Tom Kimber-Smith held off Renger van der Zande by less than two seconds in a great fight for PC glory at Laguna Seca. Report with photos from Jim Fonseca
MONTEREY, Calif. (May 1, 2016) – Tom Kimber-Smith survived a late-race charge by Renger van der Zande and held on to win Sunday’s two-hour Continental Tire Monterey Grand Prix powered by Mazda for the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Prototype Challenge (PC) and GT Daytona (GTD) classes.
Kimber-Smith took the lead on a pit stop under caution with one hour remaining, and officially held it the rest of the way in the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA FLM09 started from the pole by Robert Alon. However, he had a scare with seven minutes remaining, when van der Zande briefly nosed the No. 8 Starworks Motorsport entry into the lead while racing in traffic in Turn 4. Kimber-Smith held his line and quickly regained the advantage into the next turn, and went on to win by 1.736 seconds.
Robert Alon won his first career TOTAL Pole Award in Saturday’s qualifying, and then led the opening three laps of the two-hour race. Alon then ran second for the remainder of his stint, before joining all of the PC competitors in the pits on Lap 38 during the lone caution of the race in the No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports Professional Security Consultants/Westfield ORECA FLM09.
Renger van der Zande – taking over the No. 8 Starworks Motorsport entry from Alex Popow – appeared to take the lead in the sprint out of the pits, but a review showed that Kimber-Smith was first in the proper exit line.
“I knew my job after the restart was to keep Renger behind me,” Kimber-Smith said. “It was dicey for the first couple of laps, but then he started racing with Stephen Simpson. As soon as I could maintain a gap over them, they said to start saving fuel. That’s difficult to do when you have three or four PC cars trying to chase you down. So maintaining position while trying to save fuel was one of the most difficult things I’ve done in my career.”
Kimber-Smith pulled away on the restart and led the rest of the way. It was his first victory of the season, and first since the team won four races – and the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup – in 2015.
Van der Zande and Popow finished second for the second consecutive event, followed by Jon Bennett and Colin Braun in the No. 54 CORE autosport ORECA.
“I had the lead, but it was really short,” van der Zande said of his attempted pass. “I was on the outside, he was on the inside, so it wasn’t really a lead. For sure, it was a hard fight. I used up all my tires to get into P2, and when I chased down Tom I couldn’t really attack. It’s great to take two seconds in our races in California, but really, I want to win – I don’t want to be second.”
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