DETROIT – It’s no surprise that the Action Express Chevrolet Corvette Daytona Prototype won the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship race at Detroit’s Belle Isle.
However, it wasn’t the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring-winning No. 5, but its sister car, the No. 31 Corvette DP of Dane Cameron and Eric Curran, which won the Chevrolet Sports Car Classic Presented by the Metro Chevy Dealers by more than 18 seconds.
It’s the first win for the No. 31, which moved under the Action Express umbrella this year after a lackluster 2014 season. It was also the fifth different Prototype winner in five races this season
It was almost an Action Express one-two, but Joao Barbosa, who shares the No. 5 Corvette DP with polesitter Christian Fittipaldi, spun on the very last lap as hard rain began to fall, and the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Honda-powered Ligier JS P2 of John Pew and Oswaldo Negri got by for second. Barbosa recovered for third. Finishing fourth were Joey Hand and Scott Pruett in the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Ford EcoBoost Riley.
“It was good hard racing all the way through,” said Cameron, who has seven victories, but none in the Prototype class until today. The on-and-off rain, which really began to fall at the end of the race, made the track unpredictable. “One corner would be wet,” Cameron said, “and then the next time we’d come through, it would be dry. We had no idea what to expect.”
In fact, four GT Daytona cars piled into the tire barrier just past the checkered flag, when the rain was falling hardest. Jan Heylen, driver of the No. 58 Wright Motorsports Brumos Porsche 911 GT America, was treated in the infield care center, as was one track worker. Another track worker was taken to the hospital. No further information was available at the time of this writing.
In the Prototype Challenge class, the No. 8 Starworks Motorsports Chevrolet-powered ORECA FLM09 survived a lot of carnage in the class, and drivers Renger van der Zande and Mirco Schultis kept cool heads. Second was the No. 85 JDC/Miller car of Stephen Simpson and Mikhail Goikhberg.
“It was quite slippery out there,” van der Zande said. “I’m very pleased with the result we achieved.”
In GT Daytona, smart pit strategy won the race for the No, 23 Team Seattle/Alex Job Racing Porsche 911 GT America. The team pitted just past the 30-minute mark in the 100-minute race, swapping driver Ian James for Mario Farnbacher, who found himself in the lead after the other cars made their pit stop, and managed to hold off the rest of the field, which had fresher tires.
“That was the strategy,” said James, as they thought they could go to the end on fuel. Multiple slow yellow-flag caution laps helped stretch fuel mileage.
Second were James Davison and Christina Nielsen in the No. 007 TRG-AMR Aston Martin V12 Vantage, which had a spirited on-track battle with the polesitting No. 48 Paul Miller Racing Audi R8 LMS of Dion von Moltke and Christopher Haase.
The first part of the race was uneventful, until Ben Keating, in his No. 33 Dodge Viper SRT, slapped the tire wall with the left rear of his car, which knocked loose a large portion of his car’s undertray, causing a full-course caution 33 minutes in. The damage apparently was terminal, as Keating, who left right after the race to fly to Le Mans for practice, couldn’t coax his car to the pits.
The caution erased Christian Fittipaldi’ s healthy lead over Michael Valiante in the No. 90 VisitFlorida.com Racing Corvette DP.
The top runners dove for the pits for fuel, tires, and in most cases a driver change, with Joao Barbosa taking over for Fittipaldi. It was a very slow stop for the No. 01 Ford Prototype as Scott Pruett changed out with Joey Hand, as the crew removed the hood of the car to make adjustments. With rain just north of Detroit and more approaching from the west, some teams readied treaded rain tires.