A Corvette DP has returned to victory lane at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, with the No. 90 VisitFlorida.com Racing of Michael Valiante and Richard Westbrook emerging victorious from Sunday’s Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix Powered by Mazda.
The win is the first for the Troy Flis-led team this season, and third in a row for a third different Corvette DP team after Action Express Racing and Wayne Taylor Racing won at Sebring and Long Beach, respectively.
It’s also the team’s first win since Watkins Glen last June, and breaks a string of three straight third-place finishes to start the year.
Valiante led his first stint of the race and turned the car over to Westbrook on Lap 22. Most of the Prototype class drivers changed drivers, except for the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Corvette DP, where polesitter Jordan Taylor stayed in until later in the race.
Westbrook drove doggedly to get back to second for most of the early portion of his stint, ran second from there, and then assumed the lead once then-leader Ricky Taylor pitted for the third and final time on Lap 84.
The Englishman made a final splash himself on Lap 89 with just under 30 minutes remaining, emerged ahead of Taylor, and held him off to the flag by 1.351 seconds even despite GT Le Mans and GT Daytona class traffic.
The podium is the third in a row for the Taylor brothers, who now have a second, a first and a second in succession. Jordan Taylor and Max Angelelli won at the track in 2013.
The Nos. 10 and 90 Corvette DPs were the class of the field during the race, although the hopes of the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Ligier JS P2 Honda were as dented as its left sidepod following contact between Ozz Negri and Dane Cameron exiting Turn 2 before the second caution of the race flew on Lap 27.
The No. 31 Corvette DP of Cameron ran wide exiting the corner and contacted Negri, who had just taken over from John Pew.
The contact affected the Ligier’s aerodynamic balance and performance, causing a bit of understeer, and Negri was unable to produce times in race pace similar to what he did in the practice sessions.
Despite the contact, Negri and Pew still ended a season-best third and incidentally, ahead of both the Nos. 5 and 31 Action Express Corvettes. Cameron avoided a penalty for the incident.
Elsewhere, Tristan Nunez and Jonathan Bomarito turned in the best run of the year for the SpeedSource Mazda team, with Nunez leading briefly for the first time in his TUDOR Championship career.
The pair ended sixth in class, seventh overall, and two laps back of the overall leaders in the No. 70 car.
Chip Ganassi Racing’s pair of hometown heroes, Joey Hand and Scott Pruett, were unable to threaten the leaders with a gearbox issue costing the No. 01 Riley-Ford DP several laps and any hope of a good result.
The DeltaWing resumed on track after a header issue cost it most of the race. Meanwhile the second Mazda was the race’s first retirement with an unspecified mechanical issue.
In Prototype Challenge, RSR Racing dominated the race en route to its first win of the season, even despite a drive-through penalty assessed for a crewmember that went over the wall before the team’s second pit stop.
Chris Cumming ran a solid double stint from pole in the No. 11 Oreca FLM09 before handing over to Bruno Junqueira, who brought the car home.
It’s the team’s first win since Indianapolis last year, when Cumming and Jack Hawksworth scored the victory.
Cumming led for nearly all his time in the car and had a sizeable gap in hand when he pitted to turn the car over to Junqueira. The penalty came down but with CORE autosport, who had assumed the lead, still needing a stop, it didn’t prove that detrimental.
CORE’s pair of Colin Braun and Jon Bennett finished second for the third time in as many races in the No. 54 Oreca FLM09.
Performance Tech Motorsports scored its second straight podium with a different driver lineup.
Both James French and Mike Hedlund drove a clean race en route to third in the No. 38 Oreca FLM09, posting the same result as French, Conor Daly and Jerome Mee at Sebring in March.
PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports, which had won the first two races at Daytona and Sebring, fell out of contention on its first stop with a loss of fuel pressure and low power, per Mike Guasch to IMSA Radio. Guasch and Tom Kimber-Smith ended seventh and last in class.
After this result, unofficially, the Westbrook/Valiante pairing leads the No. 5 car pairing of Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi by four points. In PC, CORE’s pair now leads the PR1/Mathiasen car by two points.
Both P and PC are back in action at the end of the month, May 30 at Belle Isle Park in Detroit.