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Posted: Monday, June 30th 2014 at 10:00am

Westbrook, Spirit Of Daytona Corvette wins Watkins Glen

By IMSA Media
EMAIL STORY CONTACT EDITOR PRINT
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Richard Westbrook and Michael Valiante celebrate in victory lane after winning Sunday afternoon at Watkins Glen. / Photo: Michael L. Levitt LAT Photo USA for IMSA
WATKINS GLEN, NY – In a six-hour TUDOR United SportsCar Championship race that came down to the wire, Richard Westbrook was in the right place at the right time.

Westbrook drove his No. 90 VISITFLORIDA.COM/GoPro Corvette DP past Alex Brundle in turn 4 at Watkins Glen International after a late-race caution wiped out Brundle’s sizable lead. He then led the final five laps for a 0.877-second victory in the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen. The race was the third round in the four-race Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup.

“Richard and my approach for the last couple of races was to keep the car safe and be in a position that would allow us to take a podium or possibly the win,” said Spirit of Daytona co-driver Michael Valiante. “It’s worked for us the last two races.”

The team was coming off a second-place finish in the Chevrolet Sports Car Classic presented by the Metro Detroit Chevy Dealers at the Belle Isle Street Circuit, its first podium of the season.

The win was the fourth for Daytona Beach-based Spirit of Daytona, and the first since Sept. 9, 2012 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. All three of the team’s previous wins came that season.

"It’s a massive relief for us to get a victory,” Westbrook said. “It’s been a bit of a dry spell for us, especially on the back of a successful 2012. We’ll take that win for sure.”

Despite taking a runner-up finish after leading late, Brundle and his No. 42 OAK Racing Morgan/Nissan co-drivers Gustavo Yacaman and Ho-Pin Tung were able to take positives away from their first visit to the historic 3.4-mile track.

“It’s been a tremendous effort from my team and both teammates,” Brundle said. “We made a step forward in pace, understanding the car and understanding the tire. I think we can go away happy but we did kind of snatch defeat from the jaws of victory a little bit.”

Brundle, who started the race from the pole position, grabbed the lead on lap 170 after Valiante brought the No. 90 to pit road for tires, fuel and a driver change with 48 minutes remaining in the race. An accident between Alex Tagliani and Ian James brought out a full-course caution, giving Westbrook the opportunity to catch Brundle.

Brundle had one last chance to track down Westbrook when Scott Pruett was spun by Renger van der Zande with 10 minutes remaining. Safety officials hurried to ready the race track, and Westbrook prevailed in a one-lap dash to the checkered flag.

Momentum is on the side of OAK Racing, however, having placed on the podium two consecutive races.

"I’m really proud of the team, the guys worked really hard on the car last night,” Yacaman said. “They stayed up until 1 a.m. making some updates to the car and getting it ready for the race.

“Every race we’ve started we’ve been consistent. We keep moving up the ladder on the podium. We really need that win, we’re looking for that win. We’ll keep working, working hard until we can get the win."

Westbrook and Valiante earned eight points in the Patrón Endurance Cup, matching leaders Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi of Action Express Racing, who led at the race’s halfway point.

Wayne Taylor Racing teammates Ricky Taylor and Jordan Taylor finished fifth, but were able to maintain their TUDOR Championship Prototype lead in the standings.

Colin Braun, Jon Bennett and James Gue displayed the resiliency needed to win a championship, overcoming an early mistake for their fourth victory in five races.

Despite winning the TOTAL Pole Award, the team wasn’t in front of the Prototype Challenge (PC) class until the 40-minute mark in the race. That was short-lived, however, lasting only three laps. From there, the team was in trouble, falling a lap down.

"I was in a pretty good dogfight with some GT Le Mans cars,” Bennett said. “I had some momentum and I popped out to make a pass in the bus stop (chicane). I was between corner worker stations and I realized I was going really fast and everyone else was going really slow. I was hoping no one noticed but they did. So we had a drive-through penalty for that. That got us a little bit behind.”

Braun and Gue were able to make up the difference, with Braun grabbing the lead for good midway through the fourth hour. The victory extends the PC points lead for the No. 54 CORE autosport ORECA FLM09.

"The result we wanted here was getting the win,” Braun said. “It’s really cool to be able to win these and it helps us for our quest for the championship as well. We’re just trying to get better and improve and keep going on for the next one.”

They team has won all three Patrón Endurance Cup events and lead those standings as well.

"It’s quite an honor to have done well in those races that are a part of the Patron Endurance (Cup),” Bennett said. “It’s the most important endurance races in North America this year, and to kind of highlight them and put them on a pedestal of the championship themselves, it’s a testament to doing so well.”

It’s safe to say Corvette Racing has hit its stride in the first year running the new Chevrolet Corvette C7.R.

With expected teething issues a thing of the past, Corvette Racing has gone on a tear in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship GT Le Mans (GTLM) class, a tear that continued Sunday.

Antonio Garcia held off the No. 91 Dodge Viper SRT GTS-R of Marc Goossens on a last-lap restart in the win, joining co-driver Jan Magnussen in victory lane for the third straight race in the No. 3 Corvette C7.R. The two also led at the halfway mark to score maximum points en route to a Round 3 victory in the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup.

“I have to say, I am so pleased with how things have gone for the team this year, with the (No.) 3 car especially,” said Magnussen, who picked up his 40th win in North American professional sports car racing. “We’re developing a new car and we keep finding new things to do with it. I just saw that all the fastest race laps for all the GTLMs were all within three tenths (of a second). It is a very competitive category. You have to be on your best game for everything you do. There is no room for any mistakes.”

Limiting mistakes is one of the reasons Corvette Racing has been so strong over the summer months. In addition to the team’s success in North America in the TUDOR Championship, the team finished second in GTE Pro at the 24 Hours of Le Mans two weeks ago with Magnussen, Garcia and Jordan Taylor.

Goossens and co-driver Dominik Farnbacher finished second in the return of the red-and-white liveried Dodge Viper SRT GTS-R. The team’s No. 93 Dodge Viper SRT GTS-R driven by Jonathan Bomarito and Kuno Wittmer finished third to round out the podium.

Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner drove the No. 4 Corvette C7.R to a fourth-place finish, while Nick Tandy, Richard Lietz and Patrick Pilet finished fifth in the No. 911 Porsche North America Porsche 911 RSR.

The TUDOR Championship next heads to Canadian Tire Motorsport Park on July 13 for the Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix presented by Hawk Performance. The two-hour, 45-minute race will feature the Prototype, GTLM and GTD classes.

Dane Cameron and Markus Palttala drove to a dominant victory. The duo led all but nine laps in Turner Motorsport’s No. 94 BMW Z4 for their second GT Daytona (GTD) class victory of the season.

The team also led at the halfway mark to score the maximum 10 points in their Round 3 win in the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup.
A late caution and final lap restart allowed Townsend Bell to close the deficit in the runner-up No. 555 REVO/Robert Graham/Royal Purple/Motegi Ferrari 458 Italia, but there wasn’t enough time to catch Cameron who went on to win by 2.087 seconds.

“It was picture perfect today,” said Palttala, who started the car and quickly moved to the front. “I took the lead in the first corner of the very first lap and never gave it away. Everything went according to plan.”
“It’s pretty special to get the first win for both of us here at Watkins Glen,” added Cameron, picking up his fourth win in North American professional sports car competition. “I checked the (Sahlen’s) Six Hour box and one of the marquee events for us here in the TUDOR Championship. Literally, it could not have gone any better than it did today. The cars were excellent, the team was excellent. Perfect.”

With its second-place finish, the No. 555 AIM Autosport team, as well as Bell and co-driver Bill Sweedler unofficially extended their lead in the Patrón Endurance Cup to 14 points over the No. 44 Magnus Racing team (37-23). With wins in both segments Sunday Turner Motorsport now has 21 points despite not scoring any in the Rolex 24 At Daytona.

Bell and Sweedler also extended their lead in the TUDOR Championship season-long standings. Despite finishes of 14th at Mazda Raceway and seventh at Detroit Belle Isle in the two most recent races, the two have made up significant ground in the Patrón Endurance Cup events thus far, winning at Daytona and Watkins Glen and finishing second at Sebring.

Finishing third at Watkins Glen in Magnus Racing’s Porsche 911 GT America were full-season co-drivers Andy Lally and John Potter and third driver Sebastian Asch. Fresh off a fifth-place in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Dempsey Racing and drivers Patrick Dempsey and Joe Foster teamed with Andrew Davis to finish fourth in the No. 27 Porsche 911 GT America. Alessandro Balzan and Jeff Westphal finished fifth in the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 Italia.

The Patrón Endurance Cup concludes Oct. 4 with the season-ending Petit Le Mans powered by Mazda at Road Atlanta.
Associated Categories: Sports News, Professional Sports, NASCAR

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