On their first ever race at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park (CTMP) Visit Florida Racing recorded a third consecutive podium finish in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, Michael Valiante and Richard Westbrook finishing second.
Valiante, one of only a handful of Canadians racing on home soil, started the two hour, 45 minute race in the team’s Spirit of Daytona Racing run Chevrolet Corvette DP immediately moving into second place from the start. However, Valiante’s progress was slowed by a gear selection issue that caused him to lose time to the leader and, temporarily, positions on track.
He would regain second place after problems for rival teams, but trailed the #42 of leader Gustavo Yacaman by over 12 seconds.
There were further problems when Valiante pitted to hand the car over to Westbrook with just over an hour remaining. Valiante explained; “Something happened on the belts with Richard’s driver change and we lost about 15 seconds. I’m not sure if we could have challenged the #42 car because they had so much pace.”
The time lost in the pits allowed Oliver Pla, stepping in for Yacaman in the OAK Racing Morgan-Nissan, to escape to a lead of over 30 seconds and left Westbrook fighting back from third place. With startling pace around the 2.5 mile Westbrook cleaved 20 seconds out of the overall lead chasing down Jordan Taylor for second place.
Despite a scare when he made slight contact with a GT Daytona class Porsche Westbrook was able to power past the championship leader to take the place. The Brit continued to push through the final minutes of the race, though a late encounter with a group of GT cars delayed him enough to deny fans a grandstand finish to the race. At the checkered flag there were seven seconds between Pla and Westbrook.
“It was nice to put the #42 under some pressure. You never know. He had a quite comfortable spot but I wanted to put some sort of pressure because with all the traffic, you never know what a little bit of pressure can do. It wasn’t ours today, but it was really enjoyable racing. My first time at Mosport, and I actually loved it. Hopefully we can continue to have these kinds of weekends.”
“It was a good day, all in all,” said team owner Troy Flis. “For a team that has never been here, and two drivers that had so little experience here, I’m pleased with it. We wanted a podium and hopefully we can keep being on the podium and win a couple more races. This was good for the championship as well so we’ll just look to keep this up again in a couple of weeks at Indianapolis.”
The TUDOR Championship will race on the road course at the famous Motor Speedway on July 25.