A sensational race at the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship saw Tequila Patron ESM celebrate an unexpected victory in a race that saw the leaders fall away.
Due to two consecutive FCY’s at the start, the ESM team decided to pit the #22, quickly taking out Johannes van Overbeek, without him completing two racing laps, as Pipo Derani took the wheel. While it was a disappointment for the 45-year-old, Derani would not have to take the penalty later on, securing their second win of the year.
It was almost thrown away as quickly as it was gained though, with Derani making contact and being spun by Felipe Nasr into the first corner, on the second restart. The mistake dropped him to the back of the pack, but his recovery saw him overtake the whole field, remaining in free air and leapfrogging the Acura‘s in the final hour.
Second would go to Colin Braun in the #54 CORE Autosport Oreca 07. The 29-year-old had fought back in the final stint after a disastrous end of the race for Acura Team Penske, who had spent much of the race running 1-2.
While the #6 and #7 Acura had spent their early race at the front, they failed to make the most of the FCY’s, with Juan Pablo Montoya running over the gravel on the exit of the pits, dropping him behind Derani. Despite this, the #6 inherited the final podium place after the #7 hit the #62 Risi Competizione with five minutes to go, breaking their suspension.
It would be a home race the #55 Team Joest threw away, as Harry Tincknell got too aggressive in his attempt to pass an out-of-place #52 Ligier JS P217, spinning his Mazda RT-24P out of the lead with just over an hour to go. The Brit lost 45 seconds on track, fighting back to get within 3 seconds of Montoya by the flag.
Perhaps the most spectacular recovery though went to the #31 Whelen Engineering Racing car in fifth. Like Overbeek, Eric Curran had attempted to pit early, but jumped the gun before the pitlane was open, only to stall, not get serviced and fall to the rear, before coming back into the pits. They were only 30 seconds behind the leader at the flag with the #99 JDC-Miller Motorsports car rounding out the top six.
The race had begun in dramatic circumstances as the #5 Cadillac DPi driven by Joao Barbosa was taken out by Mikhail Goikhberg on the run to the start. The field had been bunched up as they waited for the green flag with Goikhberg not expecting Barbosa to slow, spinning the Mustang Sampling Racing.
Chaos ensued behind, as the #66 Ford GT and #911 Porsche driven by Nick Tandy collided with the stricken Cadillac. The race would be restarted, but it didn’t get better as GTD polesitter Katherine Legge was spun in the final corner by Justin Marks, as the track went green.
Elsewhere, the win in GTLM went the way of the #25 BMW Team RLL. They had convinced many a 1-2 was on the cards, but the #24 driven by John Edwards could not stretch out the fuel, pitting from the lead with eight minutes to go. The result gave Connor De Phillippi a win on home soil with co-driver Alexander Sims.
Chasing the #25 over the line had been Laurens Vanthoor in the #912 Porsche GT Team car. It would eventually be three manufacturers on the podium with the #3 Chevrolet Corvette continuing its run of podiums without a win, despite having controlled the class for much of the race.
The late stop ensured the #24 BMW remained ahead of the #4 Chevrolet, taking fourth place and a continuing their good run of form.
In GTD, after being spun at the start, the #86 Acura NSX GT3 defied the odds to settle into the lead. Legge had done much of the work in the opening half of the race, but the team found themselves in the pack after the final round of stops. Instead, it was Alvaro Parente who scythed his way through for Meyer Shank Racing‘s second win of the year.
The result proved vital with championship leaders Paul Miller Racing only able to finish fourth in the #48 car, after Madison Snow stayed out too long during the middle stint on worn tyres, costing him valuable time.
The closing stages had seen the #73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche leading and holding back a train of five cars. While Joerg Berkmeister was unable to defend from Parente, he still picked up second ahead of the #33 Team Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG, as seven manufacturers made up the top seven in the order.