TUSC: OAK Racing Leads Wire to Wire; Yacaman and Pla Grab First-Career TUDOR Championship Wins

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BOWMANVILLE, Ontario – official release — IMSA photo — OAK Racing made steady progress early in its debut season in North America, knocking on the door of its first TUDOR United SportsCar Championship victory with back-to-back podium finishes at Detroit Belle Isle and Watkins Glen Int’l.

That door was kicked wide open Sunday at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park as Gustavo Yacaman and Olivier Pla drove the team’s No. 42 Morgan/Nissan to a convincing victory, leading every one of the 133 laps in the two-hour, 45-minute Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix Presented by Hawk Performance.

Based in Le Mans, France, OAK Racing is competing in North America on a full-time basis for the first time in 2014 after winning the FIA World Endurance Championship LMP2 title in 2013.

“We came here and did our job, which was to drive around without mistakes and stay out of trouble,” said Yacaman. “The team has been working really hard this whole season to make the tires work with the car. We’ve just developed it and gotten better and better each race.”

Richard Westbrook was able to shave the deficit to Pla from 24 seconds to 7.886 seconds in the closing minutes, but settled for second in the No. 90 VISITFLORIDA.com/GoPro Corvette DP started by co-driver Michael Valiante.

Brothers Ricky and Jordan Taylor fought back to finish third after an early-race slide through the grass resulted in an unscheduled pit stop to clean the grille. The drivers of the No. 10 Konica Minolta Corvette DP unofficially lead the Prototype driver standings by five points (218-213) over No. 5 Action Express Racing co-drivers Christian Fittipaldi and Joao Barbosa.

Yacaman moves to third in the unofficial point standings with the win, 10 points out of first, while Westbrook and Valiante sit fourth, 11 points back. OAK Racing and the No. 90 Spirit of Daytona team each have scored three consecutive podiums and alternated the top two spots in the last two races.

“We’re absolutely rivals now and it’s great for the championship,” said Westbrook. “We’ve been racing hard with them since day one, but we’re delighted for them. These are two very different cars, but the lap times are very close. We’re quicker in different areas in the track, that’s it, if you want us to race close to each other that’s how it’s going to be.”

It was the third TUDOR Championship race of the season to run without a full-course caution flag. While the racing was clean on Sunday, the race weekend wasn’t short on attrition in the Prototype class leading up to the event.

A pair of separate practice incidents Friday afternoon forced the No. 31 Whelen Corvette DP and No. 0 DeltaWing DWC-13 teams to withdraw from the race. On the pre-race recon lap, Memo Rojas hit a water puddle in the No. 01 Telcel Ford EcoBoost/Riley spinning him hard into the wall.

The No. 01 team missed the start of the race, but returned to the track shortly after the one-hour mark to ensure Rojas and co-driver Scott Pruett could earn the minimum 20 minutes of track time to receive points for the event.

Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia gave the No. 3 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R its fourth consecutive TUDOR United SportsCar Championship GT Le Mans (GTLM) class victory on Sunday, carrying Corvette Racing to its 11th victory in 14 years at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.

Magnussen took the lead 54 minutes into the two-hour, 45-minute Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix Presented by Hawk Performance when Kuno Wittmer’s pole-winning No. 93 SRT Motorsports Dodge Viper SRT GTS-R drove through the grass to avoid another competitor.

Magnussen turned the Corvette over to Garcia one lap after taking the lead. Garcia led the rest of the way, taking the checkered flag 11.024 seconds ahead of Jonathan Bomarito in the No. 93 Viper in the race that ran without a full-course caution

“It’s by no means easy what we’ve achieved with the four wins,” Magnussen said after his 41st career victory in North American competition and fifth at the circuit once known as Mosport International Raceway. “It’s difficult out there. You have to be so precise and really work the traffic – that’s where big gains can be made.”

“It was really hard for me, because I was expecting some safety cars (caution periods),” Garcia added. “I couldn’t really be conservative; otherwise the Viper would have caught me.”

SRT Motorsports took two podium positions with Marc Goossens and Dominik Farnbacher finishing third in the No. 91 Dodge Viper GTS-R, coming from the seventh starting position.

Wittmer led the early laps, shadowed all the way by Magnussen. Wittmer had to go through the grass in Turn 5 to avoid the No. 56 BMW Team RLL BMW Z4 GTE of John Edwards on the 42nd lap, hitting a sign in the process. While the incident caused minimal damage to the Viper, the team spent the remainder of the race chasing the Corvette.

Bomarito managed to close the gap during the closing minutes, and was only 1.818 seconds behind Garcia with 12 minutes remaining.

“I made one final charge, but I just didn’t have enough,” Bomarito said. “Antonio got caught up in traffic, and I closed in. Unfortunately, then I got held up in the same traffic and Antonio got away.”

All 10 GTLM cars were running at the finish.

Jeroen Bleekemolen passed Kevin Estre in traffic with two laps remaining and went on to win the GT Daytona (GTD) class, giving the No. 33 Riley Motorsports/ViperExchange.com Dodge Viper SRT GT3-R started by Ben Keating its first victory.

It was the eighth lead change in the competitive class that saw Bleekemolen beat Estre to the checkered flag by 1.038 seconds.

“I felt bad for Kevin, because I saw it all happening in front of me,” Bleekemolen said. “It looked like we were going to be second, but we got a little bit lucky at the end.”

“This is not only our first win, but our first podium,” Keating said. “We have had our share of tough luck this season, so to a certain extent we felt like we were due. We’ve always been down on top speed, but the sweeping corners here really suit out car.”

Estre and Patrick Lindsey were looking to give Park Place Motorsports its first GTD class victory in the No. 73 Porsche 911 GT America, before getting hung up in late-race traffic. Lindsey started seventh and moved up to second before his pit stop, with Estre passing Bleekemolen for the class lead with 57 minutes remaining.

After winning the Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen two weeks ago, the No. 94 Turner Motorsport BMW Z4 of Markus Palttala and Dane Cameron led in the early going. A stop-plus-20-second penalty when equipment rolled outside the team’s pit box dropped the team from second to seventh. Cameron managed to work his way back to a third-place finish.

The competitive race saw 16 of the 17 GTD starters running within four laps of the lead at the finish.

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