Corvette defeats Ford in Virginia thriller

by Daniel Lloyd

Corvette Racing notched up its fifth win of the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship season in a thrilling contest at Virginia International Raceway.

The #3 Corvette C7.R driven by Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia held off a late charge by Dirk Muller in the #66 Ford GT which was started by Joey Hand.

A late full course caution following a crash for the #4 Corvette of Oliver Gavin resulted in a one lap dash for cash, with Garcia crossing the line .802 seconds ahead of his rival.

Magnussen had led the entire opening stint from pole, with Hand the only other driver able to keep up with him.

The pair pitted at around the same time, with both handing over to their co-drivers at the first opportunity.

Muller kept up the charge to Garcia in the second half of the race, but the Corvette didn’t yield on its way to a first win of 2016.

The points leading sister Corvette had a much tougher outing, with starting driver Tommy Milner losing ground at the start before taking too much kerb at the esses and trundling through the grass. A pit lane infringement by the Corvette mechanics whilst clearing the collected debris handed Milner a drive through penalty, which dropped himself and Gavin out of contention.

Gavin took over and was on course to pick up some points when he too lost control of the car and spun into the tyre barrier at the southern end of the circuit. The rear end damage was too much to continue, especially with less than 10 minutes on the clock, meaning the #4 car would be classified last and four laps down.

Profiting from Gavin’s mistake was the #67 Ford GT, which entered the race 14 points adrift in the championship. But with its rivals’ problems, the Richard Westbrook/Ryan Briscoe car was able to halve that gap with just two races remaining.

Westbrook started the car from the pit lane after taking fresh tyres to the ones he qualified on, and so had to work through the GTD field to reach the opposition. On his way through the traffic he collided with the #96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6, which retired on the spot.

When Briscoe took over the #67 car was back in contention, and at the end of the race moved up to fourth when Gavin slid off track. Earl Bamber finished third in the Porsche 911 he shared with Fred Makowiecki, after forcing his way past Giancarlo Fisichella’s Ferrari on the final lap.

Snow and Sellers were untouchable in GTD (Credit: IMSA)

In GT Daytona, Paul Miller Racing scored a dominant first victory of the season to give its Lamborghini Huracan GT3 a maiden visit to victory lane.

Pole sitter Madison Snow paced the field from the start, eking out a big lead before handing over to Bryan Sellers.

Sellers had almost half a minute’s advantage to the two chasing Stevenson Motorsports Audis R8s, but an off track moment in the final hour cut that deficit in half. The late race caution also threatened his position, but Stevenson’s Lawson Aschenbach was not able to find a way past on the final tour.

Third place went to the Magnus Racing Audi R8 of Andy Lally and John Potter which moved into the podium places after the second Stevenson Audi received a drive through penalty for speeding in the pit lane.

Robin Liddell eventually recovered from his misdemeanour to finish fourth, while the Alex Job Racing Porsche rounded out the top five after carrying out a daring three stop strategy.

The #33 Dodge Viper of Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen was on course to break the mid-engine stranglehold, but two excursions into the grass prompted unscheduled calls to the pit garage which dropped it off the lead lap.

In terms of the points, Scuderia Corsa drivers Christina Nielsen and Alessandro Balzan maintain their championship lead despite another poor result. Their Ferrari 458 Italia was in the wars at Virginia, as Nielsen first cut across the grass before Balzan experienced a puncture and had to limp the car back to the pits. Their eighth place finish means the gap to the second placed Magnus Racing duo is down to eight points.

The IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship returns in three weeks’ time with the penultimate round at Circuit of the Americas in Texas.

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