the #3 Corvette of Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen to eventually prevail.
After the drama of the opening lap, the #24 RLL BMW M6 of John Edwards led the way, closely followed by the No 25 sister car driven by Alexander Sims. Patrick Pilet followed closely behind in the No 912 Porsche GT Team 911 RSR before eventually overtaking first Sims and then Edwards before handing over to Dirk Werner.
However, all three cars lost out as a result of the second full-course caution as they all had to pit during this time for tyres and fuel.
Magnussen had already made his pitstop and as a result, co-driver Garcia, who took over driving duties, held the class lead when the other three made their first stops.
It was an advantage he did not relinquish as the Corvette made just one more stop for the rest of the race. Their rivals all made two more.
The #25 BMW leapfrogged the #24 car during the next pitstops, and after a decent stint from Bill Auberlen, Sims returned behind the wheel to try to put some pressure on Garcia during the final half an hour. He initially reduced the Corvette’s lead from 25 seconds to 12, an advantage that was cut to four seconds following the final full-course caution, but ran out of time to gain any further and had to settle for second place.
Edwards and co-driver Martin Tomczyk finished in third, with Pilet and Werner fourth.
Despite their earlier troubles, the two Fords made it back out to finish the race and pick up championship points. The #66 of Dirk Muller and Joey Hand, which also sustained damage on the first lap, was fifth, while the No 67 of Briscoe and Richard Westbrook finished in sixth.
In GTD the racing was even closer, and with 15 minutes remaining there were just 10 seconds separating the top four.
Jeroen Bleekemolen was leading the way in the #33 Riley Motorsports Mercedes after moving up from third to first in the space of a lap with just over an hour to go.
He first got past the #48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracan driven by Bryan Sellers for second, and then squeezed past the No 28 Alegra Motorsports Porsche 911 of Daniel Morad for first place.
The #28 car had been at the front of the class for much of the race with Mathieu Jaminet and Morad both enjoying stints in the lead. But the Porsche slipped down the field after being overtaken by Bleekemolen and in the final quarter of an hour it was the #63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 of Alessandro Balzan in second, with Sellers in third.
In the sprint finish that resulted from the final full-course yellow it looked as though those positions would remain unchanged but Tristan Vautier managed to grab third from Sellers in the #75 SunEnergy1 Racing Mercedes that he shared with Habul.
The Prototype Challenge class saw James French and Patricio O’Ward clinch victory in the #38 Performance Tech Motorsports Oreca.
Stefan Wilson was the early class leader in the No 26 BAR1 Motorsports Oreca and swapped the lead with the #38 car on three occasions.
The #38 car proved to be the more consistently quicker of the two and O’Ward brought the car home in first having completed 72 laps.
The third and only other car in the class, the #20 Oreca driven by Don Yount and Buddy Rice retired after 52 laps.