TUDOR Championship: GT cars take center stage at VIR

With the Prototype class not in action this weekend, GT cars take center stage as the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship heads to Virginia International Raceway for the Oak Tree Grand Prix.

This weekend's Oak Tree Grand Prix feature race takes place Sunday at 4 p.m. ET LIVE on FOX Sports 1.

Phillip Abbott / LAT Photographic

With the Prototype class not in action this weekend, GT cars take center stage as the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship heads to Virginia International Raceway for the Oak Tree Grand Prix.

The 11th round of the TUDOR Championship season sees a two-hour and 45-minute feature race on Sunday for GT Le Mans and GT Daytona competitors (4 p.m. ET, LIVE on FOX Sports 1), while Prototype Challenge cars again pair with IMSA Prototype Lites entries for a pair of 45-minute standalone sprint races.

GTLM cars will fight for the overall win for the first time, with 10 of the fire-breathing, production-based machines set to do battle on the historic 17-turn, 3.27-mile circuit located just two hours Northeast of Charlotte.

Corvette Racing’s Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia saw their championship lead reduced for the second consecutive race and head into VIR with only an eight-point advantage over the No. 93 SRT Motorsports duo of Jonathan Bomarito and Kuno Wittmer, who are on the string of four consecutive podium finishes.

The sister No. 91 Dodge Viper SRT GTS-R of Dominik Farnbacher and Marc Goossens, meanwhile, have moved into third in the title race, ahead of BMW Team RLL’s Bill Auberlen and Andy Priualx who, like teammates Dirk Mueller and John Edwards, are still searching for their first class win of the season. 

Recent Balance of Performance changes, meanwhile, should give the pair of CORE autosport-run Porsche 911 RSRs some help this weekend. Despite both cars not being able to take the fight to the competition at Road America, we saw Risi Competizione’s Giancarlo Fisichella and Pierre Kaffer break through for their first win of the year.

While BoP remains a hot topic, both in GTLM and GTD, no changes have been made to either class since the last round.

With three races to go, the championship battle in GTD has come down to a three-horse race between the points-leading AIM Autosport crew of Townsend Bell and Bill Sweedler, Alex Job Racing’s Leh Keen and Cooper MacNeil plus Dane Cameron of Turner Motorsport.

Cameron, who took his BMW Z4 GT3 to class victory in two of the last four races with Markus Palttala, is perhaps the hottest driver in the class right now, but at a 12-point deficit to the Ferrari pairing of Bell and Sweedler, who haven’t visited victory lane since the season-opening Rolex 24 at Daytona. 

Then there’s Keen and MacNeil, who only claimed their first podium of the year last time out at Road America, but have used consistency to their advantage with their WeatherTech-sponsored Porsche 911 GT America.

A total of 19 GTD cars are listed to take part, including the No. 33 Riley Motorsports Dodge Viper SRT GT3-R, which sees Tony Ave fill in for Jeroen Bleekemolen, who is on Blancpain Endurance Series duty this weekend in Slovakia.

Other driver changes include the TUDOR Championship debut of Michael Lewis, who will pilot the No. 81 Tully’s Coffee-sponsored Porsche, while Seth Neiman is expected to return to the cockpit of the No. 35 Flying Lizard Motorsports after an injury forced the team principal out of the car earlier this month.

While not being part of the main show this weekend, PC cars will have two races of its own, alongside competitors from IMSA Prototype Lites, one on Saturday afternoon and another on Sunday morning.

CORE autosport’s Colin Braun and Jon Bennett took a hit in their championship lead at Road America after Braun’s Oreca FLM09 sustained considerable damage after being pushed off course. 

The duo now holds a 35-point lead over Renger van der Zande who, along with Mirco Schultis, scored their second class win of the season last time out in their Martini-liveried No. 8 Starworks Motorsport entry.

Van der Zande edged out the No. 25 8Star Motorsports car of Sean Rayhall who, along with co-driver Luis Diaz, have been knocking on the door of an elusive first victory for the Enzo Potolicchio-owned squad. 

Other contenders this weekend will include the pair of RSR Racing entires, which sees the return of Alex Tagliani to the No. 08 car after a one-race suspension by IMSA, and the JDC/Miller Motorsports car of Chris Miller, who is coming off the team’s first podium finish.

Due to the unique format of the PC round, Miller will be driving solo, taking part in both 45-minute heats. Rules state a Silver-rated driver must drive in the first segment, with no driver grading restrictions for the second and points-paying part of the race.

Track action gets underway on Friday, with qualifying for both GTLM/GTD and PC events set for Saturday. Watch the Oak Tree Grand Prix feature race Sunday at 4 p.m. ET, LIVE on FOX Sports 1.