The Tudor United SportsCar Championship series staged two races at Mazda Raceway on Sunday; one for its GTD and PC classes and another for GTLM cars and Prototypes. Turner Motorsport’s Dane Cameron and Marcus Palttala won GTD in race one and Team RLL’s Bill Auberlen and Andy Priaulx held onto their GTLM points lead as Auberlen made a pass in the final turn to finish second in race two.
The #94 Turner Z4 had a rough start when Palttala was spun and set back early in the race. When Palttala came in 58 minutes into the race the team made a driver change and a tire change. Then the team made a critical strategy call, pitting out of sequence to top off the tank, giving the car enough fuel to make it to the finish. Cameron moved the car up in the second hour; he was fifth with a half-hour left, but moved up as most of those in front of him had to pit for fuel. But the leading Flying Lizard Audi R8 started by Nelson Canache, Jr. and handed over to Spencer Pumpelly on the team’s only stop, did not pit, as the team bet that the car had enough fuel to go the distance. The Audi held an eleven second lead over Cameron at the beginning of the last lap. Meanwhile, Cameron, on fqding tires, was doing all he could to hold off a challenge from Christoper Haase in the third place Audi R8. Then Pumpelly’s leading Audi stumbled, running out of fuel at the Corkscrew. As the Audi coasted downhill toward the finish line Cameron motored by; he held off Haase to score the win. Pumpelly, who stopped short of the finish line, was classified sixth.
BMW Team RLL’s run in the GTLM/Prototype race held later in the day was also dramatic, with Auberlen and Priaulx holding on to their drivers’ points lead after a strong late-race charge. Both the #55 and #56 BMWs were pitted out of sequence; they occupied the top two positions as the race moved into its second hour. Car #56, started second on the grid by John Edwards, pitted in the first half-hour with a vibration problem. The car was set back further on Dirk Müller’s stint when he had to serve a stop-and-go penalty for avoidable contact. The car finished tenth in class.
Auberlen, who had taken over from Priaulx, pitted from the lead for a tire change and fuel on lap 63 (he would run a total of 84 laps). He clawed his way back into the lead group, catching the second place Porsche driven by Nick Tandy, setting the fastest lap of the race in the process. The leading Corvette driven by Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia was too far ahead to catch; it went on to take the class win. But Auberlen and Tandy fought all the way to the last turn of the race, making contact on both of the final two laps. As a result of a post-race review the Porsche was given a penalty that demoted it from third to ninth. The #62 Risi Ferrari of Giancarlo Fisichella and Pierre Kaffer was moved up to third. If Tandy and his co-driver Richard Lietz had hung on to finish second they would have taken the points lead from Auberlen and Priaulx.
Auberlen said afterward, “Anyone who knows me and has raced against me all these years will tell you I race clean, but when I try to pass another car on the outside of 11 and they slam the door and then do it again on the next lap I am really unhappy. Andy did a great job and he was staying with everybody. You can't ask anything else of a team mate as he handed me a perfect car. It is great to finish second and extend our lead in the championship.”
The GTD cars race again at Belle Isle on May 31 along with the Prototypes while the GTLM cars run again on June 29, when all four of the series’ classes will contest the six-hour race at Watkins Glen.—Brian S. Morgan