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Posted: Sunday, August 10th 2014 at 10:24pm

Barbosa, Fittipaldi prevail in wild Road America race

By IMSA Media
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Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi scored the DP victory in TUROR United SportsCar Championship action at Road America. / Photo: Richard Dole LAT Photo USA for IMSA
ELKHART LAKE, WI – Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi prevailed in Sunday’s Continental Tire Road Race Showcase at Road America. The drivers of the No. 5 Action Express Racing Corvette DP recovered from an early spin and brake problems, dodged six cautions and made a timely pit stop to score their third TUDOR United SportsCar Championship victory of the season – padding their lead in the Prototype point standings in the process.

Barbosa took the checkered flag 2.240 seconds ahead of Ozz Negri, who had his best finish of the season in the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian Ford EcoBoost/Riley started by John Pew. Scott Sharp and Ryan Dalziel completed the podium in the No. 1 Extreme Speed Motorsports Tequila Patrón HPD ARX-03b/Honda.

Fittipaldi spun while leading early in the race after contact with Ricky Taylor, driving the No. 10 Konica Minolta Corvette DP. Fittipaldi pitted under caution on lap 22, turning the car over to Barbosa, with most of the leading teams using that stop to change drivers.

“It was a pretty wild race, but we can’t be happier,” Fittipaldi said. “At one point during my stint, I thought it was all over. I was having huge brake problems. But we managed to fix it on our first stop, and we had a solid car the rest of the race.”

The turning point of the race came on lap 38, when the Action Express team pitted under caution while a number of contenders elected to stay out. That allowed the three eventual podium finishers to maintain their track position while the remaining contenders pitted during a later caution with 45 minutes remaining, effectively splitting the Prototype field.

Jordan Taylor was leading the race in the car started by his brother Ricky when the fifth caution waved for an incident involving Olivier Pla in the No. 42 OAK Racing Morgan/Nissan in turn 3.

Before the caution ended, Taylor hit a barrier in turn 9, and his race was ended with a steering failure. That incident extended the caution. When racing resumed with 20 minutes remaining, the cars that pitted were mired in traffic with Prototype Challenge (PC) and GT Le Mans (GTLM) cars, with not enough time remaining to get back into contention. Barbosa led the remainder of the race, while Negri managed to pass Dalziel on the final restart to take second.

“The car was really perfect today,” Barbosa said. “The team did unbelievable strategy. We pitted at just the right time, and the last few yellows really made us good to go all the way to the end. I didn’t have to worry about conserving fuel – I could push as hard as I could. I think we would have been good to go regardless, but the extended caution really helped us.”

Entering the race with a two-point lead, Action Express Racing unofficially increased its lead to 16 points over the Taylors with two Prototype races remaining, with Racing co-drivers Richard Westbrook and Michael Valiante another two points back after a fourth-place finish.

Renger van der Zande held off Sean Rayhall by 0.415 seconds to give the No. 8 Starworks Motorsport Martini ORECA FLM09 its second Prototype Challenge (PC) victory of the season.

Mirco Schultis started the winning car, which ran in contention throughout the race while problems eliminated many of their top contenders. Van der Zande took the lead on his second and final pit stop, fighting off Rayhall throughout the stretch run to back up the team’s earlier victory at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

“I went in third and came out with the lead on my final pit stop,” van der Zande said. “The team did an amazing pit stop. From there on, it was all a matter of controlling the race. Every restart was a challenge to stay in front. I don’t think we had the fastest car out there, but we still won.”

Rayhall finished second in the No. 25 8Star Motorsports Takis/Speedsters ORECA FLM09 started by Luis Diaz – matching their best result of the season at Mazda Raceway. Chris Miller and Stephen Simpson rounded out the podium in the No. 85 JDC/Miller Motorsports entry.

Four-time 2014 winners Colin Braun and Jon Bennett were knocked out of contention when Braun was hit from behind while running third in turn 12, bringing out the fourth of six caution periods. The resulting eighth-place finish saw the drivers of the No. 54 CORE autosport entry’s lead unofficially trimmed from 44 to 35 points (224-189 points), with van der Zande taking over second with three PC races remaining

Both of RSR Racing cars had problems after the team finished 1-2 in the class at Indianapolis. Jack Hawksworth spun in Turn 2 late in the race while running in podium contention in the No. 08 RSR Racing entry started by Chris Cumming, which eventually finished fourth. RSR’s No. 09 entry was eliminated on the third lap, when race leader Duncan Ende was involved in a crash in the car qualified on the PC pole by Bruno Junqueira after contact with a Prototype.

One race after Giancarlo Fisichella picked up the first TUDOR United SportsCar Championship pole for the Ferrari F458 Italia in the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class, his co-driver Pierre Kaffer survived a pair of restarts to give Risi Competizione its first TUDOR Championship win.

It was the first visit to Victory Lane in the TUDOR Championship for Fisichella and Kaffer after scoring podiums at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and Indianapolis. It certainly wasn’t easy, however, with Kaffer going head-to-head with the No. 56 BMW Team RLL BMW Z4 of Dirk Mueller throughout the final 20 minutes.

On the first of two late-race restarts with 20 minutes remaining, Mueller briefly got alongside the No. 62 Ferrari before Kaffer was able to inch away. Mueller had one last shot on a final restart with 11 minutes remaining, but Kaffer was able to beat the BMW Z4 to the stripe by 1.588 seconds. Mueller and co-driver John Edwards settled for second, the fifth podium finish in eight GTLM races for BMW Team RLL this season.

“It’s great for the team and especially the 60th Anniversary of Ferrari,” said Fisichella, whose stellar season includes a win in GTE Pro at the 24 Hours of Le Mans. “I was fifth when we pitted, the guys did a fantastic job. We were able to come out in first. That was the key to the race. Pierre was able to keep the same position to the end of the race.”

With the lead out of site in the final few laps, Mueller went into defense mode in a tight battle with Jonathan Bomarito. The two raced side-by-side for several turns with Bomarito settling for third in the No. 93 SRT Motorsports Dodge Viper SRT GTS-R started by Kuno Wittmer.

With the podium finish, Bomarito and Wittmer unofficially close to within eight points of the championship-leading No. 3 Corvette Racing Corvette C7.R shared by Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen in the GTLM standings.

The No. 94 Turner Motorsport BMW Z4 of Markus Palttala and Dane Cameron inherited the GT Daytona (GTD) pole position for Sunday’s Continental Tire Road Race Showcase when the pole-winning No. 007 TRG-AMR Aston Martin Vantage suffered an incident in a morning warm-up session.

Determined to make up for a 15th-place finish at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Palttala and Cameron took advantage of the situation, combining to win their third race of the season.

“We want to be on the pole because we are quickest, but this time we were a bit lucky,” said Palttala, who started the BMW Z4. “I got away first and pulled a one or two second gap. We are down on power with straight-line speed and it was always tight so it took a little bit of juggling, but it also took a little bit of everything.”

It’s been an up-and-down season for the Turner Motorsport duo. The team has a class-leading three victories, but a pair of finishes outside of the top-15 relegated the team to seventh in points heading into Road America.

“We thought we’d come in here and do some damage control,” said Cameron. “It might have looked easy because we were up front for most of the day, but we were under fire. We tried to maintain some sort of space and keep the Porsches behind us. It was unfortunate what happened to the Aston (Martin) this morning. We could have had some fun with them today.”

Leh Keen had a couple of opportunities on late-race restarts to get by Cameron, but the No. 22 WeatherTech Porsche 911 GT America started by Cooper MacNeil settled for second, 2.169 seconds back. Rounding out the top three was the No. 58 Discount Tire/Universal Industrial Services Porsche 911 GT America of Madison Snow and Jan Heylen.

Next up for the TUDOR Championship will be the Oak Tree Grand Prix at Virginia International Raceway for the PC, GT Le Mans (GTLM) and GT Daytona (GTD) classes on Sunday, Aug. 24. The next event for all four classes will be the Lone Star Le Mans at Austin’s Circuit of The Americas on Saturday, Sept. 20.
Associated Categories: Sports News, Professional Sports, NASCAR

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