Taylor Made: Corvette DP Wins First Race Of 2016

Photo: IMSA

Beaten out for the TOTAL Pole Award on Friday, Ricky Taylor didn’t need long to make amends. Driving the No. 10 Konica Minolta Corvette DP, Taylor bested polesitter Christian Fittipaldi into Turn 1 on the opening lap and paired with his brother Jordan in winning Saturday’s BUBBA burger Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach.

Race results will remain unofficial, pending extended technical inspection and analysis.

Leading all but three of the 75 laps in the 100-minute race, the Taylors successfully defended their victory on the 1.968-mile temporary circuit, giving the Corvette DP its first triumph of the season. It was the fifth IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship victory for the Taylors and 12th career victory for both brothers in major North American sports car competition.

Joao Barbosa finished second, 2.958 seconds behind after taking over from Fittipaldi in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Corvette DP. Action Express Racing teammates Eric Curran and Dane Cameron took third in the No. 31 Whelen Engineering/Team Fox Corvette DP, 4.159 seconds back at the finish.

While off the podium, Mazda Motorsports had its best outing to date in WeatherTech Championship competition. Tom Long led three laps and joined Joel Miller in finishing fourth in the No. 70 Castrol/ModSpace Mazda Prototype, one position ahead of Tristan Nunez and Jonathan Bomarito in the team’s No. 55 entry.

JDC/Miller Motorsports Takes Second PC Victory With Goikhberg, Simpson
After opening 2016 by scoring the team’s first Prototype Challenge (PC) victory in the longest race of the season – the Rolex 24 At Daytona – Mikhail Goikhberg and Stephen Simpson dominated one of the shortest races of the season to return JDC/Miller Motorsports to victory lane in the No. 85 Hi-Tide Boat Lifts/Red Line Oil ORECA FLM09.

Goikhberg led the opening 36 laps before turning the car over to Simpson. Four laps later, Simpson passed Robert Alon in the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA FLM09 to regain the lead and held on for the remainder of the event.

“From my point of view, this one was really done by JDC Miller Motorsports, Misha and I did the easy part,” Simpson said. “The team has really been working hard, not just this year, but last year as well. All credit goes to them. To win the BUBBA burger Grand Prix is just perfect. It was great today, and now we go on to Laguna Seca looking for another win. These wins are getting addicting.”

Renger van der Zande finished second in the No. 8 Starworks Motorsport ORECA FLM09 started by Alex Popow, 2.140 seconds behind at the finish. Starworks also fielded the No. 88 Popcorn Sutton entry of Mark Kvamme and Ashley Freiberg, which finished fifth.

On the final lap, Kyle Marcelli was attempting to get around van der Zande in Turn 8 when he tagged a tire barrier. Marcelli managed to continue, but his car suddenly snapped to the right and hit a barrier, badly damaging the No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports entry. Marcelli was uninjured in the incident and joined James French, who started the race in the car and led three laps before his pit stop, on the podium following the event to receive a third-place trophy.

NOTEBOOK
• Ricky Taylor led the opening 37 laps for the second consecutive year. Gridding second after being edged out for the TOTAL Pole Award by Christian Fittipaldi, Taylor opened with a strong move to take the lead in Turn 1. He led the remainder of his stint, and was 3.6 seconds ahead of Fittipaldi when both pitted.

“I was devastated after qualifying,” Taylor admitted. “Track position is so important here at Long Beach. I was thinking about it all night, and with the race not starting until 4 p.m., I planned so many scenarios for the start of the race. Sometimes when you’re second, it’s a nice position to be in, and you’re not the first person to feel the grip levels and you can be the one attacking. Christian gave me some room, there was some rubbing, but it was fun.

• The second-place finish elevated Fittipaldi and Barbosa from third to first in the Prototype point standings. Unofficially, they lead teammates Curran and Cameron by three points, 93-90, with the Taylors advancing from sixth to third with 89 points.

“If you can’t win, finish second and take the points,” said Fittipaldi, who is seeking his third consecutive Prototype title with Barbosa for Action Express. “I’m sure these points will be important at the end of the season, and now off to next race. I’m happy to be leading the championship leaving Long Beach today.”

• Goikhberg and Simpson unofficially took over the PC lead with 96 points, three more than Popow and van der Zande. Robert Alon and Tom Kimber-Smith entered the race with the lead but are now third with 92 points after finishing sixth in the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports entry.

“We’re ready to really challenge for the championship, and that’s what we are here to do,” Goikhberg said. “I think it all started from last year. We’re still a fairly young team. There were a lot of moments of brilliance and I don’t think anyone saw them but us. This year we are really building on that momentum from last year.”

• Colin Braun brought out the only caution one hour, nine minutes into the event when he lost power in the No. 54 CORE autosport Flex-Box/Composite Resources ORECA FLM09. This was the first caution in WeatherTech Championship competition at Long Beach, as the 2014 and 2015 events were run caution free.

• While this was the first race for the PC class in WeatherTech Championship competition at Long Beach, CORE autosport took a three-race winning streak in ALMS competition at the circuit into the event. Jon Bennett – who won the most recent race with Braun in 2013 – backed into a tire barrier on lap 25 after contact with Bill Auberlen, with the BMW driver penalized for the incident. While Bennett was eventually able to continue following repairs, the No. 54 CORE autosport Flex-Box/Composite Resources ORECA FLM09 sustained left-rear suspension and wing damage.

• Next up for the WeatherTech Championship will be the Continental Monterey Grand Prix powered by Mazda at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on Sunday, May 1. The weekend features a pair of two-hour sprints, one for the Prototype and GTLM classes followed by PC and GT Daytona together.