2015 TUDOR Northeast Grand Prix and Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge
The TUDOR United SportsCar Championship brought two of their four car classes to the 2015 Northeast Grand Prix. The Prototype Challenge and GT Daytona classes competed in a 2 hour 45 minute test of wills, which saw many pivotal moments. Mike Guasch and Tom Kimber-Smith bided their time and saw two of their competitors lose the race lead from a mechanical malfunction and a collision.
The No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen team led the last 25 laps of the race, after Tom Kimber-Smith passed the No. 11 RSR car of Bruno Junqueira in traffic and managed the gap to hold on for the victory. The No. 8 Starworks car of Mirco Schultis and Renger van der Zande finished third, two laps down..
The turning point in the race happened when Conor Daly, driving the No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports entry, thought that Renger van der Zande had just passed him for the PC lead in the Downhill Turn. He attempted to follow him by the No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Audi R8 LMS of Christopher Haase, who was leading the GTD Class. The two made contact, both sliding into the tire barrier and out of the race. The Starworks car was actually two laps down, gaining one lap back with the pass.
The GT battle was won by the No. 97 Turner Motorsport BMW Z4 of Dane Cameron and Michael Marsal, in a last to first storybook tale of perseverance. The car was damaged heavily in practice and didn't even make it to Qualifying. The team put the car on a flatbed and drove to Mike George's Autoworks Unlimited in nearby Litchfield for repairs. The work was completed early Saturday morning and the car was quickest in morning warmup. Starting from last on the grid, the team elected to veer from the traditional two-stop race strategy. It was the key to victory.
By altering their fuel mapping and just pitting once, when Cameron took over for Marsal, Turner Motorsport took a gamble and won. The No. 33 Riley Motorsport Viper of Jeroen Bleekemolen and Ben Keating came in second, believing all along that they would assume the lead when the Turner BMW pitted. Christina Nielsen and Kuno Wittmer finished third in the No. 007 TRG-AMR Aston-Martin V12 Vantage.
Many things had to fall into place for the hometown favorites to prevail, including the incident that took out the polesitting Miller Audi R8 from the lead of the race. Not only did the incident eliminate a tough challenger for the GTD Class win, the time spent behind the safety car under yellow, while the tire barrier was repaired, saved the BMW Z4 enough fuel to make the race strategy work out perfectly.
The first race of the day combined the GT and ST Classes of the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge Championship in a 2 Hour race. Lime Rock Park was the second race for the new Ford Shelby GT 350R-C in the series. It was also the second straight win for the new car. Scott Maxwell and Billy Johnson drove the No. 15 Multimatic entry to a win, followed by their teammates Austin Cindric and Jade Buford in the No. 158 Multimatic car.
Cindric and Buford won at the previous round at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park. In that race, Johnson and Buford crashed and showed up at Lime Rock with an unraced replacement Shelby. It was another case of last to first. The No. 15 car had electrical problems in Qualifying on Friday, which forced the pair to start at the tail end of the GS grid. Maxwell took the lead one lap before handing off to Johnson, who joined the race in fourth. Johnson passed Lawson Aschenbach in the No. 9 Stevenson Motorsport Chevrolet Camaro Z/28.R with 45 minutes remaining and held on for the win.
Jade Buford finished 3 seconds behind Johnson for the Multimatic Motorsports 1-2 finish. BJ Zacharais finished just behind Buford in he No. 14 Doran Racing Nissan 370Z. The two top point leading cars, the No. 6 Stevenson Motorsports Z/28.R of Robin Liddell and Andrew Davis clashed early in the race with the No. 13 Rum Bum Racing Porsche. Davis collided with Hugh Plumb, heavily damaging the Porsche and resulting in a penalty for the Camaro. Liddell salvaged a fourth place, but the Rum Bum Porsche took a lot of time in the pits to repair and ended their day in 10th.
Chad McCumbee and Stevan McAleer took the ST Class win from pole in the No. 5 CJ Wilson Racing Mazda MX-5. The team is owned by Los Angeles Angels pitcher CJ Wilson. McCumbee led from the green flag, clear through to the driver change.
When McAleer took over, he cycled back to the front during green flag pit stops, leading the last 45 laps of the race. Eric Foss, driving the No. 56 Murillio Racing Porsche Cayman with Jeff Mosing, was able to hold off the No. 17 RS1 Porsche Cayman of Spencer Pumpelly to clinch second ahead of Pumpelly and teammate Luis Rodriguez Junior. Pumpelly pulled double duty at Lime Rock, competing in the TUDOR race in the No. 73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche 911 GT America with Patrick Lindsey.
All in all it was an exciting day at the Road Racing Center of the East. Hopefully, with the new paddock and fan amenity improvements at Lime Rock Park, IMSA will reward the loyal fans of the Northeast Grand Prix by bringing all four classes of competition of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship in 2016.
Copyright 2001-2015 Greg Sarni, USA