IMSA News Roundup: May 4, 2016

IMSA News Roundup: May 4, 2016

Notebook Items Include Doonan Pleased With Mazda’s Breakthrough Weekend; Performance Tech Edged Out For Pole, Podium; C.J. Wilson Watches Team Score Double Podium

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 4, 2016) – While the finish didn’t quite fit the storyline, Mazda Motorsports had a breakthrough weekend at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

Showing the strength of the new gasoline-powered MZ-2.0T that replaced the diesel engines from the past two seasons beginning with the Rolex 24 At Daytona, the team ran 1-2 in all three IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice sessions for the Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix powered by Mazda; won its first TOTAL Pole Award while sweeping the front row in qualifying; and then ran 1-2 throughout the opening 30 minutes of the race.

“Since we started this new engine program, we’ve talked about coming to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and being strong,” said John Doonan, Director of Mazda Motorsports North America. “From the opening practice, to the second practice to third practice and into qualifying, we were exactly that. For the first part of the race, we did exactly as we had hoped. Then, things didn’t go our way on the pit stop sequence and the No. 70 car had an oil pump failure which we hadn’t seen before. It was quite a disappointment there and it didn’t get the result we wanted.”

Pole winner Tristan Nunez and Jonathan Bomarito finished fourth – matching the team’s best Prototype result from Long Beach, scored by Tom Long and Joel Miller.

“I think we can take away positives, we certainly can run up front and we have great pace,” Doonan said. “Now we head on to Detroit and see what we can do there. It’s a tough street circuit.”

Performance Tech Edged Out For Pole, Podium

Performance Tech Motorsports had a weekend of near misses, coming up short on both the TOTAL Pole Award and the podium in the Prototype Challenge (PC) class.

James French made a habit of winning poles in 2015, earning three TOTAL Pole Awards on last-lap charges. This time, his car was atop the standings only to be edged out by PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports driver Robert Alon on the final lap.

French led 34 minutes in the No. 8 Performance Tech Motorsports ORECA FLM09 after passing Alon for the lead on lap four. Co-driver Kyle Marcelli ran third throughout most of his stint, prevailing in a battle with JDC-Miller Motorsports driver Stephen Simpson only to lose third late in the race on a three-wide pass by Colin Braun.

“I don’t like leaving anything on the table and this time I think we did,” Marcelli said. “I think we had a podium-capable car but some things didn’t go our way. We had an issue in the pit stop and the car stalled so that put us two positions behind. Though there are only seven cars in the PC class it’s still competitive. The competition is very close and I think we’re a team people should look out for.”

C.J. Wilson Watches Team Score Double Podium

Major League baseball pitcher C.J. Wilson took a few hours away from his Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim to watch his Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge team in action on Saturday at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

He liked what he saw. Daniel Burkett gave his team its first Grand Sport (GS) TOTAL Pole Award and finished second with Marc Miller in the CJ Wilson Racing No. 33 ONE Capital Management/Motor Oil Matters Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport, one position ahead of Till Bechtolscheimer and Tyler McQuarrie in the team’s No. 35 Cayman.

“Any time you can walk away with two cars on the podium is obviously a big deal,” Wilson said. “We’re really happy, especially with the way Till drove. He drove fantastic all week. We expect a lot out of Danny, because of his fast start, and Till’s really improving. Obviously, Tyler and Marc are pros and they really closed the gap really well for us at the end.”

Miller took the checkered flag only 0.510 seconds behind Bodymotion Racing’s race-winning No. 12 Porsche of Trent Hindman – a stat not lost on Wilson.

“We had a little bad luck in the pits,’ Wilson said. “We had a couple of lug nuts come loose as we were putting one of the wheels on, and it probably cost us a couple seconds. At the end of the day, we lost by half a second, and sometimes that’s all the margin that you’re able to make up in the pits. I think we’re in a good position in the championship, being able to get an extra car in front of Billy Johnson today.”

Johnson finished fourth with co-driver Scott Maxwell in the No. 15 Multimatic Motorsport Ford Shelby GT350R-C. Burkett and Miller moved up to second in the standings, trailing by nine points (95-86) entering the Continental Tire 150 at Watkins Glen International on July 2.

Cattaneo, Trinkler Fall From First To Fifth In ST Standings

“It was like trying to find a needle in a haystack,” Owen Trinkler said of the weekend for the No. 44 CRG-I Do Borrow Honda Civic Si co-driven by Sarah Cattaneo.

The team came into Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca coming off an impressive victory at Sebring, which propelled them to the points lead. But a 17th-place finish dropped them to fifth in the standings, eight points behind new leader Chad Gilsinger (82-74).

“We were fighting electrical gremlins the whole race – actually the entire weekend,” Trinkler said. “We tried everything we could. We identified several small problems, which we corrected, but we couldn’t seem to find the main problem. At least we finished the best we could and minimized the damage. Now we can’t wait to get to Watkins Glen.”

End Quote:

Richard Westbrook, GTLM winner at Mazda Raceway in the No. 67 Ford GT after winning the 2015 event overall in the Visit Florida Racing Corvette DP: “I love this place. I’ve now got three wins here – it’s been great for me. I’ve always felt comfortable here. This weekend, Ryan (Briscoe) did an incredible job putting the car on the front row – he just missed out on pole – and what strategy from Chip Ganassi. I didn’t think it was possible, but we did it.”

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