Photo courtesy of IMSA

IMSA: Chaotic race sees Action Express, BMW score victories in Canada

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The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship saw a chaotic Mobil 1 Sportscar Grand Prix from Canadian Tire Motorsport Park after a pair of rain showers hit in the final hour of the race, which scrambled the running order and caused several incidents in the final minutes.

In the end, Dane Cameron and Eric Curran survived the carnage and chaos to take the overall and Prototype win the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi for Action Express. BMW Team RLL went 1-2 in GTLM, with the No. 25 of Bill Auberlen and Alexander Sims leading the No. 24 of Martin Tomczyk and John Edwards in their BMW M6 GTLM entries.

In GT Daytona, the No. 57 Stevenson Motorsports Audi R8 LMS GT3 of Lawson Aschenbach and Andrew Davis claimed victory, while the No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports team continued its perfect season with another win for drivers James French and Pato O’Ward.

Reports for each class are below.

Prototype

It appeared that the battle for the win would be between Wayne Taylor Racing and JDC-Miller Motorsports, with Misha Goikhberg and Stephen Simpson each pulling off spectacular passes for the lead on the No. 10 Cadillac DPi as they worked traffic, with Simpson’s move seeing him put two wheels on the grass as he made a pass on the back straightaway.

However, the first rain shower jumbled the running order, as half the track became soaking wet while the other half stayed dry. Simpson pitted the No. 85 Oreca LMP2, joining several other Prototype runners, while Jordan Taylor stayed out on slicks in the No. 10 entry.

Even though Taylor quickly fell back when the race restarted with 38 minutes remaining, the track quickly dried, forcing those ahead of Taylor to pit again for slick tires, which vaulted Taylor back into the lead.

However, a smooth run to the checkered flag came to an end as Taylor attempted to lap several GT cars in turn 4. Taylor clipped the right-front of Tommy Milner in the No. 4 Corvette after trying an outside pass, and both cars spun into the tire barriers, bringing out another caution. The contact ended the day for Milner, while Taylor managed to continue, but with heavy damage to the back of the car.

He continued in the lead under caution, the pits being closed because this caution came within 15 minutes of the previous one, but Taylor immediately lost the lead to Dane Cameron when racing resumed with ten minutes remaining.

Cameron and the No. 31 Whelen Cadillac DPi emerged in the lead ahead of Simpon’s No. 85, who managed to pass the Cameron’s teammate Joao Barbosa, in the No. 5 Cadillac DPi, on the outside of turn 5, with Barbosa even making slight contact and spinning in the aftermath.

However, Cameron was able to keep Simpson at bay until a final caution in the dying minutes. With another rain storm hitting the track, the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Ligier LMP2, with David Ostella at the wheel, spun off into the tire barriers in turn 8 and flipped upside down. Ostella did walk away under his own power, but his incident saw the race end under caution, with Cameron and Eric Curran taking the win over Simpson and Misha Goikhberg. Scott Sharp and Ryan Dalziel finished third in the No. 2 Tequila Patron ESM Nissan DPi.

GTLM

The no. 25 entry from BMW Team RLL took its second win in a row, with Bill Auberlen and Alexander Sims dominating much of the race. Teammates Martin Tomczyk and John Edwards finished second in the No. 24 entry, making it a BMW 1-2, while Richard Westbrook and Ryan Briscoe brought the No. 67 Ford GT home in third for Ford Chip Ganassi Racing.

Corvette Racing appeared to have an edge in strategy in the first half of the race, with both the No. 3 and No. 4 cars going the longest before stopping for the first time, making it known that they planned to only make two pit stops. However, the rain showers put paid to their strategy. While Tommy Milner crashed out with Jordan Taylor in the aforementioned incident, Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia finished fourth.

GT Daytona

The No. 57 Steven Motorsports Audi R8 LMS GT3 scored its first victory of the year with drivers Lawson Aschenbach and Andrew Davis, denying the No. 93 Acura NSX GT3 from Michael Shank Racing its third win in a row. Andy Lally and Katherine Legge did finish in second, with Christina Nielsen and Alessandro Balzan finishing third in the Scuderia Corsa No. 63 Ferrari 488 GT3.

Pole sitter Sage Karam rocketed off into the lead with his Lexus RCF GT3 in the opening stint, but he and the No. 14 3GT Racing team saw their chances for the win go by the wayside during their first pit stop, as they incurred a penalty for the tires spinning while it was up on the jacks. He and co-driver Scott Pruett finished fifth.

Prototype Challenge

Performance Tech Motorsports continued its run of perfection in 2017, with drivers James French and Pato O’Ward taking another win. However, this was not nearly as smooth as the others, as O’Ward impacted a tire carcass on the track, which seriously damaged the front nose assembly.

The team lost the lead, but was able to regain it in the final minutes after staying on slick tires during the brief rain showers. As the No. 20 and 26 entries from BAR1 Motorsports, who pitted for rain tires, pitted once more slicks, O’Ward moved the No. 38 back into the lead and held it to the end.

Don Yount and Ryan Lewis finished second in the No. 20, ahead of James Vance and Garett Grist.

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GAINSCO partners with JDC-Miller for Simpson, Goikhberg

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The bright yellow No. 85 JDC-Miller Motorsports Oreca 07 Gibson, nicknamed the “JDC Banana Boat,” will morph into the latest incarnation of the bright red “Red Dragon” for 2018.

The now GAINSCO Auto Insurance-backed No. 99 JDC-Miller Motorsports Oreca 07 Gibson will run the full 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season, and the new livery will be revealed at the Roar before the Rolex 24.

GAINSCO revealed last month it wouldn’t run its own team, having partnered with Bob Stallings Racing for more than a decade with great success in GRAND-AM Rolex Series competition. But it was still going to partner with a team and received multiple proposals from other teams. The initial deal with JDC-Miller Motorsports is one year for 2018 with an option for 2019, but both parties envision this growing into a multi-year deal.

The last few years the team has run only on-and-off, with a one-off appearance in the 2014 Rolex 24 at Daytona as Alex Gurney scored pole, but a devastating accident for Memo Gidley having left him seriously injured. Gidley has made significant strides in his recovery.

Since that point, GAINSCO/BSR moved into Pirelli World Challenge, running first a Hyundai Genesis, then a McLaren 650S GT3, and then a Porsche 911 GT3 R with Gurney’s longtime co-driver Jon Fogarty. The same level of success was hard to find and while the team scored several podium finishes, wins eluded them over two years.

Alas, this provides John Church’s quality operation a major supporter both from visibility and agent standpoints, as GAINSCO is one of the biggest at-track activators in the sport. Primary drivers Stephen Simpson and Misha Goikhberg continue for the full season with Chris Miller the third driver for Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup rounds.

A fourth driver will be named later (likely within the next week to 10 days), but won’t be Jon Fogarty, as Bob Stallings offered him the opportunity but Fogarty declined owing to other business commitments.

“We offered Jon Fogarty the opportunity, took a couple days (to think), he couldn’t feature anyone else driving but him… he has successful business ventures and that takes priority at this time,” Stallings said.

Church and Stallings. Photo courtesy of GAINSCO Racing

Stallings, Executive Chairman of GAINSCO, as well as the founder of the GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Race team, recently decided not to run his own race team, but is committed to continuing the legacy of the Red Dragon by partnering with an organization capable of a long-term winning program.

“We had many opportunities to continue our quest for championships and JDC-Miller MotorSports was an easy pick,” said Stallings of the Minnesota-based team. “John Church and John Miller have established themselves as a team to be reckoned with, even against the formidable competition in IMSA.”

“We are very honored to gain the support of GAINSCO Auto Insurance and to carry on the livery of the No. 99 Red Dragon,” Church added. “It was immediately evident that the GAINSCO folks are as committed as we are.  This is a tremendous opportunity for JDC-Miller MotorSports and we look forward to the season ahead.”

Andy Jordan, Sr. Vice President of Marketing and Business Development led the search for the GAINSCO’s 2018 racing partnership.

“We were amazed and flattered by the amount of interest we received from teams who felt their racing programs would be elevated by an opportunity to partner with us and run the famous “Red Dragon” livery.  There were several important considerations for GAINSCO; the team had to compete at the highest level, and it had to feel like the kind of family we could be a part of and believe in.

“JDC-Miller Motorsports was the team we kept coming back to.  They race prototypes, they are great people, they are committed to win and the parallels between JDC-Miller Motorsports today and GAINCSO/Bob Stallings Racing in 2006/2007 were abundant.  I couldn’t be prouder and more excited to join John and his team for the 2018 season and hopefully beyond.”

JDC-Miller is adding a second car this season, with Simon Trummer its first confirmed driver and Robert Alon having tested with the team at Daytona earlier this month. This car will maintain the “banana boat” livery and will announce the rest of its program later.

Church said there “hasn’t been a discussion” in terms of adding Bob Stallings Racing personnel to JDC-Miller’s lineup as it sits, but it could be integrated.

The JDC-Miller Oreca 07. Photo courtesy of IMSA