Renger van der Zande pulled off a sensational late pass at the Corkscrew to give Visit Florida Racing victory at the America’s Tire 250 victory at Laguna Seca.
The Dutchman’s victory delivers not only the second non Cadillac victory this season, but also a much needed boost the Visit Florida outfit, who have endured a difficult season, which was compounded by the team’s base being flooded by Hurricane Irma.
The podium was rounded out by the Cadillacs of Cameron and Eric Curran in the #31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac example and the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing (WTR) machine.
The WTR Cadillac, piloted by brothers Ricky and Jordan Taylor, arrived in California with one hand on the overall Weathertech SportsCar Championship trophy, needing a win to take the championship, and they started the weekend in dominant mood by securing pole by 0.8 seconds.
The WTR car with Ricky behind the wheel, proceeded to charge into the distance, setting the lap record on the fourth lap and had established a 13 second lead before the first pitstops.
However, each round of pitstops stops eroded the brothers advantage and saw them not only lose the lead to Cameron after the second round of stops, but also second to van der Zande at the final round of stops.
A decision to only change the right sided tyres of the Ligier paid off, as van der Zande emerged ahead of the #10 Cadillac and then started to charge down the #31 example.
After lap after lap of pressure, with just 100 seconds of the race remaining van der Zande saw his chance at the top of the Corkscrew and took it, taking a well deserved win by 2.248sec.
Third place meant that the WTR squad was unable to clinch the title in California, yet they only need to start and complete the minimum driver-time in order to secure the title at Petit Le Mans.
In GTLM, John Edwards had the worst possible start to the race when the black #24 RLL BMW was spun around by its white #25 sister car at the first corner, dropping it to dead last.
Yet, Edwards and co-driver Martin Tomcyzk recovered masterfully to take the win in the category, if only by half a car’s length from the #62 Risi Competizione Ferrari.
The popular Texan team was making its return after a troubled season and Toni Vilander took pole and stormed away holding a 12 second lead until it made it’s final stop with 32 minutes to go.
This was off-sequence with most of its rivals and as a result emerged fourth, but with a lighter fuel load and fresher tyres.
With two minutes to go, he grabbed second place from the #911 Porsche of Dirk Werner but was unable to catch the fuel saving BMW up front.
Werner held on to third, just ahead of championship leaders, the #3 Corvette of Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen.
In GTD, the championship leaders Alessandro Balzan and Christina Nielsen took their first victory of the season to strengthen their title bid.
The defending champions took advantage of late fuel stops for #54 CORE Porsche and the #96 Turner BMW to take victory ahead of Andy Lally in the #93 Acura, with Patrick Lindsey finishing third in the #73 Park Place Porsche.
Madison Snow in the #48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracan charged into an early lead, but a damaged his bonnet at the start, which forced him to pit after 11 laps when it popped up.
It handed the advantage to another Lamborghini, the #16 Change Racing of Jeroen Mul and Corey Lewis into the lead.
Yet their advantage was eroded by the race’s only caution which saw nearly all of the GTD front runners hitting pitlane.
After the stops cycled out it was Colin Braun in the #54 Porsche and Jesse Krohn in the #96 BMW who found themselves first and second but unfortunately with insufficient fuel to finish.