IMSA: Action Express wins Road America thriller

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Action Express Racing’s Dane Cameron and Eric Curran won an exciting ninth round of the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship at Road America.

The pair beat championship leaders Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi in the sister AXR Corvette, tightening up the race for the Prototype title to one point.

Cameron took the lead with just over an hour to go when Jordan Taylor ran wide in the Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP, maintaining the gap to Barbosa until the finish.

Barbosa looked to be a threat during the final 10 minutes when a full course caution bunched the field, but Cameron held on to claim victory by 0.626 seconds.

Taylor completed the podium in the car he shares with brother Ricky, crossing the line 1.460 seconds adrift of the winner.

The Michael Shank Racing Ligier JSP2-Honda was the highest placed LMP2 entry in fourth, while Mazda’s pole-sitting #55 car rounded out the top five.

It was a tough day for Mazda, which had the quickest car in terms of one lap pace but couldn’t effectuate an alternative strategy to defeat the DP teams.

Jonathan Bomarito led from pole – even setting the lap record – before handing over to Nunez 45 minutes in. Despite a fast pit stop, the Mazda came out behind Barbosa’s Corvette with Cameron mounting a challenge from behind.

Things went from bad to worse for the Japanese manufacturer as Nunez lost 40 seconds with his pit strategy.

The Mazda crew tried to manufacture the race so Nunez would only have to make one stop for tyres and a short splash for fuel at the end, while the DPs (except the Wayne Taylor car) opted to change tyres at every opportunity. But when Nunez returned from his final splash, the leading DPs had already pitted and even more crucially had built a big enough lead for the Mazda to no longer pose a threat.

That put the three leading DPs in a sprint for victory, while Nunez and Mazda squandered another podium opportunity.

Milner’s dramatic final stint gave Corvette its 101st victory (Credit: IMSA)

In GTLM, Corvette Racing won a pulsating race which came down to the final lap. Tommy Milner, driving the championship-leading #4 C7.R alongside Oliver Gavin, entered the final 10 minutes fifth in class.

At the time, Richard Westbrook led the field in the #67 Ford GT, with Toni Vilander’s Ferrari and the two works Porsches chasing the prize. When Westbrook’s tyres were slow to get up to temperature in the final dash for cash Vilander mounted his attack, but both drivers were caught out by Nick Tandy in the #911 Porsche who made a bid for the lead at turn four. The Briton then spun on the exit of the corner and dropped out of contention. Vilander then also lost what would have been a certain podium when he was tapped by the #55 Mazda.

Milner, meanwhile, had overtaken the other Porsche and was closing in on Westbrook, with the move of the race completed heading into the turn four braking zone. Milner crossed the line with seven tenths between himself and Westbrook, while John Edwards also came from nowhere in the #100 BMW M6 to complete the podium.

Prototype Challenge honours went to PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports which defeated the pole sitting Performance Tech entry in a close contest. The podium was decided late on, when championship leader and second place at the time Renger van der Zande (Starworks) came into contact with Stephen Simpson in the JDC Miller car with 15 minutes remaining. That gave CORE Autosport’s Colin Braun, who had charged past Performance Tech’s Kyle Marcelli, a simple run to the flag in second.

Another exciting class battle played out in GTD where Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen took the spoils in their Dodge Viper.

A reliable first stint by Keating, which was helped by a stop go penalty to the pole sitting Alex Job Racing Porsche, paved the way for Bleekemolen to lead the final portion of the race. The Dutch driver faced a spirited charge from the Porsche of factory driver Jorg Bergmeister, but managed to hold on to victory by 1.762 seconds.

Third place for the Scuderia Corsa Ferrari of Christina Nielsen and Alessandro Balzan mean their championship lead is extended with three rounds to go.

The next round of the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship takes place at Virginia International Raceway on August 28, with GTLM and GTD the only classes competing.

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