ESM takes first TUDOR P2 victory at Monterey

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Extreme Speed Motorsports (ESM) has taken the first win for an LMP2 car as the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship visited Monterey.

The #2, shared between Johannes van Overbeek and Ed Brown, started on pole position but was no match for the sheer grunt of the DP field.

For the majority of the two hour sprint race – shared between the Prototypes and GT Le Mans fields – it was the Corvette DP show, the #90 Spirit of Daytona machine, shared by Richard Westbrook and Michael Valiante, led for a good chunk of the opening hour but was hounded by Gustav Yacaman in the OAK Racing Oreca-Nissan.

Lap in, lap out it was clear that whilst the DPs had more pull off the corners the P2s were much better on the brakes which led to an intense dice between the cars. However, Valiante prevailed as the OAK pitted early to try and spring a result on the pit stops.

If it wasn’t the Spirit of Daytona setting the timing screens alight it was the Action Express Racing car of Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi which was hassling the #1 ESM machine of Scott Speed. That was a strong battle until the first round of pit stops for the P field, Ryan Dalziel was just an innocent victim in the car when the gearbox failed going up towards the Corkscrew.

Speaking of the Corkscrew, it was the scene of perhaps the biggest incident of the race featuring the OAK of Alex Brundle, the DP of Westbrook, the DP of Fittipaldi and the SpeedSource Mazda of Joel Miller.

Heading into the corner, Brundle tried a lunge up the inside of Westbrook who ran the young Brit wide the resulting loss of control in the Oreca saw him hit the Action Express machine which then hit – and punctured the radiator of – the #07 SpeedSource car.

It then settled down a while until the final fifteen minutes where Johannes van Overbeek – who had been closing down the gap to Jordan Taylor in the family run Corvette DP – finally made his move. The Wayne Taylor Racing car was going obviously slower out of turn four – an issue attributed to tyre pick up – and the ESM car took that as an opportunity to take a lead that wouldn’t be contested.

However, it wasn’t just in P that there were battles raging, GTLM provided good action for the entire 120 minute race. Starting on pole, the Corvette of Antonio Garcia led for much of the opening stages but after pit stops rotated the field around, it was the BMW of Bill Auberlen that held the lead for a number of laps.

Although, in an uncharacteristically miscalculated move by the Bobby Rahal led team Auberlen had to pit for a splash of fuel with less than 25 minutes to go, putting him down into the field.

That said, it didn’t last long – the Risi car of Giancarlo Fisichella was slowing slightly towards the end of the race, allowing first Porsche’s Nick Tandy and then Auberlen to sneak through before all hell broke loose.

Coming into the final five minutes, almost every lap saw Auberlen attempt to dive up the inside of Tandy only for him to be pushed wide. On the penultimate lap the BMW changed tack, going into the final corner Auberlen rammed Tandy off track and got through for second place. Tandy had finished third but a penalty for continually barging Auberlen saw him demoted down the pack, raising the Risi to a podium.

For the GTLM field, the next time they will be on track again is at the Six Hours of Watkins Glen as they are missing the race at Belle Isle as it falls on the same weekend as the Le Mans test day.

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