An alternate fuel strategy nearly paid major dividends for the Claro/TracFone DeltaWing Racing Cars team, as the DeltaWing Coupe saw its first race lead of the season on the way to a seventh-place finish in the Lone Star Le Mans at Circuit of The Americas.
Due to the extreme Texas heat (95 degrees F ambient temperature, with track temps approaching 120 degrees and 125 inside the car), team manager Tim Keene opted for two driver changes to keep Katherine Legge and Memo Rojas as fresh as possible for the two-hour, 40-minute race. The penultimate IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship event of the year began with the top sports car prototypes battling for the same piece of real estate in Turn One on the first lap. Rojas, who started the race, managed to avoid spinning cars but lost positions in the process, dropping to ninth from his seventh place starting position. Rojas worked his way back to seventh before handing off to Legge on lap 12. Into the pit lane ahead of the leaders and the yellow flag, the team was able to execute a pit stop strategy designed to take advantage of caution periods to move even further up through the field.
Legge worked her way through traffic and gained positions despite being tasked with driving in fuel-saving mode. The team hoped a late-race caution would mean they would only need one more pit stop. Getting the DeltaWing up to third position, Legge made a fortuitously-timed pit stop ahead of the leaders to gain position in the pit lane as well. The quick pit stop and subsequent on-track passes helped Rojas put the DeltaWing Coupe at the front of the field. He lead the Prototype class for four laps, holding the overall field for three (laps 52-54). Unfortunately, heat and tire wear took its toll through the late stages of the race as Rojas spun in Turn 12. Recovering quickly, Rojas made it back up to seventh position before the checkered flag fell. Adding to finishes at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park (eighth) and Road America (sixth), this is the third consecutive race finish for the team.
The 2015 TUDOR United SportsCar Championship season comes to a close in two weeks at Road Atlanta, the team’s home track. The historic road course once again hosts the endurance classic, Petit Le Mans, on October 1-3. Qualifying will be live on IMSA.com at 3:20 p.m. Friday, October 2, with Saturday’s race coverage split between FOX Sports 2 and IMSA.com. A three-hour recap show will air on FOX Sports 1 on Sunday, October 4 at 1:30 p.m. (all times Eastern).
“The yellows finally fell our way, which was our strategy going in. They happened at the exact times we were planning to come in, which happened twice. Kat did a great job saving fuel and saving time. But we knew late in her stint that we would need another yellow at the end, but we didn’t get it. Even without the spin, we’d have had to come in and we’d have finished seventh. It’s still disappointing, but it’s encouraging that we ran up front, whether it was through strategy or on-track passes. We’ve run well three races in a row and finished with decent results, so we’re looking forward to ending the year on a high note at our home track. It’s fun when you can run up front and do things like this. We’re really in the game, we can be a threat at Petit. I’m very proud of how hard everyone has worked.”
“At the start, a couple of guys spun and I had get off of the gas and avoid them, so we lost a few spots. But we were able to get them back pretty quickly. We tried an aggressive strategy, which almost worked out. We needed another yellow at the end but it was nice to lead the race for a bit and fight for a podium. I was trying to keep the tires from locking, but I was fighting for third and eventually one lock-up was enough to flat-spot the tire, which led to the spin. There still is work to do, but I’m looking forward to Petit.”
“I spent pretty much my whole stint saving fuel. We were consistently doing quick lap times, though. The team made a couple of really great calls, coming into the pits before it went yellow and putting us in a good position. That’s what gave us the boost we needed. It would have been great to finish on the podium, but you have to take the positives. We made the most out of the day, considering the speed differential between us and the other prototypes. I kept out of all the melees and trouble on the racetrack – there were so many battles ahead of us. Especially on the restart, when I first got in the car, I just tried to keep out of it! It was a tough day, with the temperatures, but we should all be fit enough that it’s not an issue. I’ve been running in 100 degree heat all summer so I’m capable of managing this.”