Multiple Storylines Unfold in Captivating AMERICA’S TIRE 250 to Conclude Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix
Wild races decided in IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Challenge
The buildup from the incredible finish to last year’s AMERICA’S TIRE 250 and the previous day’s Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge 120 set a high standard for the feature event of this weekend’s Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix, and teams from the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship again rose to the occasion at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca with an unpredictable race that entertained fans and viewers from start to finish.
In a wild two-hour and 40-minute penultimate round of the 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, No. 22 Tequila Patrón ESM Nissan DPi co-drivers Pipo Derani and Johannes van Overbeek rebounded from early setbacks to score their second victory of the season. Nissan’s momentum at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca was sustained from two weeks earlier when the racing heritage of Nissan and Datsun was celebrated at the Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion.
Van Overbeek started the car from the rear of the Prototype grid as he missed Saturday’s qualifying session due to illness, and he managed to avoid an opening-lap incident that removed the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi-V.R driven by Joao Barbosa before the starting line and damaged several other cars. The incident affected several cars that are in championship contention in several categories.
Van Overbeek pitted to turn the car over to Derani just 22 minutes into the race. After a restart following the race’s third full-course caution just 46 minutes into the race, Derani spun in Turn 2, but his Nissan DPi avoided serious damage. The Brazilian methodically worked his way forward following the spin, moving into the top five for the first time an hour and eight minutes into the race and staying there for most of the remainder of the race.
He was running second with 35 minutes remaining when race leader Harry Tincknell spun the No. 55 Mazda DPi while attempting to pass the lapped car of Gustavo Yacaman. Derani inherited the lead as a result and never was challenged for the rest of the race en route to victory. He won by 10.9 seconds over Colin Braun in the No. 54 CORE autosport ORECA LMP2 machine.
“My team is amazing,” Derani said. “If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t have finished where we finished today. We had a tough race with contact and spin. They kept pushing me over the radio. Save fuel, save tires, but kept pushing me all the time.
“It was an amazing day. I had an overtake on the Corkscrew, which is nice. This team, no matter what happens they keep fighting and fighting. We’ve had a tough season, but here we are with two wins. We’ve had a lot of DNFs, but a nice race today, and an amazing finish here.”
It was the first win for Derani and van Overbeek since March’s Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Presented by Advance Auto Parts. For van Overbeek, it was his 15th IMSA win (six WeatherTech Championship, 8 American Le Mans Series, 1 GRAND-AM), and it was Derani’s fifth IMSA win, all coming in WeatherTech Championship competition.
“Hats off to the Patron guys today,” said van Overbeek, who also won at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca in 2014. “They did a fantastic job. There was a lot of attrition and an uncharacteristic number of yellows today. But we fought through and Pipo did an amazing job as usual.
“The stops were spot on, the car was great, the Continental tires were great and the Nissan motor made good power. I couldn’t be happier.”
Braun and co-driver Jon Bennett made huge gains in the Prototype championship chase with their runner-up result, their fourth consecutive top-two performance. With only the 10-hour Motul Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta on Oct. 13 remaining on the schedule, Braun and Bennett now trail leaders Eric Curran and Felipe Nasr by four points, 254-250. Curran and Nasr finished fifth in Sunday’s race in the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R.
Juan Pablo Montoya and Dane Cameron finished third in the No. 6 Acura Team Penske ARX-05 DPi car for their fourth podium result of the season. Tincknell battled back following the spin to finish fourth in the No. 55 Mazda DPi with co-driver and Monterey resident Jonathan Bomarito.
The second race of Lamborghini Super Trofeo was completed with an overall victory by JC Perez and Loris Spinelli, who won the ProAm category and finished ahead of Pro winners Trent Hindman and Jonathan Cecotto despite the lower classification. Damon Ockey (Am) and Brett Meredith (LB Cup) also notched wins. Action in Pirelli Trophy West concluded with wins by Loren Beggs (Diamond), Sean McAlister (Platinum), Tom Tait (Platinum), Ross Jaffe (Gold), Chris Bellomo (Silver) and Steve Goldman (Bronze).
In addition to the great racing, fans enjoyed a fun and educational environment in Hagerty Marketplace where the inaugural New Holland Ag Day was held with tractors, hay bales and a bluegrass performance. Autograph sessions, a grid walk and other activities around the paddock entertained and delighted amid a gorgeous Monterey County day.
WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca hosts Laguna Seca Cars and Coffee next Saturday, September 15, from 8-10 a.m. The next major motorsports event is the highly-anticipated Porsche Rennsport Reunion VI on September 27-30. Tickets, camping and VIP hospitality are available HERE and by calling 831-242-8200.