Renger van der Zande and Sebastien Bourdais have won at Laguna Seca, the fourth round of the 2023 IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship.
The two, driving the #01 Cadillac V-Series.R, came through from sixth on the grid, using superior strategy to take the lead, with van der Zande finishing ahead of Nick Tandy in the #6 Porsche 963.
Porsche had an uncharacteristically untidy race after starting on the front row of the grid. Mathieu Jaminet and Matt Campbell both locked up on the run down to the first corner, with polesitter Jaminet dropping to third and Campbell as far down as seventh.
This elevated Colin Braun in the #60 Meyer Shank Acura ARX-06 to the lead. After a brief caution period for a stricken spun car, Braun retained the lead from second-placed Pipo Derani, behind the wheel of the #31 Action Express Cadillac V-Series.R, with Jaminet remaining third.
Just as Braun began to pull a gap of up to three seconds, there was another caution, with Jarrett Andretti’s #94 Andretti Aston Martin Vantage GT3 lying in the pitlane exit. It transpired that Campbell, in his hurry to pass the Aston and get back into the lead group of GTps, tipped Andretti into a spin, which caused the American to hit the tyres at pitlane entry, then came to rest in the entry to the pit lane.
Once the Aston was recovered and the tyre wall reset, the GTPs pitted en masse. At the restart some minutes later, Derani led from Connor De Phillippi in the #25 BMW M Hybrid V8, with Bourdais third. Most GTPs had only taken fuel, with Braun having dropped down the order to seventh as Meyer Shank changed the car’s tyres.
Derani wasn’t able to pull away from De Phillippi, though, with the American staying with the Cadillac even through traffic.
However, another yellow bunched the GTPs together again, as John Farano had crashed his #8 Tower Motorsports Oreca 07-Gibson into the wall. Farano wasn’t able to get out of the car under his own steam and was taken to hospital for further checks.
The GTPs pitted again under yellow, with Braun leading from Derani and Filipe Albuquerque in the #10 Wayne Taylor Acura ARX-06. However, Derani soon passed Braun, with the Brazilian gapping the rest of the GTPs to the tune of almost 20 seconds in the ensuing half an hour.
Van der Zande, meanwhile, found his way past Albuquerque and into third. It soon became apparent why Derani had passed Braun: the Acura’s tyres were dropping off in a big way, giving Braun very little grip or traction to play with. He was soon passed by Albuquerque as well, and shortly after the trio of Tandy, who had replaced Jaminet in the #6 Porsche, and the two BMWs of Nick Yelloly and Agusto Farfus.
In amongst all this, more calamity for Porsche: Jaminet lost the rear end of the car at turn 10 and went into the wall sideways, glancing the barrier heavily and at speed. The #7 Porsche was damaged, although the Frenchman did get the car back on track. However, he rejoined the racing surface in amongst the LMP2 traffic and he couldn’t dive for the pits. He did another lap with his car shedding bodywork, and pitted, losing eight laps in the process.
It was time for the GTPs to pit again, with Derani pitting from the lead and being replaced at the wheel by Alexander Sims. This promoted van der Zande to first, but he pitted a lap later, along with the BMWs of Yelloly and Farfus.
The final yellow then came out, this time for Aaron Telitz’s stricken #12 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3, which was in the wall on drivers right on the main straight.
At the restart, Sims led from van der Zande, but not for long. The Dutchman swept past the Brit at turns 3 and 4, and didn’t look back, taking the chequered flag with a gap of 3.882 seconds to Tandy.
Tandy, meanwhile, caught Sims after falling back in traffic, taking second. He started chipping away art van der Zande’s lead, but the experienced Dutchman was able to manage the gap with no real trouble.
With Sims third, just under seven seconds back from Tandy, Albuquerque was fifth in the #10 Acura, while Agusto Farfus rounded out the top five in the #24 BMW, just over 22 seconds off van der Zande.
In LMP2, Mikkel Jensen and Steven Thomas took the victory in the #11 TDS Oreca 07-Gibson. The two started third on the grid but raced through to take the win, ahead of Paul-Loup Chatin and Ben Keating in the #52 PR1 Mathiasen Oreca 07-Gibson.
Keating took the lead from polesitter George Kurtz in the #04 CrowdStrike Racing by APR Oreca 07-Gibson, holding it for much of the first half of the race. However, superior strategy from TDS, coupled with Jensen’s driving, gave TDS the win.
Kurtz and teammate Ben Hanley finished third, just 0.254 off Chatin at the line in a tight race for second, with Chatin just over three seconds off Jensen.
GTD prevailed over GTD Pro, meanwhile, possibly as part of a wave around mix up at one of the cautions. The first seven GTD cars — the amateur GT class in IMSA competition — finished ahead of the Pro cars, although the GTD Pro winner, Jules Gounon, was making headway into the GTD field when the chequered flag waved.
Regardless, Kay Van Berlo and Alan Metni took the honours in GTD, behind the wheel of the #91 Kellymoss Porsche 911 GT3 R. The two started way down the order but used the numerous caution periods and strategy to work their way to the front, with traffic helping to keep gap behind or catch up to those ahead through the race.
Second in GTD was Bill Auberlen in the #97 Turner Motorsport BMW M4 GT3, almost 10 seconds off Van Berlo at the line, while Julien Andlauer was third in the sister #92 Kellymoss Porsche 911 GT3 R, which had started the race on pole.
In GTD Pro, Jules Gounon and Daniel Juncadella, driving the #79 WeatherTech Racing Mercedes AMG-GT3 took the win, ahead of Ben Barnicoat and Jack Hawksworth in the #14 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3. Finally, Patrick Pilet and Klaus Bachler, the GTD Pro polesitters, finished third in the #9 Pfaff Porsche 911 GT3 R — despite having had to serve a 60 second stop/go penalty for exiting the pits when the pit exit was closed.
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