Felipe Nasr, Eric Curran, and their No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac climbed to the top step of the podium at this weekend’s IMSA Chevrolet Sports Car Classic, proving once again that it takes a whole lot of determination and a little bit of luck to win on the bumpy streets of Belle Isle. Acura’s Helio Castroneves and Ricky Taylor followed closely in second place.
The 100-minute race got off to an exciting start with the Ligier JSP217 Nissan of Pipo Derani and Johannes von Overbeek leading the pack into the first corner, all while Team Penske’s Juan Pablo Montoya began applying pressure from behind immediately while at the wheel of his Acura ARX-05. But as it’s always the case at the torturous 2.37-mile circuit, the final result would be far from predicted.
The Acura ARX-05 pits during the 100-minute race at Belle Isle.
Not long after the green flag fell, Derani suffered from mechanical issues that forced him to fall down the order, and not long after that, a full-course yellow was issued due to debris on the track that played well for some of the teams’ strategies. This allowed Joao Barbosa in the Action Express Racing Cadillac to catapult to the front while the rest of the packed dived into the pits for a splash of fuel and fresh tires.
The big surprise of the day came when Nasr took the lead of the race with less than 40 minutes remaining thanks to a clever strategy and others’ mistakes. The former Formula 1 driver’s wildcard may have worked, but Ricky Taylor’s Acura, which had fresh tires, was less than four seconds behind him and was narrowing the gap with a vengeance. When the checkered flag finally fell, Taylor was only 1.01 seconds behind Nasr.
“We were definitely closing in those final few laps, but as everyone knows, it’s very difficult to pass here,” said Taylor. “So, I’m not 100 percent sure if we would have had enough even if the race had been a little bit longer. Our Acura is definitely fast, but there are still a few areas where we need to improve, and we’ll work on those in the lead up to Watkins Glen.”
Katherine Legge pilots her Acura NSX GT3 to victory.
Further down the order, it was the second Acura ARX-05 of Montoya and Cameron that finished third, making it an Acura 2-3 in the Motor City. Luckily for the title sponsor, Chevrolet, Nasr’s win at the wheel of a Cadillac meant that a General Motors product has taken the win at every IMSA-sanctioned race since 2007 at Belle Isle.
In the GT Daytona class, it was a different Acura that crushed the opposition at the 14-turn temporary course. Both Acura NSX GT3 racers of Meyer Shank Racing delivered a 1-2 for the Ohio-based organization, with Katherine Legge and Mario Farnbacher at the wheel of the No. 86 car, and Justin Marks and Lawson Aschenbach in the No. 93. Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow, who started in the pole position, finished third at the wheel of their Lamborghini Huracan GT3.
“I’m super pumped with our results today. It was the best possible outcome,” said Legge. “I am over the moon happy. Now, we are right there with [the leaders] in the championship, so we have to just move on to the next race to continue the fight. It’s for the championship, so we have a different outlook and hopefully, we can keep racing and moving forward.”
The IMSA circus now heads to New York for the Six Hours of the Glen at Watkins Glen International on July 1.
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