Action Express Pair Win Road America Race, Tighten Grip on Points Lead


The Action Express team came back after contact with the #10 car (Courtesy of IMSA)

Action Express Racing drivers Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi extended their lead in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship with victory in the two hour, 45 minute Continental Tire Road Race Showcase event at Road America.

The pair had to come back after being spun out of the lead by Ricky Taylor’s #10 car, a strategy call helping move them back into position to take a third win of the season, and a second consecutive win after they went to Victory Lane at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last month. The Wayne Taylor Racing team meanwhile were one team on the other side of the strategy divide. At times the combination of Ricky and Jordan Taylor were in position to take both the win and the points lead. However, a steering failure while the younger brother was weaving while the race was under caution put the Konica Minolta liveried Corvette DP into the tyre wall and out of the race.

Taylor’s incident only added more caution laps to the tally on a day where too much of the race was taken up clearing up after accidents.

Six times the race was slowed by yellow flags, and while the accidents limited the amount of green flag running they allowed the remaining teams to pursue different strategies, which became a deciding factor in the race win. The point of divergence occurred under the fourth caution of the race, which came out with a little over an hour to go after Colin Braun’s CORE Autosport PC entry was punted into the wall at Canada Corner.

The top three at the time – Wayne Taylor Racing, Chip Ganassi Racing and the Visit Florida Racing #90 that had raced up from starting at the rear of the grid – opted to stay out. On the other hand others, headed by the Action Express duo’s #5 came into the pits and when the strategies shook out under the following caution it was Barbosa who was presented with the lead as it became a three way shootout for the lead with the Portuguese heading pole winner Ryan Dalziel in the #1 Extreme Speed Motorsports HPD and Ozz Negri aboard Michael Shank Racing’s Ford-Riley. By rights – and pit strategy – the lead battle should also have included the OAK Racing Morgan-Nissan, however, it was Olivier Pla’s crash as turn three that had precipitated the appearance of the yellow flag.

One more caution period remained, a one lap neutral period after a turn one off for the Paul Miller Racing GT Daytona Audi.

As had been the pattern throughout the race – and the season, to some extent – the LMP2 car’s slow restarts allowed Barbosa to jump out to a lead which, with just ten minutes at the final drop of the green flag was enough to secure victory. Negri was able to move into second, taking a season’s best result for Mike Shank’s team and co-driver John Pew.

Richard Westbrook just missed on the final podium place, the Visit Florida team’s roller coaster weekend ending in fourth as pole position winner Dalziel completed the top three at the end of the race. Marsh Racing’s Corvette DP completed the top five for Eric Curran and Burt Frisselle.

The Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates #01 Ford-Riley that had duelled with the #10 for the lead through the middle part of the race could finish only ninth overall, finishing behind both the DeltaWing and the top two in Prototype Challenge.

The lead pair in the spec class crossed the line with just half a second between then Renger van der Zande taking the win for Starworks Motorsport ahead of the 8Star Motorsports car, driven to the flag by Sean Rayhall after the car was started by Luis Diaz. In PC too events in the pitlane proved to be pivotal in deciding the winner, van der Zande, in the car started by Mirco Schultis, taking lead from the 8Star team when the two team pitted together. Rayhall and van der Zande physically bounced off each other at the end of pitlane and as they accelerated back onto the track, the Martini striped #8 taking the class lead.

The RSR Racing team that had dominated the class were shuffled into the background. Of the team’s two cars only the #09 of Chris Cumming and Jack Hawksworth made it the end, and they could ‘only’ finish 12th overall and fourth in class, behind the JDC/Miller Motorsports #85. In stark contrast was the team’s start to the race with their pair of cars running first and second, Duncan Ende taking the #08 from the pole position into the class lead. However, his time in the race would last only a matter of minutes. As he tried to make his way past a struggling Scott Mayer at the wheel of Starworks’ Honda-Riley DP at Canada Corner Mayer lost control of the car, spinning into the innocent Ende, pushing him into the tyre barrier, severely damaging the PC car.

Risi Competizione scored their first win in GTLM, Turner Motorsports the third in GTD (Courtesy of IMSA)
Risi Competizione scored their first win in GTLM, Turner Motorsports the third in GTD (Courtesy of IMSA)

In GT Le Mans Risi Competizione scored their first win of the season, Pierre Kaffer protecting the lead won by quick work by the pit crew on a day where – with the field pitting together under caution – the over-the-wall teams had an even greater importance than normal in the battles for position.

The Ferrari team had taken the lead in the pits during the race’s third caution despite coming in only fifth in class for a stop which included a full service and driver change with Kaffer replacing Giancarlo Fisichella at the wheel. Kaffer had to deal with pressure late in the race from Dirk Mueller in the #56 BMW Team RLL that had started from the class pole. But, as the straight line speed of the Ferrari started to create a gap in the wake of the red #62 Mueller’s attention increasingly turned to keeping Jonathan Bomarito’s #93 Dodge Viper. The battle was the final act in the BMW-Viper battle that had been the story for much of the weekend, including the early scenes of the race before the #56 was temporarily put out of the lead battle after picking up front end after running through the debris field left by the Mayer/Ende accident.

The second Viper – #91 – finished fourth ahead of the #912 Porsche North America 911 RSR. On a day on which the Corvettes never looked likely to trouble the podium the #3 and #4 finished only sixth and seventh in class.

Turner Motorsports’ Markus Palttala and Dane Cameron took full advantage of being handed the GT Daytona class pole after the TRG-AMR #007 was withdrawn after a warm-up crash. The #94 BMW Z4 was seldom headed in the class as the squad went on to celebrated victory for the third time this season.

Cooper MacNeil and Leh Keen combined to take second place in the Alex Job Racing run #22 Porsche while Jan Heylen fended off Jeroen Bleekemolen’s Riley Motorsports Dodge Viper for third in class. Points leaders Townsend Bell and Bill Sweedler completed the top five in their AIM Autosport Ferrari, maintaining their hold on the top spot in the process, though MacNeil and Cooper edge closer with three races left for the class.

They and rest of the GTD field, together with the GTLM grid and the PC teams will race at Virginia International Raceway on August 23-24. The next race for all four classes will be at the Circuit of the Americas on September 20 in support of the US round of the FIA World Endurance Championship.