Wayne Taylor Racing Hold Off Challengers at Long Beach


Long Beach 2015 (Courtesy of IMSA)

The TUDOR United SportsCar Championship race on the streets of Long Beach picked up where the series’ qualifying session had left off with the Wayne Taylor Racing and Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates battling all the way to the checkered flag.

Ricky Taylor converted his family team’s pole position into the lead from the rolling start, and it was his younger brother Jordan who took the #10 Konica Minolta sponsored Chevrolet Corvette DP to victory, three seconds ahead of the Ganassi Ford-Riley. For the entire race the pair remained close, through the first stint Scott Pruett’s vigil of the leader’s rear wing never built into an attempt to take the position around a 1.9 mile circuit that leaves overtaking opportunities at a premium.

Pruett and co-driver Joey Hand’s best chance to take the lead came at the pitstops, half way through the one hour, 40 minute race.

Taylor was the first of the leaders to pit, followed a lap later by Michael Valiante in the VisitFlorida.com Racing Corvette DP that had moved up to third place into the first corner of the race. Only then did Pruett peel into the pitlane out of the final corner, his pace on those two crucial laps meaning that Hand took the #01 back into the race ahead of the Taylor-mobile. His time in the lead, however, lasted only a lap. Hand left the door open into turn one, leaving a gap that Taylor needed no second invitation to move into.

Hand kept within a second of the Corvette man for much of the rest of the race, the gap only growing in the closing laps as the leaders to cut through the battle for the spot on the GT Le Mans class podium.

Richard Westbrook finished third in the Corvette DP started by Valiante with the two Action Express Racing Corvette DPs completing the top five.

The #31 of Eric Curran and Dane Cameron finished fourth. Curran’s opening stint, the longest of the Prototype drivers, allowed him to lead a lap mid-race but only a bump with the wall by Joao Barbosa in the sister car let him take fourth ahead of the #5 car.

Barbosa’s scrape with the concrete had an impact upon the GTLM race, the time he lost helping to back Pierre Kaffer out of what looked like being an assured – if unlikely – victory for Risi Competizione.

Giancarlo Fisichella had qualified the Ferrari third in the class after the team had worked quickly to repair the damage done by an slide into the wall in the final moments of final practice, but the Italian took only seconds to make his way by the pair of BMW Team RLL Z4 to lead into turn one. He led then a three car train around the circuit, the 458 and the pair of BMWs pulling away.

With the three cars split by less than a second the pitstops, like in the Prototype class, were the best opportunity for those behind to depose the Ferrari.

Polesitter Bill Auberlen was the first man to pit, bringing the #25 BMW in from the middle of the trio but a problem fuelling the car dropped Dirk Werner down the order, with Lucas Luhr in the sister car and Antonio Garcia starting their stints ahead. With the problems for their rivals Kaffer came out of the pits with a comfortable lead, five seconds ahead of Luhr, but Werner was the man to beat. He passed Garcia in the #3 Corvette before Luhr made his path to second as easy as possible but still with nine seconds between he and Kaffer.

At that point Barbosa’s moment played into Werner’s hands, the lead margin tumbling to just as second with Werner able to make the pass for the lead at turn nine with a dozen minutes to go.

Werner would take the victory, BMW Team RLL’s first in TUDOR Championship competition by three seconds.

Luhr fell from the final podium spot in the final ten minutes, the brakes on the #24 BMW leaving him to limp through the final lap. His runs into the escape roads allowed Garcia and Porsche driver Fred Makowiecki into third and fourth, fighting to the end of the race, Garcia holding the position by two tenths of a second at the line.

Their respective teammates had tangled exiting the first corner, Oliver Gavin squeezing Richard Lietz into the wall. The contact, which led to Gavin scraping the nose of the #4 C7.R down the wall, damaged both cars, though both were able to continue after making stop for repairs, the Porsche completing just 18 laps.