Chip Ganassi Racing’s Renger van der Zande took the contrarian outside line in turn 3 to take the lead from Action Express Racing’s Alexander Sims with 40 minutes to go Sunday (May 14). From there, he held on to take the victory for himself and Sebastien Bourdais in the Motul Course de Monterey at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
“It’s unbelievable. This team deserves it,” van der Zande said post-race. “I love winning races. We’ve had some trouble with big shunts here [and at Spa recently]. The car was really safe today and good on the long run. I’m really proud.”
The win is van der Zande’s third overall win at Laguna Seca after having previously won in a PC/GTD race in 2014 and overall in 2017. It is Bourdais’ first WeatherTech victory at Laguna Seca.
Bourdais and van der Zande’s margin of victory was 3.882 seconds over Porsche Penske Motorsport’s Mathieu Jaminet and Nick Tandy. Sims and Pipo Derani were third, then Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti Autosport’s Filipe Albuquerque and Ricky Taylor. BMW M Team RLL’s Philipp Eng and Augusto Farfus were fifth.
Porsche Penske Motorsport’s Matt Campbell started on the pole, but Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian’s Colin Braun got a massive run on the start and got inside of Campbell going into the Andretti Hairpin. Seemingly most of the GTP class locked up under braking. Campbell ended up going wide and dropped all the way back to seventh, while Braun ended up in the lead.
Shortly afterward, Gradient Racing’s Sheena Monk got hit and spun her Acura in turn 6. She lost part of her rear bodywork, which resulted in the race’s first yellow.
Sunday marked the GTD debut for Andretti Autosport. Sunday was a baptism by fire for Jarett Andretti. Andretti was at least tangentially involved with Monk’s incident. Later on, he had a spin exiting Rainey Curve.
20 minutes into the race, he was nudged right before the braking zone for turn 11 by Campbell. Andretti then spun his Aston Martin and backed into the tires that protected the blunt end of the pit wall at the pit in. Andretti was able to walk away from the car, but his GT3 debut came to an early and expensive end.
After the restart, IMSA officials elected to penalize Campbell for accident responsibility. As a result, he served a drive-through penalty.
Things only got worse for the team that had dominated the weekend leading into the race. Felipe Nasr got loose in Rainey Curve and slid off course, hitting the wall. He was forced to drive for more than a full lap with a damaged rear wing and nose. After stopping to check the car over and change three separate body parts, Nasr ended up eight laps down.
The caution resulted in a split pit strategy in the GTP class. Braun chose to pit out of the lead for four tires. Meanwhile, Derani took two tires and claimed the lead.
Despite the tire deficit, Derani held onto the advantage for the next full run. Things equalized when Tower Motorsport’s John Farano slid off and hit the tires an hour into the race to bring out the second yellow.
Here, Tom Blomqvist got in the No. 60 Acura, but the team didn’t put tires on the car. The move got Blomqvist the lead for the restart, but he fell like a stone.
Derani quickly retook the lead and held on until Sims got in the car late. Shortly afterward, VasserSullivan’s Aaron Telitz stopped with a suspension failure to bring out a yellow.
It was on the restart that van der Zande made what turned out to be the move for the victory. From there, the gold Cadillac held on for the triumph.
In LMP2, Crowdstrike Racing with APR’s George Kurtz started from the pole in his ORECA 07-Gibson, but the scramble in turn 1 caused by the aforementioned lockup allowed PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports’ Ben Keating to slip past in Andretti Hairpin for the class lead.
Following driver changes, Ben Hanley ended up in the lead, but pit strategy changed everything. Hanley made a pit stop for tires, putting TDS Racing’s Mikkel Jensen in the class lead. With the GTP teams stopping as well, Jensen got to the overall lead just as Telitz brought out the yellow.
After Jensen pitted, Hanley was back in the class lead. A three-way battle between Hanley, Jensen and PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports’ Paul-Loup Chatin erupted. Jensen ultimately took the lead with 25 minutes and held on to give himself and Steven Thomas the win.
Jensen and Thomas ended up 5.095 seconds ahead of Keating and Chatin at the finish. Kurtz and Hanley were third, followed by TDS Racing’s Francois Heriau and Giedo van der Garde. Rick Ware Racing’s Eric Lux and Juan Pablo Montoya were fifth.
In GTD, The Heart of Racing’s Roman DeAngelis was able to snatch the lead away from pole sitter Alec Udell on the opening lap. Once the green came back out, DeAngelis opened up a gap on the rest of the class.
The final caution set up an alternate strategy in which Magnus Racing’s Andy Lally stayed out with 20 laps on his tires and fuel. Meanwhile, Kelly-Moss Road & Race’s Kay van Berlo was right there giving chase.
Van Berlo passed Lally with 22 minutes to go. From there, he pulled away to take the class victory. It is the first-ever WeatherTech victory for Kelly-Moss and the first GTD victories for both van Berlo and teammate Alan Metni.
Metni and van Berlo’s margin of victory was 9.678 seconds over Turner Motorsport’s Bill Auberlen and Chandler Hull. Udell and Julien Andlauer in the second Kelly-Moss Porsche were third, while Lally and John Potter were able to make their fuel hold out to finish fourth. Inception Racing’s Brendan Iribe and Frederic Schandorff were fifth in their McLaren.
Pfaff Motorsports’ Klaus Bachler led early in his Porsche from pole until he made a pit stop during the caution from the Andretti crash. However, he made a terrible error after the stop.
When the pit exit is closed, a red light is illuminated. Bachler skipped past the light without stopping. That is a stop and 60-second hold penalty, which took him from the class lead to nearly a lap down.
This error put Corvette Racing’s Jordan Taylor in the lead with The Heart of Racing’s Alex Riberas second. The two drivers were in position to battle it out for the win, but both drivers were penalized for improper wave-bys during the final caution. That cost both drivers two laps.
Juncadella and Gounon won by 7.955 seconds over VasserSullivan’s Ben Barnicoat and Jack Hawksworth. Bachler and Patrick Pilet recovered from their penalty to finish third, while Corvette Racing’s Antonio Garcia and Jordan Taylor were fourth.
WeatherTech teams will be off for the next month and change before returning to action at Watkins Glen International on June 25. Frontstretch will be on-site in Watkins Glen to bring you all the action.
About the author
Phil Allaway has three primary roles at Frontstretch. He's the manager of the site's FREE e-mail newsletter that publishes Monday-Friday and occasionally on weekends. He keeps TV broadcasters honest with weekly editions of Couch Potato Tuesday and serves as the site's Sports Car racing editor.
Outside of Frontstretch, Phil is the press officer for Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y. He covers all the action on the high-banked dirt track from regular DIRTcar Modified racing to occasional visits from touring series such as the Super DIRTcar Series.
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