Despite facing constant pressure from the word go on Sunday afternoon at the tricky 3.27 mile Virginia International Raceway layout, Corvette Racing’s duo of Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia were able to hold at bay a pesky Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT entry driven by Joey Hand and Dirk Mueller to win the Michelin GT Challenge.
Although the victory is the fourth in the 2016 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship for the Chevrolet runners in the GT Le Mans division, there was unfortunately a bittersweet moment to the scenario for the Doug Fehan-led squad as championship leaders Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner finished last on Sunday, after Gavin crashed at the final corner with just over five minutes of the two hour, forty minute time limit to run. After starting from the outside position of the front row. Milner quickly faded to sixth place in the opening ten minutes, but the No. 4 entry charged back up to as high as fourth with Gavin taking over around the fifty minute mark, prior to the late race incident. Gavin was able to nurse the car to the pit lane, but retired from the remainder of the event due to the damage suffered.
Taking advantage of the situation was the sister No. 3 C7.R team, who entered Sunday third in points and the No. 67 Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT of Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook who overcame a back of the grid starting spot and a late off course excursion of their own to place fourth. Between them, the sister Ganassi Ford of Hand and Mueller secured runner-up honors, while Porsche North America’s lead tandem of Earl Bamber and Fred Makowiecki earned the CORE autosport-run team’s first podium finish since the Mazda Racway at Laguna Seca round.
As a result of Gavin and Milner’s bad finish, the Briscoe/Westbrook CGR Ford entry moves within four points of the championship lead, while the second Corvette of Magnussen and Garcia is now 18 points back with just two races to run at Circuit of the Americas and Road Atlanta respectively.
In the lower GT Daytona division, the Paul Miller Racing squad also turned its TOTAL Pole Award on Saturday into a race victory on Sunday as Bryan Sellers and Madison Snow bounced back from mid-race adversity to secure their first win of the 2016 campaign and the first in IMSA GTD action for the Lamborghini Huracan. After showing promise in the season opening Rolex 24 at Daytona, where a Konrad Motorsport only fell short of a victory when it ran out of fuel within five minutes of the finish has quietly challenged for podium finishes yet had to wait until Sunday at VIR to finally cash in.
While PMR and Lamborghini broke through its own personal demons, the Audi R8s from Stevenson Motorsports will have to wait another day till they earn its first IMSA victory after placing its two entries in second and fourth respectively, with Matt Bell and Lawson Aschenbach piloting the leader of the two cars. Stevenson’s pair of cars were 1-2 at the Michelin GT Challenge’s mid-point, but quicker pit work from Paul Miller Racing put the No. 48 Huracan back in front, a position they held to the finish.
A third Audi, belonging to Magnus Racing’s Andy Lally and John Potter finished third on Sunday, allowing them to gain further ground on the Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 of Alessandro Balzan and Christina Nielsen, who finished eighth. Following the checkered flag on Sunday, the gap between the two GT Daytona stalwarts is down to just eight points heading to the next event in Austin, Texas.