Continental Tire VIR Post-Race Notebook

Photo: Scott LePage/IMSA

***With the win in Sunday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship round at VIR, their third of the season, Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen have extended their GT Le Mans championship lead to 16 points over new second place runners Alexander Sims and Bill Auberlen, following a game-changing final 15 minutes of the race.

***The No. 25 BMW M6 GTLM lost out on the win when Sims was forced to pit from the lead with eight laps to go with a left-front puncture. Co-driver Auberlen came in early during his stint due to a low tire pressure alert, which had forced Sims to stretch the fuel mileage until his unscheduled stop.

***Mechanical issues, meanwhile, saw the No. 24 BMW of Martin Tomczyk and John Edwards ultimately retire with less than 40 minutes to go. Edwards went behind the wall on Lap 13 with power steering issues, losing 11 laps, with a further “technical” issue delaying the car further later in the race.

***For the second time in the last three years, the two-hour and 40-minute GT-only race went caution-free, although marred by numerous incidents.

***Risi Competizone nearly pulled off victory in its series return, had it not been for a late-race incident between Giancarlo Fisichella and the eventual second place GTD-finishing No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 of Jens Klingmann, which sent the Italian off course while in second, and gaining ground on Sims.

***Fisichella and co-driver Toni Vilander were elevated to a podium finish, courtesy of a spin by Tommy Milner in front of Mueller while the two cars were battling for third at the time. Milner ultimately ended the race with a puncture, with Mueller coming home fourth. “[Jens Klingmann] opened the door and then when I was overtaking him he closed the door,” Fisichella said. “I locked up because otherwise I would have hit his car so I went off. It was a shame because we could have won the race. ”

***The biggest incident of the race, however, came between the No. 15 3GT Racing Lexus RC F GT3 of Sage Karam and Katherine Legge in the No. 93 Michael Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3, which saw the two cars make side-to-side contact followed by Karam slowing up on track and Legge running into the rear of the Lexus. The GTD championship-contending Acura sustained heavy front-end damage and ultimately retired with steering damage.

***Karam was given a stop-and-hold-plus 60-second penalty for “unjustifiable risk.” Team owner Mike Shank confronted Karam in the garage after the incident. “What Sage did is beyond anything reasonable in racing,” Shank said. “We’re all aggressive and we’re all trying to do well but he blatantly drove her off the track and then brake checked her. I’m extremely disappointed in Sage Karam and how he raced us.”

***Karam said post-race: “[Katherine] had a good run on me, and I raced her hard. Hard like I would race anybody. I pushed her all the way to the edge of the track, gave her lane.”

***With MSR’s No. 86 Acura getting hit by the No. 3 Corvette that sent Ozz Negri into barriers, it resulted in the second consecutive double-retirement for the Ohio-baed team.

***Change Racing, which scored its first GTD victory, led every lap, the first time that feat occurred since Alex Riberas and Mario Farnbacher’s flag-to-flag class win at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca last year. Change’s win on Sunday marked Lamborghini’s second in the WeatherTech Championship and came after Jerome Mul and Corey Lewis topped the time charts every single session.

***No fewer than six cars, across both Continental and Michelin-shod teams, sustained punctures on Sunday, including three punctures for the GTD title-contending No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Audi R8 LMS and two for the No. 73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R, along with a pair from the No. 25 BMW and one for the No. 4 Corvette. It’s understood track curbing, along with new sealer laid down on the circuit, potentially played a factor in the the load capacity for the tires.

***All cars carried “Texas Strong” decals, distributed by IMSA during the drivers’ meeting, in support of Texas residents in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

***Ben Keating, who flew home on Friday afternoon to be with his family prior to the Hurricane making landfall, is reported to be OK, with only minimal damage having been sustained to his car dealerships on the Texas coastline. As a result of missing the race, Jeroen Bleekemolen is now second in the GTD title race, as a solo driver, on 269 points compared to Christina Nielsen and Alessandro Balzan’s class-leading 282.

***There was some confusion pre-race, as the No. 50 WeatherTech Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3 made an unexpected appearance in the paddock, prompting rumors that the team made a last-minute switch from its Porsche 911 GT3 R. It turned out to be false, as the car, which was used for pre-event promotions, was simply being moved from storage at the track into Riley’s transporter for transport back to its shop.

Continental Tire Challenge:

***Contact between the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Camaro GT4.R of Robin Liddell and Dillon Machavern’s No. 28 RS1 Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport MR on the final restart of Saturday’s Biscuitville Grand Prix ultimately helped decide the outcome of the race, which saw the Liddell’s rear bumper become deranged, as well as sustain exhaust damage.

***Liddell and co-driver Matt Bell, who were seeking their second win of the season, were forced to settle for second. “I got hit pretty hard coming back down the hill for the restart,” Liddell said. “We sustained some damage to the back and the exhaust sounded a bit different so I think we lost a bit of horsepower.”

***It marked both Machavern and co-driver Dylan Murcott’s first career Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge victories, and the first GS win for RS1 after eight previous ST class victories for the reigning ST championship-winning team.

***The win was also the 50th for Porsche in Continental Tire Challenge competition.

***Marc Miller and Till Bechtolsheimer have taken over second place in the GS points standings, thanks to an ironman effort by the CJ Wilson Racing crew that got its No. 33 Porsche Cayman GT4 Clubsport to the grid, with just minutes to spare, after replacing gearbox-related components that were shipped in from Porsche Motorsport North America overnight.

***The CJWR crew were at the track until 1 a.m. on Saturday working on both cars, with its No. 35 Porsche undergoing an entire gearbox change. Miller and Bechtolsheimer finished 7th in the race, after being moved to the rear of the starting grid due to its late arrival on the grid.

***In another Herculean run, CRG-I-Do Borrow claimed its first ST class victory of the season and third in its series, after overcoming gearbox and suspension-related issues that resulted in Owen Trinkler and Sarah Cattaneo combining to complete only 16 laps total in the three practice sessions prior to qualifying.

***The team, which only has three crew members, received assistance from KohR Motorsports, with the GS squad having loaned a tire changer and fire bottle man for its pit stop. The effort paid off, as the Trinkler managed to gain a position on pit lane during the stop.

10 Comments

  1. guest

    August 28, 2017 at 9:13 am

    The Lexus driving was abysmal. If I was Lexus, I would really be thinking about massive driver changes.

  2. Austin

    August 28, 2017 at 12:00 pm

    There was an interview on FS1 with Michael Shank where he said there’s a reason Sage Karam isn’t in IndyCar anymore

    • John

      August 28, 2017 at 6:19 pm

      Shhhhh.

      Don’t want to rile the contingent who believe Sage Krash’em is the Second Coming, and has been wrongfully denied every vacant IndyCar seat since Ganassi let him go.

      From interviews I’ve heard with Shank, he seems to be about as easy going and forgiving of an owner as there is, so he must really have been ticked.

      • Jeff Wagner

        August 28, 2017 at 11:08 pm

        Sage Karam’s reputation already spoke for itself BEFORE this incident! He’s a second generation prick by all accounts. There are a lot of drivers that have deserved but never got half the chances this punk’s gotten. He’s taken care of himself with this last incident, his days are numbered. There are too many drivers that are appreciative of opportunities and act professional. He can go drive like an idiot in NASCAR where it’s appreciated.

  3. Bob

    August 28, 2017 at 5:07 pm

    It was a great race weekend. Great weather. Exciting competition. Glad I went. The Porsche races were very good. Snow dominated both races but still didnt finish 1st! Keep trying. Racing bites you sometimes.
    GTLM: Can’t believe the BMW didnt win after leading all day. Cut tire. Go figure! Good to see Risi back. Great battles between Vette, Ford & Risi! GTD: It’s funny to see the #33 Mercedes run strong in 2nd all day & finish 2nd, while team mate McNeil ditched the AMG for Porsche & ran below 10th most of the day! Why do they jump brands do to BoP? Stick with a car & fine tune it! Maybe having a rich dad confuses the focus & makes it too easy to buy a diff car. Really bad day for MSR Acura!

    • Andrew

      August 28, 2017 at 6:14 pm

      As much as I don’t like McNeil as a person, albeit from what I’ve heard through reporters from the paddock, I understand his chassis swapping in a desire to win. Supposedly the switch to MB over the winter was due to the Porsche being a HUGE pita to tune for those who can’t balance it on the knife edge. Similar to complaints about the 430GT at its fastest I think. The MB has a little more wiggle room and is more forgiving but something about it has made IMSA be a little over controlling so it became a non-factor midseason. Sadly I don’t think the difficulties in driving the Porsche fast are gone so doubt he’ll run close to the front it in either. But isn’t a new Porsche coming for GTD next season so we could see him in a new Porsche again next season.

      • Andy Flinn

        August 28, 2017 at 7:14 pm

        Andrew, I STILL don’t buy the Porsche excuse. Last year, his teammates led flag-to-flag at Laguna Seca in the other #23 AJR Porsche. This year, Porsche privateers Alegra and Park Place have already won at Daytona and Lime Rock.

        So that leaves the drivers. IMSA should not BoP driver performance or comfort in the same type of car. That would be a real nightmare.

        Along with the Lexus and Acura, the MB was a new IMSA car this year, and therefore a big pre-season unknown. It came out of the gates strong and, therefore, had to be further balanced by IMSA with the rest of the GTD grid. The #33 MB ran near the front (no one could touch the Change Racing Lamborghini) all race long at VIR and finished on the podium.

        • Andrew

          August 29, 2017 at 3:13 pm

          I was going by what Porsche factory drivers have said, NOT what Cooper said. It is a tough car to setup just right and if you lose it, it will bite your head off. Which come to think of it makes it the most Porsche 911 in years. But not generally what Ams like to have happen

      • John

        August 28, 2017 at 9:14 pm

        He’d be a more sympathetic figure if the team had not made a big stink last year and quit IMSA to go to PWC.

        They didn’t jump ship this year, but decided to switch cars instead.

        At some point, one must admit that BoP isn’t the sole reason they’re not getting the results they desire.

        None of these actions dispel the impression that he only has a ride due to his background, and that a sense of entitlement exists.

        Of course, everyone wants to win. But most don’t look as kindly at those who try to win at all costs, using advantages that the rest do not have. Respect is earned in other ways, including sticking it out and working harder when things don’t go your way.

        Rightly or wrongly, they do have an image problem, if nothing else.

        • Jeff Wagner

          August 28, 2017 at 11:13 pm

          John: Well said! ALSO how do they explain the other MB doing better than they were running the same car, or still beating them most times while they’ve run the Porsche!

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