LAKEVILLE, Conn. — official series release — Scott R. LePage/LAT Photographic for IMSA photo —
The winners of the two longest races on the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship schedule, Mike Guasch and Tom Kimber-Smith, gave PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports the Prototype Challenge (PC) victory at the shortest track on the circuit Saturday, capturing the Northeast Grand Prix victory at Lime Rock Park.
After trouble struck down the two dominant cars on the seven-turn, 1.474-mile circuit, Kimber-Smith passed Bruno Junqueira with 35 minutes remaining and went on to win in the No. 52 Cuttwood ORECA FLM09.
It was the fourth podium finish of the season for Guasch and Kimber-Smith, who won the class at both the Rolex 24 At Daytona and the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida.
“This is my home race, since moving to America (at nearby Pleasant Valley, New York) two years ago,” said Kimber-Smith, who drove the final stint in the event en route to the win. “I think I had more fans here today than I used to have at Silverstone (England). It’s great to have another victory. We’ve had a lot of bad luck this year. Coming into this race we knew we needed to win to keep in the championship bout. Now we’re back in the championship hunt. The team did a fantastic job, and Mike’s opening stint was fantastic. Today everything seemed to go our way.”
“We came here with a strategy,” added Guasch. “We kept pushing and pushing, and the other guys were using up their tires. We qualified a little poorly but that didn’t really matter. The track is just so small and so quick so you’re just round and round and round. I actually enjoy it, the competitiveness of hitting the same corner over and over again, trying different things. I like that.”
Junqueira and Chris Cumming finished second in the No. 11 RSR Racing AutoMaxUSA ORECA FLM09, followed by the lapped No. 8 Starworks Motorsport Martini entry of Renger van der Zande and Mirco Schultis.
Stephen Simpson captured the TOTAL Pole Award and dominated the opening hour in the No. 85 JDC/Miller Motorsports UndergroundCellar.com ORECA FLM09. However, the car suddenly stopped in Turn 3 with an electrical problem at the one-hour, four-minute mark, bringing out a caution. The car was taken to the garage, losing several laps for repairs. Simpson and co-driver Mikhail Goikhberg eventually finished sixth.
That gave the lead to Conor Daly, who had taken over from James French in the No. 38 Ric-Man Construction/GO-PUCK/Braille Batteries ORECA FLM09 for Performanc Tech Motorsports. Daly attempted to follow Renger van der Zande – who had just regained one of his two lost laps – through the final Downhill turn when he had contact with the GT Daytona (GTD) class-leading No. 48 Castrol EDGE Audi R8 LMS of Christopher Haase. Both cars slammed into the tire barrier and were eliminated, although both drivers emerged unscathed.
That gave the lead to Junqueira, who led 41 laps before Kimber-Smith took the lead in traffic. Kimber-Smith retained the lead when both leaders pitted two laps later, and led the final 23 circuits, winning by 8.304 seconds.
In the GT Daytona class, Michael Marsal and returning driver Dane Cameron sat atop the podium after a victory that capped a trying weekend for the pair, who made just one pit stop in the two-hour, 40-minute race on the 1-474-mile circuit.
In Friday’s morning practice session, Marsal heavily crashed the No. 97 BMW, forcing the team to utilize a local repair shop and work into the early morning hours in order to be ready for the race.
But, once the green flag dropped and running “(fuel) mappings we have never really run to see what we could save,” Cameron brought the No. 97 Alvarez & Marsal/IHG Rewards Club BMW Z4 across the finish line 3.505 seconds ahead of Jeroen Bleekemolen in the No. 33 ViperExchange.com Dodge Viper SRT GT3-R to score the first victory of the season for the Turner team and the first TUDOR Championship victory ever for Marsal.
“What a weekend,” Marsal exclaimed. “This is my home track, the first time I ever drove a racecar, (was) here. First time I ever won a race, (was) here. Yesterday, I wound up in the wall for the first time here. It was tough. I think the back right side of the car was an inch shorter. We didn’t think it would get fixed. It was busted up pretty bad. When you have everyone, your mom and dad, everyone you love, and this is Turner’s home track, it’s tough. They worked all night on the car, literally.”
“Hat’s off to Dane. Dane is the man. He took it from there.”
It was the second win of the season for Cameron, who took a Prototype class victory at Detroit in May alongside co-driver Eric Curran in the No. 31 Whelen Engineering/Team Fox Corvette DP for Action Express Racing. Cameron, who won the GTD title with Turner in 2014, was pinch-hitting for regular driver Markus Palttala, who had another commitment this weekend.
“I was trying to try and lift the pedal as much as I could,” Cameron admitted. “It was completely different than Mosport (in the No. 31 Prototype), where I was flat out and as fast as I needed to go. We just focused on the pace I needed to run and the laps I needed to run. We got a bit of a gap, so I could focus on the numbers that I needed, and save fuel to where the guys in the stand were happy.”
“It was making me pretty uncomfortable, but luckily, we had saved enough during the first part of the stint to go as long as we did here at Lime Rock.”
The second-place run for the No. 33 team was the best of the season for Bleekemolen and co-driver Ben Keating, topping a previous best result of sixth last time out in the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen.
Third place went to the No. 007 Royal Purple/Orion Energy/LaSalle Solutions/PassTime USA Aston Martin V12 Vantage co-driven by Christina Nielsen and Kuno Wittmer for the TRG-AMR team. It was the third podium result of the season for Nielsen, who has unofficially moved into second in the GTD driver standings. She trails co-leaders Christopher Haase and Dion von Moltke by just five points, 171-166.
The next round for the TUDOR Championship is the Continental Tire Road Race Showcase at Road America on Sunday, August 9. The race will be televised live 3 p.m. ET.