Using a slightly altered strategy, Starworks Motorsport shot ahead of the pole-sitting RSR Racing car and the otherwise dominant 8Star Motorsports entry to score the Prototype Challenge category’s’ first overall victory in the Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix.
Turner Motorsport, meanwhile, took a dramatic last lap victory in GT Daytona, winning when Flying Lizard Motorsports’ Spencer Pumpelly ran out of fuel exiting the Corkscrew.
Renger van der Zande and Mirco Schultis took the newly liveried No. 8 Martini Oreca FLM09 to the PC win. Dane Cameron and Markus Palttala co-drove the winning GTD No. 94 Turner Motorsport BMW Z4 GT3. For both van der Zande and Palttala, it’s their first wins in North America.
The margin of victory in PC was 12.234 seconds over 8Star’s pair of Sean Rayhall and Luis Diaz in the No. 25, but the race was often much closer than that.
For the Starworks’ pair, Schultis started his first race since the Rolex 24 at Daytona after missing the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. But what had been a drama-free first 30-plus minutes ended at the 34-minute mark, as Schultis’ left rear was clipped on corner entry at the Corkscrew by Jon Bennett in the No. 54 CORE autosport entry.
That contact, plus the stopped No. 46 Fall-Line Motorsports Audi R8 LMS on exit to Turn 5 necessitated the second full course caution of the race (the first occurred on the first lap).
The timing of the yellow was fortuitous because it occurred just before the 40-minute mark, when teams could switch drivers to ensure the starting drivers completed the minimum drive time. Seven of the nine PC starters pitted at that point.
With van der Zande in the car, the team pitted with 50 minutes to go on Lap 44. Rayhall in the 8Star car pitted two laps later; leader Bruno Junqueira for RSR opted for a much later stop on Lap 61.
Rayhall began to hunt down van der Zande for the class lead, but his charge ended in tears when with 11 minutes to go, he spun on the curbs on corner entry to Turn 10, while lapping through GTD traffic. The young American had closed the gap to van der Zande to within three seconds, but fell more than 10 back after the loop.
Junqueira was close but unable to pass Rayhall once he restarted. RSR’s pair of Junqueira and Duncan Ende came home third.
Gunnar Jeannette and Frankie Montecalvo ended fourth for PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports and Alex Tagliani and Chris Cumming ended fifth for RSR, despite a pit road speeding violation and a spin.
CORE’s shot at its third straight class win ended with the Bennett/Schultis contact and a longer pit stop shortly thereafter to fix the damage. Colin Braun posted the fastest race lap of 1:21.229, but he and Bennett ended seventh.
The GTD finish was entirely dramatic, as Pumpelly came up less than half a lap short of making the finish in his No. 45 Flying Lizard Motorsports Audi R8 LMS. Pumpelly pitted on Lap 25 but was unable to make the 53rd and final lap through to Lap 78, as he ran out of fuel exiting the Corkscrew. Pumpelly and Nelson Canache were unofficially classified sixth.
That gave the win to Cameron and Palttala in the No. 94 Turner Motorsport BMW Z4 GT3, with both drivers turning in a sterling comeback after Palttala was spun by Ben Keating’s SRT Viper GT3-R within the first 15 minutes.
A stop executed by the Turner team at Lap 36 ultimately proved the difference, as the BMW was able to make it home on fuel.
Cameron slotted into fifth place for the final half hour, and one-by-one the cars ahead of him needed a splash within the final 10 minutes. Included in that quartet were the two Flying Lizard Audis and the two Alex Job Racing Porsche 911 GT Americas.
Once Cameron passed Pumpelly exiting Turn 10, he held off a hard charging Christopher Haase in the No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Audi for the win by just 0.168 of a second. Haase co-drove with Bryce Miller for that team’s best result of the year.
But for Cameron, it was sweet redemption after losing third place on the final lap of Saturday’s Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge race to Kris Wilson in a TRG-AMR Aston Martin Vantage.
The last cycle of pit stops promoted Sebring winners Magnus Racing to third, with Andy Lally and John Potter scoring their second straight podium in the No. 44 Porsche 911 GT America.
Leh Keen and Cooper MacNeil ended fourth for the second straight race in the No. 22 AJR Porsche, with the Dion von Moltke/Seth Neiman No. 35 Flying Lizard Audi fifth ahead of the Pumpelly/Canache entry.