Monterey, Calif. (4 May 2014) – If you are going to draw a line in the sand, you have to know which way the wind is blowing. Starting from the front row, Spirit of Daytona Racing was well placed to score another strong finish in the Continental Tire MOntery Grand Prix at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca with the No. 90 VISITFLORIDA.com Corvette DP, only to have the race effort thwarted by a decision by the race officials. The team fought back to finish fifth to score the team’s second top-five of the year.
After Richard Westbrook scored a spot on the front row in Saturday’s qualifying session, Michael Valiante started the race from the outside pole and immediately muscled his way to the front. But the lead was heavily disputed as Valiante held off the furious charge from a lighter P2 machine.
In some of the best racing to date of the young IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, a handful of Prototype machines, both Daytona Prototype and LMP2 based entries, fought tooth and nail through a hectic opening segment of the two-hour GTLM and P Class race. All along the first 26 laps, Valiante continued to hold the point before turning the car over to Westbrook.
Cycling his way back up the order and making the most of the stout pace of the Corvette DP, Westbrook’s charge was only halted when the officials called him in for a severe penalty following an incident that saw another car drive off track as Westbrook passed him.
Forced to return to pit lane, and cruelly sit stationary for 55 seconds, Westbrook lost critical track position in a race that continued IMSA’s current run of all green flag racing as the field flew by. Putting the confusion of the penalty and resulting frustration aside, Westbrook returned to the track and once again began picking up positions, charging all the way to the checkered flag and finishing fifth as he came up less than one tenth of a second short of fourth place.
Spirit of Daytona Racing will return to race action in three weeks as IMSA hits Motown with the Chevrolet Grand Prix on May 31.
Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca SPIRIT OF DAYTONA RACING TEAM COMMENTS:
Troy Flis – “It was a good weekend. We got a penalty and some people say we deserved it and others say we didn’t, I don’t know either way. I think we were racing. We are here to race, we aren’t out there to just let people go by. This is the best racing in North America and I try to live up to that and push my guys as hard as I can to make the right call. I think the call was a racing incident. If you look at the beginning of the race there was an incident where someone wore the back end of our car off and broke things off and there was no penalty for that, which actually took away from the performance of our car. So us not giving them all the racing room they needed, they didn’t need to drive off the track because we didn’t push them off physically or anything. They could have stayed on the track. So I’m disappointed in the call. I think we definitely had a car that would have been on the podium if that didn’t happen. But we just have to go back and work a little harder and try to play by their rules I guess. So it is going to be a new deal for us to see if we can keep on getting better.”
Richard Westbrook – “Michael (Valiante) did a great job getting the car to me and leaving the pits it was really difficult on cold tires, as we knew. I was fighting for position with Brundle in the No. 42 car. It was good, hard racing and I really enjoyed it. Then Brundle outbraked himself into the corkscrew and hit the No. 5 car and then I could close down on Jordan (Taylor, No. 10 Corvette DP). We pitted at the same time they did, and just took rear tires so we came out in first place looking really good and everything was going according to plan. Then I got the call about the penalty and I couldn’t believe it, I didn’t know what it was for. I’m really disappointed. It was good racing out there. They told me it was for when Brundle wanted to go around the outside of me, and if he wants to do that, that is fine but he is taking a risk doing that. I’m not sure what they expect me to do because I’m not just going to stamp on the brake and give up the corner, that isn’t what racing is about. So I’m really disappointed in the decision by the series that killed our day.”
Michael Valiante – “I think we would have been first or second if not for the penalty, so it’s tough for the whole team. But that is the way it goes, so on to the next round and hopefully we can have a trouble-free race and be on the podium. We did get to test and I think that helped a lot, so I think we still have a lot to learn and need to keep pushing hard and do more testing and development. What we get out of testing definitely helps on the track so hopefully race by race we can just get stronger and stronger.”