Photo courtesy of IMSA

IMSA: Corvette scores shock win and Change Racing a debut win at VIR

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A seemingly straight-forward Michelin GT Challenge at VIR for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship at Virginia International Raceway quickly turned chaotic in the closing minutes and saw the No. 3 Corvette C7.R of Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen score a surprise win in GT Le Mans for Corvette Racing.

In GT Daytona, Change Racing, with drivers Jeroen Mul and Corey Lewis, dominated from the pole in their Lamborghini Huracan GT3, to score their debut win in IMSA competition, although they faced a late challenge from the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3, in the hands of Jens Klingmann and Jesse Krohn. However, Corey Lewis, who finished the race for Change Racing, held off a final-lap challenge from Klingmann to take the victory.

Reports for both classes are below.

GTLM

A frantic start saw Alexander Sims take lead after starting second in the BMW Team RLL BMW M6 GTLM. Sims went side-by-side with Joey Hand, in the pole-sitting No. 66 Ford GT from Ford Chip Ganassi Racing, with the two going door-to-door through several corners before Sims eventually cleared Hand for the lead.

Sims and co-driver Bill Auberlen dominated the race from there, leading by over 20 seconds at multiple stages. However, a punctured tire prior to their final scheduled pit stop forced them to pit a few laps early, putting them into a big fuel conservation strategy in their final stint.

That allowed the No. 3 Corvette of Antonia Garcia, running second, to begin closing in. Garcia and co-driver Jan Magnussen emerged in second after an intense skirmish with the No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE of Giancarlo Fisichella and Toni Vilander and the No. 66 Ford of Hand and co-driver Dirk Mueller.

Up front, Sims tried desperately to save enough fuel to make it to the checkered flag, but another puncture forced him to pit in the final 15 minutes, handing the lead to Garcia, who held on for the win from there.

Behind Garcia, however, chaos hit teammate Tommy Milner, in the No. 4 Corvette, and Mueller, who got together battling for a position on the podium entering the Turn 14 “roller coaster.” Both cars spun off into the grass, but were able to continue.

As a result of the contact, Ryan Briscoe (with co-driver Richard Westbrook) came through to take second, while Fisichella, who fell back as far as sixth after an off-course excursion in the second half of the race, ended up third on Risi Competizione’s return to IMSA competition. Sims ended up fourth, with Mueller in fifth.

GTD

Jeroen Mul took off from pole for Change Racing at the drop of the green flag, and he and co-driver Corey Lewis appeared to be destined for a relatively easy win, leading by over 10 seconds during the final hour of the race, with Lewis behind the wheel after Mul started.

However, Jens Klingmann, in the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3, ran down Lewis in the final minutes, taking advantage of lapped traffic to do so. Specifically, Lewis was held up by a slowing Tommy Milner, whose No. 4 Corvette appeared to suffer a punctured tire on the final lap, which allowed Klingmann to close right on the back bumper of Lewis.

Yet, Lewis held off the challenge, even slightly increasing the gap between the two on the final lap, to take an emotional first win for he and the team, with Klingmann coming home second.

Behind them, Jeroen Bleekemolen, with Trent Hindman filling in for Ben Keating as a co-driver, finished third in the No. 33 Riley Motorsports – Team AMG Mercedes-AMG GT3. Alessandro Balzan and Christina Nielsen finished fourth in the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3, with Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow finishing fifth in the No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3.

The 2 hour 40 minute affair ran caution-free, but did see several drivers spin off course at various points. Most significantly, along with the aforementioned Milner/Mueller contact, Sage Karam, in the No. 14 3GT Racing Lexus RCF GT3, and Katherine Legge, in the No. 93 Acura NSX GT3 for Michael Shank Racing w/ Curb-Agajanian, came together in the early laps in a controversial incident.

Legge tried to get alongside Karam on the backstretch leading up to Turn 14, with Karam pushing her to the edge of the track. Legge returned the favor approaching the turn, with Karam putting two wheels on the grass. Karam managed to regain control, and actually out-breaked Legge into the corner, but slowed up suddenly on corner-exit. As a result, Legge piled into the back of him, doing significant damage to the front of Legge’s car, with the Michael Shank-led team eventually retiring the car after trying to repair.

Karam, for his role in the incident, was given a 60-second stop and hold penalty, and was later seen on camera having an animated conversation with Michael Shank about the incident.

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F1 2017 driver review: Lance Stroll

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Team: Williams

Car No.: 18
Races: 20
Wins: 0
Podiums: 1
Best Finish: P3 (Azerbaijan)
Pole Positions: 0
Fastest Laps: 0
Points: 40
Championship Position: 13th

Lance Stroll’s arrival in Formula 1 at the start of the 2017 was a far from smooth one despite a significant private testing program being undertaken in the months leading up to his grand prix debut.

Even with older hand Felipe Massa at Williams, Stroll looked uneasy behind the wheel of the FW40 car through the opening run of races as he failed to reach the checkered flag in any of his first three starts.

The Canadian was left deflated after his first decent effort in Bahrain was cut short after a clash with Carlos Sainz Jr., calling it his “rock bottom” moment – but things would turn around on home soil.

Stroll produced a stunning fight through the field to take an excellent P9 in Canada, proving his talent seen in Formula 3 the previous year and shushing many of his critics.

Better would follow two weeks later in Baku when Stroll became the youngest rookie in F1 history to score a podium, dodging a crazy race to finish third. It would have been second had he not lost a drag race against Valtteri Bottas to the line.

Stroll’s form then fluctuated greatly. He was sublime on occasion, the best examples being Monza, when he started a remarkable P2 on the grid and ended as the top midfielder in P7, or Mexico where he took a brilliant sixth.

But there were too many weekends he was a little anonymous. Sure, Williams didn’t have the best car this year, but perhaps a little better was expected from Stroll.

2018 will be an even bigger challenge as he looks to the lead the team when a new teammate arrives – and at only 19, it is a lot to handle. Nevertheless, there are positive signs to be found; you just need to look for them a little.

Season High: Taking a shock podium in Baku after dodging chaos in front.

Season Low: A poor opening two races in Australia and China.