TUDOR Championship heads to COTA with titles on the line

The Risi Competizione Ferrari of Giancarlo Fisichella and Pierre Kaffer races to a second-consecutive victory in the IMSA Tudor Series GT race at Virginia International Raceway on August 24, 2014.

Brian Cleary/Getty Images

With only two rounds to go, championships are on the line as the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship heads to Circuit of The Americas for the Lone Star Le Mans weekend (Saturday, 12:30 p.m. ET, LIVE on FOX Sports 2).

A total of 51 cars are entered for the final two-hour and 45-minute race of the season, before champions in all four categories are crowned in next month’s 1,000-mile/10-hour Petit Le Mans finale at Road Atlanta.

Action Express Racing sits in the cat bird’s seat in the Prototype class, with Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi holding a 16-point lead over brothers Jordan and Ricky Taylor, with Spirit of Daytona’s Michael Valiante and Richard Westbrook just two points further behind in third.

It will likely be one of these three Corvette DP teams that will end up champions in the P class, with OAK Racing’s Gustavo Yacaman nearly out of reach following the French squad’s first DNF of the season at Road America.

OAK, however, will be in the spotlight this weekend as they debut the new Ligier JS P2 HPD coupe, which will be driven by the Colombian and Alex Brundle, who did the majority of the development of the Onroak Automotive-built prototype. 

A recent Balance of Performance adjustment, which sees the HPD-powered P2 cars get a considerable power increase, estimated at up to 35 horsepower, could be what’s needed for either the OAK entry or Extreme Speed Motorsports’ HPD ARX-03b to return to victory lane. 

ESM has scaled back its entry this weekend to only a single car, with Ryan Dalziel, Scott Sharp and Ed Brown set to compete in this weekend’s FIA World Endurance Championship race in the other car, with Brown pulling double duty between races.

Other changes in the P class includes the return of Boris Said to the Marsh Racing Corvette DP after his accident at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, and further engine-related developments to the pair of Ford EcoBoost-powered Riley DPs from Chip Ganassi Racing and Michael Shank Racing. 

The Prototype Challenge class returns to the big show after its standalone event at VIR, with CORE autosport’s Colin Braun and Jon Bennett still at the top of the championship. 

With a hefty 40-point lead over Starworks’ Renger van der Zande, Braun and Bennett could clinch the drivers’ championship on Saturday with a win or second place finish. 

The teams’ title, however, will likely go down to Road Atlanta, as CORE holds only a 14-point advantage over 8Star Motorsports, which broke through for its first win at VIR with Sean Rayhall and Luis Diaz, who will be looking for two in a row.

RSR Racing’s pair of Oreca FLM09s will likely be contenders again as well, especially the No. 08 car of Chris Cumming and Jack Hawksworth, who returns after missing VIR due to his IndyCar commitments.

John Martin and Stephen Simpson are also back after missing the last race with Starworks Motorsport and JDC/Miller Motorsports, respectively, while BAR1 Motorsports returns with a new lineup of Johnny Mowlem and Tom Papadopoulos.

The GT Le Mans grid has been bolstered with the addition of a third Porsche North America-entered Porsche 911 RSR for Frenchmen Fred Makowiecki and Patrick Pilet, who are among the nine drivers listed to pull double-duty between the FIA WEC and TUDOR Championship races this weekend.

Porsche currently holds a two-point lead in the GTLM manufacturers’ championship over Corvette, which continues to sit atop the drivers’ championship with Antonio Garcia, although the gap now only six points to SRT’s Jonathan Bomarito and Kuno Wittmer. 

Jan Magnussen, who was forced out of the No. 3 Corvette C7.R at VIR after not being cleared following his practice crash, returns to pair with Garcia, but has lost his chance of sharing the title with the Spaniard due to the DNS in Virginia.

The Corvette, meanwhile, has been given a 15 kg weight reduction and slight increase in power for COTA, while the BMW Z4 GTE, which has yet to visit victory lane this season, has also received a larger air restrictor, but with a 25 kg weight increase.

Following back-to-back wins with Risi Competizione, the Ferrari F458 Italia has been handed a slight reduction in power, all as part of the final round of Balance of Performance adjustments for the season. 

While there have also been BoP changes in GT Daytona, largely weight adjustments, all eyes will be on the close title race, which sees a three-way tie for the lead of the drivers’ championship between AIM Autoport’s Townsend Bell and Bill Sweedler, the Alex Job Racing duo of Leh Keen and Cooper MacNeil and Turner Motorsport’s Dane Cameron.

Cameron and co-driver Markus Palttala are coming off their fourth class victory of the season, in what will be Turner Motorsport’s 300th start as a team this weekend.

TUDOR Championship practice gets underway on Thursday, followed by qualifying on Friday afternoon. The Lone Star Le Mans takes the green flag Saturday, with live coverage on FOX Sports 2 beginning at 12:30 p.m. ET. 

FOX will also carry a two-hour wrap-up show on Sunday. Check your local listings for air times.