It didn’t take long but the Ford GT team have taken their first win in the IMSA United Sportscar Championship. GTLM reveiw with photos by Jim Fonseca
Just four races into the heralded Ford GT program in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing co-drivers Richard Westbrook and Ryan Briscoe earned a breakthrough GT Le Mans (GTLM) class victory in the Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix powered by Mazda at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
Westbrook and Briscoe benefited by a mix of speed and strategy to earn the victory. Briscoe qualified the No. 67 Ford GT second on Saturday and slotted into second behind the No. 68 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GTE of Daniel Serra through the early stages of the two-hour race. He ran one position ahead of teammate Dirk Muller in the No. 66 Ford GT until he pitted to turn the car over to Westbrook 45 minutes into the race.
During that stop, the car momentarily got stuck in first gear, and by the time Westbrook rejoined the field he had fallen all the way back to sixth in class. With the loss of track position, the team elected to conserve fuel.
“[The pit stop] cost us five or six seconds and five or six positions, and you aren’t going to drive it to the front from that position” Westbrook said. “So that’s what you get when you race with Chip Ganassi, you get out of the box solutions.”
The out of the box solution eventually paid big dividends. Westbrook worked his way up to second in the running order, behind teammate Joey Hand in the No. 66, as his other competitors made their final pit stops.
With 15 minutes remaining, Westbrook dove to the inside of Hand entering Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca’s famed Andretti Hairpin (Turn 2). With six minutes to go, Hand pitted for a splash of fuel, dropping him back to an eventual sixth-place finish.
Westbrook, meanwhile, had conserved enough fuel that he did not have to stop again, going on to score the win by 12.545 seconds over Alessandro Pier Guidi in the No. 68 Ferrari. It was Westbrook’s ninth career victory in major U.S. sports car racing and his third at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, and was the 12th major U.S. sports car win for Briscoe.
“It’s just so exciting,” Briscoe said. “It’s been a tough few months getting this program running. These guys have been working so hard. We’ve struggled with battles. We struggled a bit with balance but figured it out. We just missed the pole, and to get the win for Ford is huge. It means a lot for me and the whole program.”
Third place went to Frederic Makowiecki and Earl Bamber in the No. 912 Porsche North America Porsche 911 RSR.
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