DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (September 30, 2015) – The 2015 IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship kicked off under the bright Florida sunshine. For Daytona Beach based Visit Florida Racing, the focus was already fixed to this moment.
After having one of their best seasons on record in 2014, team owner Troy Flis knew his team could push the No. 90 VISITFLORIDA.COM Chevrolet Corvette Daytona Prototype to new heights in 2015. The team began by stringing three consecutive third place finishes, before netting their first of two wins thus far in the campaign.
“We were achieving what we set out to achieve,” said Flis. “We were finishing on the podium and we knew that was the formula we needed to win the championship. You can’t always have the fastest car, particularly when the competition level is so fierce in the IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship.
“When our guys unloaded at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, we knew we had our best shot at a victory all season. Michael made a brilliant move to start the race and then Richard drove flawlessly, that was a turning point for us. We knew after that race that we could capitalize on the races where we had a winning car, but we weren’t going to fold when we didn’t.”
While the season may have gone to plan for Flis, the team still has one race remaining between themselves and a Bishop-France trophy. For Canadian driver Michael Valiante, that race is going to be treated like every other event.
“We have to treat Petit Le Mans like any other race,” said Valiante. “Our focus is to win and after a strong test a few weeks ago, we feel like we can do that. Our team has really worked well together and we have constantly tried to improve in our weaker areas. So we’re just going to do what we’ve done all year and treat this like any other race weekend.”
Treating the season finale like any other race is easier said than done, as most competitors will admit the 10-hours at Road Atlanta is one of the more difficult endurance races in the world. For England’s Richard Westbrook, Petit Le Mans is a race styled after two of the most prestigious endurance races in the world.
“Petit Le Mans is an extremely difficult race,” said Westbrook. “The race itself is extremely busy so that makes it a challenge. There are only a few overtaking places, good overtaking places, but if you get stuck behind someone in Turn 3 you can’t overtake them until you get down the back straight, so traffic management is extremely important.
“I love the challenge of racing in the dark; it’s something I’ve done at Le Mans numerous times. Sebring is ridiculously dark and this track ranks up there for sure. So in that sense, both of these races are much more difficult than the Rolex 24 at Daytona because of the advanced lighting system they have in place.”
The No. 90 VISITFLORIDA.COM Corvette DP will have an abundance of supporters in attendance for the series finale, all hoping to culminate the night in Victory Lane celebrating the team’s first prototype championship. While Westbrook says the extra guests and VIPs wont add to the pressure of trying to win the IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, he admits it would be an honor and privilege to celebrate with them.
“Visit Florida is part of the family and part of the team. Its not added pressure, but they have been such a great partner that you want to give them success. This is close to a home race for the folks from Visit Florida and for the race team. This is a big event with lots of old friends, new friends and guests of Visit Florida. We’d love to win the championship in our VISITFLORIDA.COM Chevrolet Corvette DP in front of all the guests from Visit Florida.”
The simple fact remains, if the No. 90 VISITFLORIDA.COM Corvette DP does what they did to begin the season, they will leave Braselton with the championship. With a six-point advantage, a podium finish guarantees the championship for Westbrook and Valiante.
“We’re going to Road Atlanta with every intention of winning the race,” said Flis. “If winning the race isn’t in the cards, we’re going to do what we’ve done all season and target a podium finish and let everything else sort itself out.”
The 17th annual Petit Le Mans gets underway Saturday, October 3 at 11:10 a.m. ET and concludes at 9:10 p.m. ET. Follow Visit Florida Racing on Twitter (@sdrmotorsports) and on Facebook (SDRmotorsports) for updates throughout the event weekend.