TUDOR United SportsCar Championship ignited its inaugural season Saturday, January 25th with the 24 hours of Daytona. While the prototypes are interesting design exercises, GTD offers a look at what street cars can do on the track. Here’s what happened.
No. 73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche 911, driven by Kevin Estre, took an early lead in GTD. This might have been due to the 911’s lowest weight in its class, according to an IMSA Competition Bulletin, or his awesome driving.
After a couple of leader changes, then another Porsche 911, this one No. 30 NGT Motorsports, driven by Jakob “Kuba” Giermaziak, led the class.
Just three hours into the race, the No. 99 GAINSCO Corvette DP, one of the fastest cars overall, brutally smashed into the much slower moving No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari F458. Drivers Memo Gidley and Matteo Malucelli were taken to the hospital, and fortunately, as of this writing were conscious and stable.
As the sun set and the headlights turned on, the Italian Stallions started dominating. The fantastically numbered No. 555 Level 5 Motorsports Ferrari 458, driven by Jeff Segal, and later by Bill Sweedler, kept retaking the lead. This was an amazing feat for a team that has never run a Ferrari before this season.
After the No. 007 TRG Aston Martin Vantage, driven by James Davison was black flagged, another Italian job, this time the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari driven by Lorenzo Case, took the lead. Competition was fierce all night, and with a half a dozen cars on the lead lap there was little spreading out.
Level 5 Motorsports led at the halfway point, driven by Stadium Super Truck racer Townsend Bell. The team would continue to lead most of the night, and Jeff Segal was leading the class when the sun came up. Some breathing room appeared when 2nd place Alessandro Balzan, driving the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa 458, drove to the garage with a broken steering arm.
Team driver Guy Cosmo posted on Level 5’s Facebook page: “Traffic has been pretty manageable, some guys have been pretty crazy out there, but things have gone pretty smooth. Just clicking off laps, trying to not make any mistakes. That’s the name of the game.”
The name of the game changed, when the No. 45 Flying Lizard Motorsports Audi R8, driven by Spencer Pumpelly, took the class lead. The two would battle for first, and while they seemed evenly matched, it looked like Pumpelly’s Audi had the advantage in the corners, versus Bell’s superiority on the straights.
Flying Lizard would enjoy the lead, until Level 5 swapped in Alessandro Pier Guidi, and some fresh 325/710/R18 Continentals. The Italian racer ground down the silver and red Audi’s lead until he could pass, and he never let up.
Pier Guidi blasted the Ferrari over the finish line as 24 hours passed, earning Level 5 the GTD win and 18th overall. Markus Winklehock in the Flying Lizard Audi finished hot on their tail in second, and Jan Heylen in the beautifully liveried No. 58 Snow Racing Porsche 911 finished third.