DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (September 15, 2015) – The No. 90 VISITFLORIDA.COM Chevrolet Corvette Daytona Prototype rolls into the Lone Star Le Mans at Circuit of the Americas in a familiar position; leading the IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship standings.
Following their first win of the 2015 campaign, Richard Westbrook and Michael Valiante have been atop the TUDOR Championship standings. During their five-race stretch atop the standings, the team from Daytona Beach has been the picture of consistency. At one point, the No. 90 VISITFLORIDA.com Corvette DP enjoyed a lead of seven points, the largest lead any competitor has enjoyed throughout the 2015 season.
“It’s pretty tight in the points right now,” said driver Richard Westbrook. “You know I think we’ll try to come away from COTA with our points lead in tact and we’ll just take the fight to the others at Petit Le Mans.”
While Westbrook’s approach may seem simple on the surface, it’s that exact formula that powered the blue and white No. 90 VISITFLORIDA.com Corvette DP to the top of the standings just before the halfway point of the season, when they claimed their first of two victories this year at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The challenge of competing at the Circuit of the Americas is one that Westbrook enjoys as it presents a return to his roots, so to speak.
“Having raced on United States style circuits all year it’s a bit different going to COTA,” said Westbrook. “It’s like the typical, modern F1 circuit, which I was accustomed to when I was racing in GT1 World Championship and so forth. I do like those sorts of tracks but its very different from places like Road America, Road Atlanta and Watkins Glen. Obviously a lot more runoff area, smoother surface and it’s going to require a much different setup.”
For driver Michael Valiante the Lone Star Le Mans will present an opportunity to keep the points lead and hopefully build on it, but ultimately, the championship will be decided at Petit Le Mans in Braselton, GA.
“I’m looking forward to going to COTA, it’s a great facility and a great track,” said Valiante. “It would be nicer if we had a bigger points gap to second and third but the way it is now it’ll be a fight till the end. Hopefully we roll in with a good car like we had at Road America, have a clean race and come away with a win there. We’d like to have a slight gap when we head to the finale at Road Atlanta.”
Around the sports car world, Valiante is known for his spectacular starts, one of those starts proved to be a key to victory at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in the Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix as the Canadian rocketed from the third starting position to the lead through a tight Turn 1. With a wide Turn 1 at Circuit of the Americas, Valiante will likely employ a similar move to position his team in the driver’s seat for the two hour and forty minute sprint race.
“Turn 1 is a challenge on the start because its so wide everyone packs up and stacks up and it gets a little crazy,” said Valiante. The three, four, five and six corners are a little technical so those are probably the biggest challenge outside of Turn 1 on the initial start. We just need to have a clean race.”
For team owner Troy Flis the final two races will be the ultimate test for his Daytona Beach based race team. Flis has been satisfied throughout the year with the way his team has come to the track with fast racecars, and when the cars weren’t the fastest, they’ve found ways to capitalize and maximize points.
“We’ve had a tremendous season,” said Flis. “We’ve scored two victories and led the points for the majority of the season so there is a lot to be proud of. But we know we still have two races to go and we’ve got to capitalize on every opportunity to score points.”