Busy weekend of racing sees AERO teams score top-five in IndyCar, Podiums in Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA and Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge, tire issue costs BMW Team RLL a shot at GTLM victory.
CASTELLET, France (August 28, 2017) - It was another big weekend of racing all around the globe for AERO™ Advanced Paint Technology teams, with a robust run of results from France to rural Virginia for teams that have taken advantage of what the environmentally friendly paint-based film technology has to offer.
Teams in European Le Mans Series (ELMS), Verizon IndyCar, IMSA WeatherTech and Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge as well as Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA all fought for results this weekend, looking to put the light weight, aero-efficient, strong outer layer of paint protection to their advantage on a wide range of tracks and conditions all around the globe.
The fourth round of European Le Mans Series competition was staged at Paul Ricard in France with the 4 Hours of Le Castellet. It was a big day for AERO™ Advanced Paint Technology squad United Autosports, as the team grew its LMP3 Championship points lead thanks to another victory from John Falb and Sean Rayhall. The duo qualified fifth but were able to make the most of a full course caution to leverage their position and move to the front, with Rahal claiming the checkered flag at the finish.
“We decided to go low downforce for this race and that did not seem like a great idea in the early stages but we definitely benefitted from having the extra tires available to us when our rivals were struggling with grip,” said the young American talent. “My second stint came to me but I was still surprised to be told over the radio that I was leading by over 20 seconds at one point. It was a risky strategy but United did an amazing job”
The No. 32 United Autosports LMP2 Ligier entry of Felipe Albuquerque, Will Owen, and Hugo de Sadeleer came home third to continue to be a factor in the championship standings.
“With just two races to go we’re in contention to retain the LMP3 title and winning the LMP2 ‘crown’ in our first year at this level which is absolutely awesome,” said Zak Brown, Team Owner and Chairman, United Autosports. “All the guys drove their hearts out today to achieve these fantastic results. Additionally, we enjoyed this success with some top-end strategy in the pits so it was a big, big team effort.”
IMSA made the annual visit to the 3.27-mile Virginia International Raceway, and opened the racing action with another round of IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge action. It was another thriller as the ST class battle saw the No. 44 CRG-I Do Borrow Nissan Altima of Sarah Cattaneo and Owen Trinkler emerge with the duo’s first race victory of the 2017 IMSA season in the distinctive liveried Nissan that is AERO-equipped.
"Winning at VIR was a dream come true; not only for us, but for Nissan as well," remarked driver Sarah Cattaneo. "VIR is a place that we've always been fast at, but traditionally had bad luck--but not anymore! And we couldn't be happier."
The victory, which added an even bigger smile for Cattaneo, who was recently engaged, seemed improbable the way the event opened for the team. Multiple issues during the test day and into the practice sessions plagued the team, which fought back to have everything sorted by the time Cattaneo scored a front row spot on the grid in qualifying. That pace translated into a competitive run on race day, with Cattaneo turning the car over to Trinkler to take to the front and to the finish as he scored a big victory on the home track for team partner Nissan.
“We’re such a little team and we’re so tight as a group,” said Trinkler, who has the most Continental Tire Challenge starts at 135. “It’s so rewarding to get these wins when you’re such a small group. We just don’t have that big of a staff. That’s why you see the emotion in pit lane and victory lane.”
Sunday’s GT-only Michelin GT Challenge race featured the factory GTLM bruisers and the fiercely competitive GTD machines.
While the race didn’t offer the normal range of outrageous heat and massive precipitation that has been the case the past few seasons—it still kept one tradition alive with a fast and flat out all-green flag run of two hours and forty minutes. And it was far from follow the leader as evidenced by clashes between Acuras and Lexus machines, a pair of Ferrari off-track excursions after tangling with a Lamborghini and then later a BMW, and then another Acura getting a shove from a Corvette, as well as a big tangle between a Corvette and a Ford GT.
Yet despite the action, the race stayed green the entire distance!
That was working out perfectly in favor for Bill Auberlen and his BMW RLL Racing teammate Alexander Sims, who had made an early stop to change tires after one of the Michelins lost pressure. That put them in fuel conservation mode—way out in front of the field. With no pressure and contended light-pedal action from the two BMW pilots, the path was clear to victory in the AERO-liveried machine.
Unfortunately, that run out front ended just eight laps shy of the finish after a second tire problem forced an added pit stop, slating them fourth at the finish with the AERO-liveried BMW M6 GTLM.
“I have raced for many years, and a loss like we had today never gets easier to deal with,” said Bill Auberlen, driver No. 25 BMW M6 GTLM (P4). “The complexion of the championship now changes out of our favor, but there is no giving up.”
The metronomic championship charge of the gorgeous No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3 continued again at VIR, as 2016 champions Christina Nielsen, and Alessandro Balzan combined in their AERO™ Advanced Paint Technology-liveried Ferrari to bring home their eighth top-five finish in 10 races this season with a run to fourth.
Long-time AERO™ Advanced Paint Technology squad C360R celebrated another podium in IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge as Roy Block and Pierre Kleinubing paired for a run to third in the No. 75 APR LLC / Aero Advanced Paint Technology / Pfaff Audi / Audi Genuine Parts / Race Day Foundation Audi S3. The IMSA Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama was also in action, as young Corey Fergus in the No. 00 US LED/Byers Imports/ AERO™ Advanced Paint Technology followed up his double-win Road America weekend with a run to the podium in Race 2 for Moorespeed Motorsports.
The Verizon IndyCar Series visit to Gateway Motorsports Park for a Saturday night shootout featured a season-best result for Conor Daly’s No. 4 ABC Supply AJ Foyt Racing Chevrolet in the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 presented by Valvoline. Daly brought the ABC machine home in fifth for the best result so far for the team, which has begun to show results of an off-season reorganization that also included a move to put AERO™ Advanced Paint Technology to their advantage.
“We had a good car all weekend,” Daly said when he climbed out of the car. “I was really upset with myself after qualifying, just had a big moment at the exit of (Turn) 1, but we redeemed ourselves. Then I tried to screw it up for myself again in the pits, but we were able to drive back. The car was just fantastic. I have to thank the team, I have to thank ABC Supply for sticking with us. I know it’s been a tough year, but I know we can do it. I know this team can do it. We’re just improving, and it takes time, this is a hard sport."