Chip Ganassi Racing Pair Dominate at Long Beach


Memo Rojas and Scott Pruett were led for only a few minutes (Courtesy of IMSA)

Memo Rojas and Scott Pruett dominated the 100-minute TUDOR United SportsCar Championship race on the streets of Long Beach, leading the event almost lights to flag as the race was uninterrupted by yellow flag throughout its duration.

The Chip Ganassi Racing pair were, briefly, headed in the immediate wake of the mid race pitstops.

Rojas, starting the race in the #01 Ford Ecoboost Riley pitted with 48 minutes remaining followed by Christian Fittipaldi in the #5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP that had won out in the battle for second place. However it was the championship leading #5 car, turned over to Joao Barbosa, that led out of the pits followed by Pruett in the Ganassi charge.

The pair rejoined the race ahead of Jordan Taylor, who had taken the controls of the newly Konica Minolta sponsored Wayne Taylor Racing entry a few laps earlier. He was close enough to the lead pair to take advantage when Pruett moved down the inside of Barbosa to retake the lead, pushing the Portuguese from the lead down to third place in the matter of moments.

Back in the lead Pruett kept Taylor at arm’s length, though the slower traffic of the GT Le Mans class kept the exact gaps at the front of the field fluid enough, Taylor shuttling between challenging Pruett for the victory and keeping Barbosa at bay to keep second place.

At the end of the 100 minutes Taylor was just seven tenths behind Pruett and 3.5 seconds ahead of Barbosa, the front three nearly half a minute clear of the OAK Racing Morgan-Nissan of Gustavo Yacaman and Olivier Pla.

That gap was almost certainly inflated by a slow getaway for Pla from the pits as Yacaman, together with Fittipaldi, Ricky Taylor and Michael Valiante had been part of the fight for second and third places in the first half of the race.

It was Fittipaldi and Taylor who took second and third respectively at the start of the race as John Pew, who started the Michael Shank Racing #60 was crowded into the waiting tyre wall on the outside of the first corner.

There was contact between Yacaman and Spirit of Daytona Racing’s Corvette DP of Valiante, the first of several times the pair came together as the lead train filed between the concrete walls that define the 1.97 mile Long Beach track.

Valiante was to have further problems as he tried to lap the recovering Pew coming through the right hander at turn eight before the Seaside Way back straight. The Canadian lost the rear of the car turning through the corner rotating into the wall, pinching the innocent Pew into wall in the process.

The delay pushed the Shank team further down the order, finishing ninth in class, but with the honour of setting the series’ lap record, with Ozz Negri asking what could have been with a lap of 1:16.007, more than half a second faster than the best offered by the race winners.

Valiante and co-driver Richard Westbrook in the #90 car finished fifth ahead of the pair of Extreme Speed Motorsports HPD cars.

In GTLM – the only other car contesting the race – the team of Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen took their own dominant win.

Garcia translated Magnussen’s pole position into the lead and quickly pulled away from John Edwards in the #56 BMW Team RLL car who held second from Andy Priaulx in the sister car and Oliver Gavin in the second Corvette.

While Garcia pulled out to a uncharacteristically large lead for the famously competitive class – over ten seconds – the battling trio for third was broken up through the pitstops when Bill Auberlen’s return to the race in the #56 Z4 GTE was delayed by the team having to replace the right side door due to a missing mirror.

While Dirk Mueller kept Tommy Milner at bay to prevent a Corvette Racing 1-2 Auberlen was able to fight back up to sixth place, the two Porsche North America entries fourth and fifth in class.

The next round of the TUDOR Championship brings the series’ four classes back together for a two hour race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.