Expect the unexpected.
The old expression worked Sunday for Jordan Taylor, who found himself in the lead when his closest competitor encountered trouble in the pits, then deftly saved fuel for nearly an hour to take the GT Daytona Pro (GTD PRO) class and overall win in the Michelin GT Challenge at VIR.
Taylor was trailing Ben Barnicoat with 56 minutes remaining in the two-hour, 40-minute IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race when Barnicoat’s No. 14 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3 stalled in the pits. Taylor took the lead and never relinquished it, eventually getting the No. 3 Corvette Racing Corvette C8.R GTD to the finish line 2.068 seconds ahead of Barnicoat.
“This has to be one of the most special races I’ll ever have,” said Taylor, who recently announced plans to leave Corvette Racing at the end of this season and rejoin his father’s Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti Autosport Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) team in 2024. “Amazing race, amazing victory.”
When he left the pits, Barnicoat felt the Lexus lurch and stall. He quickly got going again, but by then Taylor had taken the lead.
“The team did a great job to get us a race-winning car,” Barnicoat said. “Sadly, I made a mistake and stalled it on the pit stop. I apologize to the team for that. … It happens sometimes.”
When told it happens to the best of them, Barnicoat replied, “Well, not really.”
Once Taylor passed Barnicoat, his assignment turned to saving fuel.
“It was just down to saving fuel and managing tires and managing the gap,” Taylor said. “I was counting down the laps with about 25 to go. I was very happy to see that checkered flag.”
The victory helped Taylor and Garcia close on Barnicoat and co-driver Jack Hawksworth, who now lead the GTD PRO standings by 144 points with two races remaining in the WeatherTech Championship season.
Klaus Bachler brought the No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R (992) he co-drove with Patrick Pilet home third in GTD PRO and 12th overall. Alex Riberas, who went off course late in the race, held on for fourth place in class and 15th overall in the No. 23 Heart of Racing Team Aston Martin Vantage GT3 he co-drove with Ross Gunn.
Daniel Juncadella and Jules Gounon rounded out the class in the No. 79 WeatherTech Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3.
With its second victory, Corvette Racing became the fourth team to win multiple races this season in GTD PRO. Taylor scored the 33rd victory of his career, Garcia the 29th.
GT Daytona (GTD)
The 2023 season just keeps getting better for Madison Snow, Bryan Sellers and the No. 1 Paul Miller Racing BMW M4 GT3 as they pursue the GT Daytona (GTD) class championship.
The pair of American sports car aces teamed up to earn their fifth GTD victory of the year, essentially leading the Michelin GT Challenge at VIR from start to finish. They won by 12.187 seconds over the No. 96 BMW fielded by Turner Motorsport and driven by Robby Foley and Patrick Gallagher. The five wins in a single season set a WeatherTech Championship record for the GTD class.
Russell Ward and Philip Ellis (No. 57 Winward Racing Mercedes-AMG GT3) denied BMW a 1-2-3 sweep of the podium by passing the No. 97 Turner BMW shared by Bill Auberlen and Chandler Hull for third place with less than two minutes remaining in the two-hour, 40-minute contest.
There was little drama at the front as Snow assumed the lead after winning the Motul Pole Award on Saturday and held it until handing off to Sellers for the middle stint. Despite what Sellers called a difficult second driver exchange back to Snow for the final stint, Snow maintained the top spot and pulled away to the checkered flag.
Sellers and Snow now lead the GTD standings by 375 points over the No. 27 Heart of Racing Team Aston Martin Vantage GT3 and drivers Marco Sorensen and Roman De Angelis, who finished 12th in class Sunday, with two races remaining. The No. 1 also leads the No. 27 by 229 points in the IMSA WeatherTech Sprint Cup standings, with only the TireRack.com Battle on the Bricks on Sept. 17 left to decide that title.
“Amazing doesn’t even come close to describing it,” said Sellers, who credited Snow for carrying him on a day when he did not feel 100 percent physically. “Wins are so hard to come by in this series, and it’s why everyone does this. Before this, we’ve never had more than two wins in a season, so to get five is just crazy.”
The victory was the 19th for Sellers in 195 IMSA starts; Snow now claims 14 wins in just 93 races.
The Turner team used an aggressive fuel strategy to help the No. 96 gain three places from its starting position and finish second.
“It’s a step in the right direction, a rebound after a couple rough rounds,” Gallagher said. “We kind of got shoved around in the beginning, and the team called a great strategy. Not enough to beat the No. 1, but we’ll look for a win at Indy.”
Ellis was also happy to notch a podium finish after the Winward team struggled for results in recent races.
“We just took a chance,” he said. “We saw (the No. 97 BMW) slowing down quite a lot and weren’t sure if they were just managing the pace or the tires or having to save some fuel. I don’t think he could put up much of a fight at the end.”
The WeatherTech Championship resumes with all five classes racing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the TireRack.com Battle on the Bricks from Sept. 15-17.