Albuquerque, Taylor deliver victory for WTR Acura at Laguna Seca

Filipe Albuquerque and Ricky Taylor took another big step toward the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship DPi title with a convincing victory in Sunday’s Hyundai Monterey Sports Car Championship at Michelin Raceway Laguna Seca.

The two drivers combined in the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura ARX-05 for their third victory of the season, but first since Mid-Ohio. It was the 27th for Ricky Taylor and 45th for Wayne Taylor Racing, and eighth for Albuquerque. Provisionally, they hold a 100-point lead in the standings over Felipe Nasr and Pipo Derani with two races remaining, 2,765-2,665.

Taylor took the checkered flag 14.875s ahead of Renger van der Zande in the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R started by Kevin Magnussen. Van der Zande caught points runner-up Nasr in the closing laps to take second — and with it valuable points — with Nasr and Derani third in the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac.

The biggest scare for the eventual winners came on Albuquerque’s second stint, when debris in the right-rear brake duct rendered the car nearly undrivable. The team managed to correct the problem on its second pit stop.

“Filipe drove an amazing stint,” Taylor said. “The rear tire pressures were going crazy, and he did a great job to control it. He gave me the car in a controlling position.”

The closing stages of the race shaped up as a fuel strategy contest between the Acuras of Wayne Taylor Racing and Meyer Shank Racing. Wayne Taylor Racing (along with all of the Cadillac and Mazda DPi teams) elected to go with three stops for their No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura ARX-05. Meyer Shank Racing — led by a 55-minute opening stint by Dane Cameron — gambled to take only two stops for the No. 60 Sirius XM/AutoNation Acura.

With only one yellow — for an incident on the opening lap — the fuel mileage strategy seemed to be playing out for the pink Acura. Then, Taylor turned up the wick, while Pla realized he needed to back off to be able to finish. Taylor made the pass for the lead with 25 minutes remaining, while Pla lost two positions in the final seven minutes. However, the No. 60 did manage to finish fourth, followed by the No. 55 Mazda of Olivier Jarvis and Harry Tincknell.

“Our strategies were so different,” Ricky Taylor said. “They were in a position to take a gamble, and they played their cards early to put them off sequence. We were never nervous about the 60; we were racing the No. 31, and let them do what they were doing.”

Pole winner Ben Keating fell to third on the opening lap in LMP2 competition. The Texan needed only seven laps to take the lead, and from that point, Keating and Mikkel Jensen dominated the class, leading all but four laps the rest of the way en route to victory in the No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA LMP2 07.

“I had a miserable start,” Keating admitted. “I went into Turn 2 in third place. Our car was set up for the end of a stint, and I didn’t have anything for those guys. Then the yellow stacked everyone back up, and I could go out and race those guys. My car came to me, and theirs went away.”

Ryan Dalziel was running second in the No. 18 Era Motorsport ORECA when he got together with the spinning car of Gabriel Aubry on the final lap. Aubry and John Farano finished second, one lap down, in the No. 8 Tower Motorsport ORECA, with Dalziel and Dwight Merriman falling to fourth.

As expected, GTLM was an intramural scrap between the two Corvette Racing entries. Nick Tandy and Tommy Milner took their first points-paying victory of the season in the No. 4 Corvette C 8.R, taking the lead on the final pit stop and eventually lapping the No. 3 of Jordan Taylor and Antonio Garcia. Cooper MacNeil and Matt Campbell kept the ‘Vettes honest with a competitive run for the No. 79 WeatherTech Porsche 911 RSR-19, placing third.

Zach Robichon and Laurens Vanthoor won in GTD in the No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3R, beating Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow in the No. 1 Paul Miller Racing Total Lamborghini Huracon GT3, and Trent Hindman and Patrick Long in the No. 16 Wright Motorsports Porsche.

Bill Auberlen led for an hour midway through the race in the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 started by Robby Foley, but then did the undercut for his final pit stop with 1h8m remaining. But from that point, he could never close on the leaders, eventually finishing fourth. They retain the point lead ahead of Robichon and Vanthoor, 2,242-2,215.

The race got off to a rough start when Ian James in the No. 27 Heart of Racing Aston Martin got into Jacob Able in the No. 76 Compass Racing Acura to bring out a caution on the first lap. Both cars retired, although they were the lone non-finishers as the race ran green for the remainder of the two-hour, 40-minute distance — with the only other incident occurring on the final lap involving the two LMP2 contenders.

RESULTS

UP NEXT: The next round for the DPi class will be the Acura Grand Prix on the streets of Long Beach on Sept. 24-25. The GTLM and GTD classes will also compete at Long Beach, and will then compete in the Michelin GT Challenge at Virginia International Raceway on Oct. 8-10.

The season wraps up with all five classes racing at the Motul Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta on Nov. 13.