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Westbrook: Caution-Free Race Made for Tough Tire Saving

GTLM co-winner Richard Westbrook describes tire management challenge at Road America…

Photo: Peter Burke/IMSA

Richard Westbrook said the lack of cautions in Sunday’s IMSA Road Race Showcase required extreme tire management that challenged Ford’s winning two-stop strategy. 

Westbrook, who co-drove the No. 67 Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT with Ryan Briscoe, revealed that he almost “bailed out” of the team’s original game plan during the green-only contest.

The two Fords and the No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR were the only three cars to attempt two stops in the two-hour, 40-minute race, which was a move that ultimately paid off.

Ford came away with a 1-2 result, while the Porsche duo of Laurens Vanthoor and Earl Bamber finished third to extend their drivers’ championship lead.

“It was quite controlled, but you can never count your chickens because in the traffic you can get pushed into the marbles,” Westbrook told Sportscar365.

“Around here there was no chance to sweep the track because there were no yellows, and the marble build-up was insane. Going through the kink we had the narrowest of lines.

“The key was being good on the tires, and that’s really working well for us at the moment.

“We were really strong at the end of the stints to make the two-stop strategy work where others couldn’t. We’re just delighted to be on this run.”

Westbrook recalled the No. 67 crew arriving at Road America with momentum in hand after breaking Porsche’s five-race win streak at Lime Rock Park last month. 

“We were quietly confident because we were sure we could make the two-stopper work,” said the Englishman.

“It was the polar opposite of Lime Rock, circuit-wise and strategy-wise.

“I almost had to bail out of the two-stopper and go for the three because it was really hard on the tires. We had to really manage them at the beginning of the stint.

“With everyone else being on different strategies, we got stuck behind the No. 24 BMW which put the No. 3 [Corvette] in a really good position at one point, but they had an issue on their last stop so in the end, it was comfortable.

“It could have been more comfortable, but nothing ever is here.”

The win saw Westbrook and Briscoe leapfrog the No. 3 Corvette Racing pair of Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen for third in the standings, with four races left.

Westbrook said that he was simply pleased to have returned the Ford to form after a tough start to the season which saw him and Briscoe fail to score a podium in the first four races.

When asked if the Ganassi team imagined getting two wins in a row in 2019, he said, “Yeah, why not? You’ve got to dream big.”

“You have to, otherwise you just get depressed. The first half of the season was just awful, but you’ve just got to keep believing.”

John Dagys contributed to this report.

Daniel Lloyd is a UK-based reporter for Sportscar365, covering the FIA World Endurance Championship, Fanatec GT World Challenge Europe powered by AWS and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, among other series.

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