One race after scoring the first global win for the BMW M8 GTE, BMW Team RLL delivered an encore performance Sunday in the America’s Tire 250 at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. However, Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen, drivers of a Chevrolet Corvette C7.R, took a 3rd place finish in the GTLM class They won together in Monterey in 2013 and 2014. (See IMSA – Looking at GT Manufacturer Championship Odds)
Connor De Phillippi and Alexander Sims co-drove to their second consecutive IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship victory in the No. 25 BMW, although unlike its maiden win at VIRginia International Raceway three weeks ago, it took every drop of fuel to bring home the checkered flag.
De Phillippi managed to stretch fuel over the race’s final 77 minutes, taking the lead with eight minutes remaining when teammate John Edwards – who was on a similar strategy in the No. 24 BMW – was forced to pit road for a splash of petrol to get to the finish. From there it was not only about conserving fuel, but also holding off the No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR of Laurens Vanthoor who finished second, 2.488 second back.
The win continues an impressive stretch for BMW Team RLL. Coincidentally, the only thing keeping the team from three consecutive wins was a similar race at Road America when De Phillippi appeared on his way to victory only to be forced to pit lane for fuel with two laps to go.
“We won at VIR on pace, but here I wouldn’t say we were the fastest car,” said De Phillippi. “But we drove smart, mistake free and won on strategy. To get two wins in a row shows the team is learning every weekend and building momentum.
“Maybe we were able to be more fuel efficient than the other car. Maybe they didn’t think they could make it with their mileage or pace and covered both options. If we had another yellow, they had fresher tires and we didn’t. All the cards went our way. We’re not super in the fight for the championship, so we’re just trying to learn so we can be a bit more aggressive.”
With a potential GTLM championship on the line, the No. 3 Corvette C7.R team of Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen played smart and safe, making an additional pit stop with 45 minutes to go and finishing third for their seventh consecutive podium finish.
It wasn’t at first a great racing day for the No. 3 Corvette with Ford Chip Ganassi Racing’s pair of Ford GTs – who entered WeatherTech Raceway second and third in the class standings – running into early issues.
An accident at the green flag effectively ended the race for the No. 66 Ford GT of Dirk Mueller and co-driver Joey Hand before it even started. They started third in points, nine points back, and leaves WeatherTech Raceway down 15 points, 299-284, after finishing seventh.
The No. 67 Ford GT of Richard Westbrook and Ryan Briscoe, meanwhile, finished sixth after contact between Westbrook and the No. 4 Corvette of Oliver Gavin broke the steering rack 49 minutes into the race.
With only the season-ending Motul Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta remaining, the No. 3 Corvette Racing team and Garcia and Magnussen lead the No. 67 Ford GT of Westbrook and Briscoe by nine points, 299-290.
“For the championship, another podium is great,” said Magnussen. “It’s not at all what we thought we were going to be able to do here. To be completely honest, I’m a little bit disappointed, but it is what it is. The other cars went really, really long on the last tank – over half of the race distance which is incredible.
“We are in a better position in the points than when we came here, so that’s positive. Off to the last one at Road Atlanta and go for a win there.”
Acura GTD Victory, Championship Coming for Co-driver Legge?
With a fast run on Sunday, Alvaro Parente helped deliver another IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship victory for Meyer Shank Racing and bring co-driver Katherine Legge closer to a potential GT Daytona (GTD) championship. Legge is looking for a more lucrative NASCAR ride next year.
Following the team’s final pit stop with 30 minutes, Parente drove the No. 86 Acura NSX GT3 from fourth position to the lead during the final 10 minutes of the race.
“When you’ve got a competitive car like that, such a competitive car, it makes it a lot easier,” said Parente. “Kat putting it on pole and doing a perfect first stint. When I went out with the gap to the front guys and I was a bit worried, but I knew we could go faster…I managed to pass the guys in the front, they had their tires a little bit more used than mine. What a great weekend for everyone. I look forward to (Motul) Petit (Le Mans).”
While the victory marked Meyer Shank Racing’s 10th victory in IMSA – six WeatherTech Championship, four GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series – it also allowed Legge to make strides in the GTD championship hunt.
Legge entered the Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix weekend second place in the standings, 13 points behind Madison Snow and Bryan Sellers. She now sits just six marks back (303 – 297) heading into the season-ending Motul Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta on Oct. 13.
“He kept my championship hopes alive,” said Legge, whose Motul Pole Award on Saturday was the first of her IMSA career. “I think we deserved this one. We all went completely nuts on the timing stand. That was the difference between having a championship and not having a championship. Thanks AP. Six points. It’s still some work to do. But we’re still in it. It’s not over until the fat lady sings.”
Legge also dedicated the race victory to Sheena Monk, who is recovering at a local hospital following an accident in the Lamborghini Super Trofeo North America race on Saturday and whom Legge coaches.
Playing a fuel strategy game that ultimately paid off was the runner-up No. 73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R of Patrick Lindsey and Joerg Bergmeister. The Bakersfield, California team has run a partial schedule in 2018 and while the car will be on the grid at the Motul Petit Le Mans, Lindsay and Bergmeister will not be behind the wheel due to a prior commitment. The team’s lineup will be announced in the coming weeks.
The last spot on the podium went to Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen in the No. 33 Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3, who are also still in mathematical contention for the championship being 27 points back in third.
It was another GTD race highlighted by manufacturer diversity in the results – Sellers and Snow finished fourth in the No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracán GT3; the No. 44 Magnus Racing Audi R8 GT3 of Andy Lally and John Potter finished fifth; the No. 51 Sqaudra Corse Garage Italia Ferrari 488 GT3 of Ozz Negri and Francesco Piovanetti wound up sixth; and the No. 15 3GT Racing Lexus RC F GT3 of Jack Hawksworth and David Heinemeier Hansson finished seventh.
The WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GTD championship will be decided at Road Atlanta during the Motul Petit Le Mans weekend on Oct. 13. The ten-hour season finale kicks off on FS1 at 10:30 a.m. ET.