CJ Wilson Racing’s pair of Chad McCumbee and Stevan McAleer have captured the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge ST class championship, as chief rival Andrew Carbonell lost control and crashed his Freedom Autosport entry just past the one-hour mark of the season finale at Road Atlanta.
Additionally, Andrew Davis and Robin Liddell have formally confirmed their GS class championship for Stevenson Motorsports, clinched once Davis hit the 45-minute minimum drive time.
Meanwhile Fall-Line Motorsports’ No. 46 BMW M3 (GS) and Compass360 Racing’s No. 75 Audi S3 (ST) have captured the race wins in the 10th and final round of the season.
It’s the first Continental Tire Challenge wins for each team this season, and first for the Fall-Line team since Circuit of The Americas last year and first for Compass360 since this race last year.
McCumbee, in the No. 5 Mazda MX-5, and Liam Dwyer, in the No. 26 Mazda, each ran well in their first stints. McCumbee led from the lead until he pitted, and Dwyer ran in the top-five as well after starting second before pitting.
But at the one-hour and 10-minute mark Carbonell, who’d driven a near flawless season, lost control coming down the hill and crashed exiting Turn 12. He got the left side tires on the inside curbs.
The other car with an outside title chance, the No. 56 Murillo Racing Porsche Cayman driven by defending ST champion Eric Foss and Jeff Mosing, had a near identical accident in the same corner with just over 30 minutes remaining.
The demise of their two rivals allowed McCumbee and McAleer, who entered the race with a one-point lead over Carbonell, to bring it home to the finish in eighth place, gaining a position on the final lap after an accident by Nico Rondet in the second Compass360 Audi at Turn 1. Rondet was checked and released.
Team principal CJ Wilson was on site to watch the team win; it’s the team’s first Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge championship and first overall for the team since McAleer delivered the Mazda MX-5 Cup title at the same track in 2012.
Meanwhile in GS, Davis took the lead from pole at the start of the race before Jade Buford got past on Lap 5 in the No. 158 Multimatic Motorsports Ford Shelby GT350R-C.
Buford led until the Carbonell caution and the round of pit stops, which jumbled the order and promoted the No. 46 Fall-Line Motorsports BMW M3 to the lead.
Ashley Freiberg ran well in her stint, getting up to second before pitting and handing over to 2014 GS class champion Trent Hindman. The Fall-Line crew then put the BMW ahead on pit stops into the lead.
Hindman had a chance to close the race at the track where he clinched the title last year, and in the process, held off a hard-charging Liddell to secure the victory.
Hindman won twice in 2014 and Freiberg won at Daytona last year; however she didn’t get to celebrate on the top step of the podium as the winning car on-track was issued a post-race penalty.
Liddell and Davis were second with Mantella Autosport scoring its first podium of the year, courtesy of a great drive by Martin Barkey and Kyle Marcelli in the No. 80 Chevrolet Camaro Z/28.R. Marcelli threatened, but was unable to pass Liddell for second.
The ST lead battle changed after McCumbee handed the No. 5 car to McAleer, and fell from first to third on the pit sequence.
The No. 81 Bimmerworld BMW 328i of Tyler Cooke took the lead, before Greg Liefooghe (No. 83 Next Level European Porsche Cayman) and Kyle Gimple (No. 75 Compass360 Audi) each took the lead respectively after the restart.
For Gimple and Paul Holton, the first win came after Holton held on in the first half of the race on slicks, and then the car excelled even further on wets with Gimple behind the wheel.
Gimple now has repeated his win at Road Atlanta from last year, when he co-drove to win with Ryan Eversley in a Honda Civic Si.
In second place was the No. 73 MINI JCW of Mat Pombo and Derek Jones, scoring a surprise but welcome first podium after starting 26th in the 28-car class for the LAP Motorsports-run MINI John Cooper Works Team this season.
Pombo delivered a storming drive in the final stint of the race, and passed Eversley for second with just over 10 minutes remaining.
The podiums are the first for both the new Audi S3 and MINI JCW this season; both cars debuted at Sebring.
Burton Racing meanwhile also scored its first podium of the season with past class champions Terry Borcheller and Mike LaMarra in the venerable No. 23 BMW 128i. Borcheller got around Eversley’s No. 93 HART Honda Civic Si in the final 10 minutes.
RESULTS: Round 10