By Mark Robinson
Even the drenching wrath of Mother Nature couldn’t prevent the hottest team in IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship GT Le Mans (GTLM) competition from continuing its winning ways.
In Sunday’s headlining event at the IMSA SportsCar Weekend at Road America that finished in a drenching downpour, Corvette Racing collected a 1-2 finish. Jordan Taylor and Antonio Garcia drove to victory in the No. 3 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C8.R, with Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner bringing the sister No. 4 Corvette home in second place.
It marked the third straight Corvette win in 2020 competition and second straight 1-2 finish, though the positions were reversed two weeks ago at Sebring International Raceway.
Taylor and Garcia started strong and finished smart, earning the 102nd Corvette win in IMSA history. Taylor got the jump at the green flag on GTLM polesitter Laurens Vanthoor in the No. 912 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR-19 to grab the lead and hold it for the first 30 minutes on the high-speed road course in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.
Vanthoor passed Taylor for the lead on Lap 15 and it looked like the Porsche’s day. That changed as quickly as the Wisconsin weather, however. Rain began falling around the 4.048-mile circuit with 55 minutes remaining in the two-hour, 40-minute race. Soon after, GTLM competitors Earl Bamber in the No. 912 Porsche and Connor De Phillippi in the No. 25 BMW Team RLL BMW M8 GTE were among cars spinning off course to bring out a full-course caution.
Heavy rain, hail and lightning then arrived, forcing all cars to pit lane under red-flag conditions. Following a 21-minute hold, the race resumed under a full-course caution to allow a cycle of pit stops. When the green flag waved with 7:35 on the clock, John Edwards led GTLM in the No. 24 BMW, with Garcia in the No. 3 and Nick Tandy in the No. 911 Porsche on his heels.
Amid the skirmish in the wet with limited visibility on the white-flag lap, both Edwards and Tandy went off course and Garcia snuck through to take the checkered flag. It marked IMSA win No. 18 for the Spaniard.
"It was a very, very intense (last) three laps," admitted Garcia, who notched his first Road America triumph. "I knew from Sebring practice that the C8.R was really, really good in the wet, even if today was more than wet. I had Tandy all over me; we had many, many times where we were alongside and kind of sailing together instead of racing together.
"I knew the Carousel and the Kink was really bad, like going into a swimming pool. I took the line I took on the previous lap and it seemed to work while defending from Tandy. … At some point while I was full off to the left, I saw the 24 (Edwards) spinning by himself very, very slowly.
"I was probably one of the few cars that made it through and luckily enough Tommy did the same, so another 1-2 for Corvette Racing, which is amazing. My first victory at Road America, finally!"
Taylor picked up his 22nd career win and added a first by winning on the same day in a different car as his brother Ricky, who took the overall and Daytona Prototype international (DPi) win with Helio Castroneves in the No. 7 Acura Team Penske Acura ARX-05.
"It was a wild day, very unexpected," Jordan Taylor said. "The race started out strong. We took a different strategy with the three stops at the beginning and thankfully that turned out to work well in timing with the rain, and track-position-wise.
"Antonio never gave up. It was a tough fight in the tough conditions, but he survived when he needed to survive and he pressured the 24 when he needed to."
GTLM is in action again Saturday, August 22 in the Michelin GT Challenge at VIR. The race streams live at 1:35 p.m. ET on TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold and IMSA.tv.
No. 12 AVS Vasser Sullivan Lexus Slips and Slides to GTD Win at Road America
You know it’s a strange day when the winning car in a race limps home with damage sustained after the checkered flag.
That’s the kind of race it was for the GT Daytona class (GTD) in the IMSA SportsCar Weekend at Road America on Sunday. Frankie Montecalvo and Townsend Bell delivered AIM Vasser Sullivan its third win in as many IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship races, coming after teammates Aaron Telitz and Jack Hawksworth captured the previous two events.
Telitz started on the GTD pole in the No. 14 Lexus RC F GT3, with Montecalvo alongside in the No. 12 Lexus. Bell was able to overtake Hawksworth following the first round of pit stops and the No. 12 remained out front until the skies opened up with less than an hour remaining in the two-hour, 40-minute race on the popular 14-turn, 4.048-mile road course in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.
Heavy rain, hail and lightning forced a 21-minute red flag. When green-flag racing resumed with the rain still coming down, Bell and Hawksworth were still running 1-2. That’s when the real fun began.
Mario Farnbacher made his way from fifth to second on the final restart in the No. 86 Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Acura NSX GT3. A lap later, Farnbacher completed a brilliant outside pass on Bell in Turn 12 to take the lead. It was short-lived, however, with the No. 86 going off track on the white-flag lap, opening the path for Bell to retake the lead and hold on for the win.
It was the fourth IMSA win for Bell and maiden victory for Montecalvo. Farnbacher and Matt McMurry finished second in the No. 86, with Telitz and Hawksworth rounding out the podium in the No. 14.
"Farnbacher, he was going big around the outside and got by us kind of easily," Bell said of the penultimate lap. "We kind of hung in there and I was coming out of the Carousel looking up the road (on the last lap), and there he was sliding out in the grass near the wall. I hit that standing water and thought I was going to lose it.
"I just put my foot down and just started grabbing gears. The Lexus just barely hooked up and I got by him. That’s all it took and then the yellow came out."
Farnbacher said he battled brake issues in the No. 86 Acura, which didn’t help his effort in the wet.
"I just tried to survive," he said. "We came in early for rain tires and I think that was the key point, so thanks to Mike (Shank, team co-owner and strategist) and the guys for putting me into the right strategy. That was the reason we finished on the podium. We should have won it, but that’s racing sometimes."
Bell’s excitement wasn’t complete once the checkered flag waved. As he nursed around the circuit on the cooldown lap, the No. 12 skittered off track and bounced off a concrete barrier.
"If that had happened a lap earlier, we would have lost the race under caution at 20 mph," Bell said. "That’s how bad the conditions were. It’s kind of embarrassing, but I’m not sure I could do much else. I was just driving in a straight line as slow as I could go, and it just floated off the track."
Montecalvo didn’t care how the car looked after the race. He was just happy to get his first win.
"Thanks to Townsend and the crew today to get this win for the 12 car," he said. "We feel great for the guys. So, for everything to work out for us this race, it feels amazing. Everyone made a phenomenal call in the pits, throwing on the wets at the perfect time, it really worked out for us. It was a great race for us."
GTD races again on Saturday, August 22 in the Michelin GT Challenge at VIR. The race streams live at 1:35 p.m. ET on TrackPass on NBC Sports Gold and IMSA.tv.