Both Action Express Racing Chevrolet Corvette DP overcame problems and penalties to score a 1-2 finish in the Grand-Am Rolex Series' first race on the Detroit Belle Isle street track.
The race was the first since the team shuffled their driving line-up, Darren Law and Terry Borcheller swapping placing, Borcheller taking up the driving seat in the no.5 car alongside David Donahue while Law and Joao Barbosa crewed the no.9 entry.
Borcheller was the first to have a problem. From the rolling start he had slotted into third position as the Corvette DPs translated qualifying domination into an early lead. Trying to keep pace with race leader Jon Fogarty for the GAINSCO backed Bob Stallings team and Max Angelelli's SunTrust Racing car Borcheller moved across on a slow GT class Porsche, tipping the Porsche into a spin and drawing a drive through penalty.
The penalty, however, failed to knock Borcheller from the lead lap and a pair of quick full course cautions for GT cars spinning into the tyre wall moved Donahue – installed in the car in a lap 12 pitstop – back into the lead group and was leading at the start of the dramatic second – and final – hour of the race after pitstops under the third full course caution of the race.
The stops under the third caution, brought out by Joe Nonnamaker's Mazda in the turn one wall, changed – to some extent the players at the front of the race. SunTrust Racing had started the afternoon aiming for their third consecutive win, and had led for a dozen laps in the middle part of the race.
The pitstop was to be their final action in contention for the lead. Ricky Taylor overdid his exit and clouted the concrete wall separating on the outside of the right hander to turn the pitlane towards the outside of turn two, breaking the rear suspension of the no.10 car.
A mix-up later under the same caution sent the no.9 Action Express car to back of the DP field when Barbosa missed the first lap the pits were open, instead having to pit with the GT field.
With the clock ticking away and the field bunched up the laps following the restart hosted some of the most aggressive racing. Now in the lead Donahue pulled away but behind Barbosa and Richard Westbrook in the Spirit of Daytona Corvette DP were pushing their way to the front past Ozz Negri and Scott Pruett's Riley chassis from Michael Shank and Chip Ganassi teams respectively.
Westbrook was the most aggressive of all and took the no.90 car to the lead on lap 48 passed Donahue as they came up to lap the APR Motorsport Audi R8. However, the aggression with which Westbrook had fought to the front became the Britons undoing.
At turn 12 – a right-hand hairpin – Westbrook had already made several aggressive passes, including on Donahue in the opening hour and on Negri as he charged towards the front. On lap 50 Westbrook came up on Joe Foster's Mazda RX8 and lined up to pass the GT car on the inside. Foster – presumably unaware of the leader's approach – moved to take the apex hitting Westbrook's DP, breaking the rear suspension on the lead car and giving the lead back to Donahue.
Having watched the leader taken out by a GT car, and already holding a 1-2 you would have forgiven Donahue and Barbosa for settling in for the final half hour of racing, but just two laps later Barbosa dived down the inside of turn one as Donahue was momentarily delayed as he lapped Scott Sharp in the no.03 Extreme Speed Ferrari. Barbosa's aggressive move drew the ire of Donahue but he stayed close to the Portuguese driver through the closing laps eventually trailing at the checkered flag by less than half a second with Scott Pruett third for Chip Ganassi.
In the metaphorical shadows of Chevrolet's Detroit base Jordan Taylor and Paul Edwards gave the bow tie brand victory in GT class in their Autohaus Motorsports Camaro. The duo came out on top a battle that raged between Mazda and Camaro teams. Robin Liddell in the Stevenson Camaro fighting Jonathan Bomarito and Charles Espenlaub in their Mazdas.
Espenlaub – in the sister Dempsey Racing car to that which caught Westbrook out – fell down the order, surviving a spin before retiring to 15th place in GT. Bomarito held on to second placed in the Speedsource car started by Sylvain Tremblay, Liddell and John Edwards completed the class podium ahead of the AIM Autosport Ferrari 458 of Jeff Segal and Emil Assentato.