DETROIT – official release — IMSA photo — Ricky and Jordan Taylor sprinted to the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship Prototype (P) class and overall victory Saturday in the Chevrolet Sports Car Classic presented by Metro Detroit Chevy Dealers, a result that wasn’t the least bit surprising.
After all, the Taylor Brothers were in a hurry.
After winning the fifth race of the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship season, the Taylor Brothers took off for the airport and a flight to Paris, to be followed by a train ride to Le Mans, France. They were expecting to arrive around noon on Sunday, to participate in the 24 Hours of Le Mans mandatory test session.
Ricky Taylor brought the No. 10 Konica Minolta Corvette DP home only 0.207 seconds ahead of Richard Westbrook, who was in the pole-sitting No. 90 Spirit of Daytona Racing Corvette DP. Westbrook co-drove with Michael Valiante. Olivier Pla finished third in the No. 42 OAK Racing Morgan/Nissan after taking over from co-driver Gustavo Yacaman. It was a third-consecutive Detroit victory for Jordan Taylor, following victories in 2012 and ’13 in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series.
What was shaping up to be a routine run to the checkered flag for Ricky Taylor changed quickly in the closing minutes of the one-hour, 40-minute race on the tight 2.36-mile, Detroit Belle Isle street circuit. Following a 23-minute caution period necessitated by a repair of the tire wall in turn 12, 27 minutes remained; at that point the Taylors had led for 48 minutes.
Ricky Taylor was out front but soon, Barbosa was lurking, ever closer with each lap. Taylor took the white flag but suddenly, Barbosa took the lead with a daring inside move into the turn three right-hander, nudging Taylor into the wall. Moments later, though, the left-rear tire on Barbosa’s car was shredding and then, he was spinning. Taylor sped by.
Onto the checkered and onto Le Mans.
“When he put us in the wall the only thing I was thinking was either he is going to have a tire go down or I was definitely going to break because it was a hard hit,” Ricky Taylor said. “For those last couple laps it was really tooth and nail.”
Ricky Taylor is slated to co-drive a LMP2 car at Le Mans, while Jordan Taylor and Westbrook will join the heralded Corvette Racing operation for a LM GTE Pro effort.
“Richard and I have done this [Detroit-to-Le Mans trip] before together and it was a disaster,” Jordan said. “Hopefully this one, with a lot more planning will be a little less stress. I think we knocked off about five years of Richard’s life [last time]. It’s a rough travel night. We hope to get in the car [at Le Mans] for a few hours. It’s a long weekend, but we’re race car drivers and we love driving, so it’s definitely worth it.”
Alessandro Balzan held off late-race charges from the Audi R8 LMS of Spencer Pumpelly and the Porsche 911 GT America of Mario Farnbacher to win the GT Daytona portion of the Chevrolet Sports Car Classic in the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 Italia he co-drives with Jeff Westphal.
Balzan took the lead when Tomy Drissi pitted with 33 minutes remaining, holding off the rest of the GT Daytona (GTD) class for the final 20 laps of the one-hour, 40-minute event. It was the second career North American sports car racing victory for Balzan – and the first in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship – and the first career victory for Westphal.
“It was a nightmare out there, because there were five or six cars that could have won today,” said Balzan. “It was difficult for me to stay focused in the car. I think I said some bad words to my engineer, I said to him, ‘please, shut up’ because I needed 110 percent of myself today.”
For the second consecutive race, Pumpelly and the No. 45 Flying Lizard Motorsports team suffered heartbreak in the closing laps. After running out of fuel while leading on the final lap at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Pumpelly looked to rebound at Detroit Belle Isle and attempted to pass Balzan for the lead with less than five minutes remaining.
Pumpelly ran wide and quickly lost the position to the No. 23 Heart of Racing Team Seattle/Alex Job Racing Porsche 911 GT America of Mario Farnbacher and the No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Audi R8 LMS of Christopher Haase.
With Pumpelly out of the picture, Farnbacher and Haase set their sights on Balzan, but fell just short. Farnbacher took the checkered flag 0.297 seconds behind Balzan to finish second for he and co-driver Ian James, while Haase and co-driver Bryce Miller finished third.
The race was slowed by full-course caution twice for 11 laps. The first, from laps 22-26, was the result of water on course in turn six. The second full-course caution lasted for 23 minutes for repairs to the tire wall in turn 12 following an incident involving the No. 81 Tully’s Coffee Porsche of Damien Faulkner.