MSR, Ford take important victories at Laguna Seca

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Michael Shank Racing and Ford Chip Ganassi Racing both took memorable wins at the fourth round of the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship.

Oswaldo Negri Jr won the Prototype race with a resilient fuel-saving stint aboard the #60 Ligier JS P2 he shared with starting driver John Pew.

Pew had been towards the back of the class field during the opening stint but kept in touch with the main pack at the first round of pit stops, which took place under caution after Christian Fittipaldi (#5 Action Express) and Ricky Taylor (#10 Wayne Taylor Racing) collided at the penultimate corner. The MSR team conducted a fast service to send Negri Jr out at the sharp end of the field, just behind the DeltaWing driven by Sean Rayhall.

Mazda had led the way initially at its home event, with Tristan Nunez (#55) and Tom Long (#70) haring away from the front row of the grid. However, the pair’s superior pace was met with a series of disappointing setbacks that cost the team its maiden race win in the IMSA WSCC.

Slow pit stops under caution for both cars put Rayhall and Negri Jr ahead, before a mechanical failure for Joel Miller in the #70 car signaled the end of his race. Jonathan Bomarito also encountered trouble, recovering from a spin in the #55 machine while working his way through the pack.

With Mazda ostensibly out of contention for the win, Negri Jr was left virtually unopposed at the head of the field. The Brazilian driver crossed the line 30.099 seconds clear of Marc Goossens in the #90 Visit Florida Racing Corvette – a car that had started from the back of the grid – while Eric Curran/Dane Cameron finished a close third for Action Express Racing.

Finishing a relatively distant fourth, 1:03.035s down on Negri Jr, was the Mazda of Bomarito who was chased to the line by Katherine Legge in the DeltaWing DWC13. Both the Wayne Taylor Racing and #5 Action Express Corvettes completed the race, with Jordan Taylor recovering his car to eighth overall. Joao Barbosa, on the other hand, had to wait for lengthy suspension repairs before heading out in the #5 machine, and eventually crossed the line four laps adrift.

Ford scrimped on fuel to beat Ferrari (Credit: IMSA)

In GTLM, Ford Chip Ganassi Racing made history by taking its first victory since returning to the top level of endurance racing. Richard Westbrook was the hero of the hour, saving fuel for over 50 laps in his final stint to save an extra pit stop. The British driver crossed the line 12.545 seconds clear of Alessandro Pier Guidi in the Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 which started from pole.

Frederic Makowiecki finished third in the CORE-run #912 Porsche 911 RSR after team-mate Earl Bamber had an off-track moment while battling the Corvette of Oliver Gavin.

Makowiecki was able to hold off the #3 Corvette C7.R of Antonio Garcia by 8.746 seconds after Garcia was forced to make a late splash for fuel with one minute remaining.

Another car forced to conduct an extra stop was the #66 Ford GT of Joey Hand and Dirk Muller, which had led the race before surrendering to Westbrook. Hand completed the final stint, winding up sixth in class behind the Risi Competizione Ferrari of Giancarlo Fisichella.

The two BMW M6 GTLMs ran alternate strategies throughout the race, with the #100 car of Dirk Werner pitting early in the hope of a full course caution. When the two Corvette DPs collided, Werner moved ahead but was subsequently swamped by Fisichella who had pitted. Werner had to stop again to hand over to Bill Auberlen, which dropped the pair to ninth in class.

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