There are two ways to win a sports car championship: the dull but effective tactic of scoring consistent podium finishes, and the most satisfying, beating everyone often. Whichever way a team chooses, the team needs better luck than the competition.
Sunday’s Continental Tire Sports Car Festival at Mazda Laguna Seca Raceway brought together a team representing each tactic, and the outcome validated each approach.
Jordan Taylor and Max Angelelli earned their second consecutive win in the Rolex Sports Car Series Sunday, and they did so in highly convincing fashion.
Taylor and Angelelli of Wayne Taylor Racing picked up their fourth win of the series and hung on to their slim points lead by completely trouncing the field.
Angelelli had the car in second place when the entire field pitted under caution on lap 22. Taylor took over and started pulling away. While most cars were having trouble with traction in the California heat, the #10 WTR/Velocity/Toshiba Dallara Chevrolet was able to open a gap of almost 17 seconds.
That gap was cut to zero twice in the final 25 laps by yellow flags, and each time Taylor was able to get a jump on the field and reopen the gap. The race restarted for the last time with two laps left, and Taylor managed to gain 2.4 seconds on the nearest car by the time the checkered flag waved.
Taylor and Angelelli will have to keep winning if they want the title; they hold the lead by only eight points. But Jordan Taylor has caught fire in the season’s final weeks, and Max Angelelli has always been fast. If the pair can pull of one more win, the championship will be theirs.
Telmex Ganassi, which already has five championships, all gained by beating everyone in almost every race, is fighting for its sixth despite only winning two races this season. Drivers Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas trail the Wayne Taylor drivers by eight points, because the pair worked hard to score well no matter how bad their car or their luck happened to be in any particular race.
Telmex Ganassi finished one-two at Laguna Seca. The #01 of Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas finished second, courtesy of Scott Dixon who was in the #02 with IndyCar team mate Dario Franchitti.
Dixon was running second on strategy, pitting as late as possible, hoping for a yellow. A pair of caution periods in the last 25 laps gave the second Ganassi car the range it needed, but with Pruett and Rojas fighting for every point, it was only politic to pull aside and let Pruett pass.
Pruett, the veteran of the series at age 53, simply couldn’t keep up with Jordan Taylor, 20 years his junior. The same scenario happened at the series’ last race at Kansas, where Pruett hounded Taylor for the last two dozen laps but couldn’t crack the younger driver.
Even so, Pruett and Rojas remain in second place, and depending on the outcome of the series finale at Lime Rock on Sept. 28, might win a sixth title.
Even Closer Third
Christian Fittipaldi and Joao Barbosa, drivers for Action Express, are third in the championship chase by only two and four points. The pair has won two races this season, but haven’t had much luck lately. Fittipaldi and Barbosa might have gotten lucky at Laguna Seca, but Joao Barbosa made a very rare mistake.
Pitting from the lead on lap 58 with Scott Pruett pitting form second right behind him, Barbosa locked the brakes and slid into the pit wall. He didn’t damage the car, but his team had to push the car away from the wall before they could change the tires.
Barbosa dropped to seventh, where he finished; sacrificing some much-needed points.
Fittipaldi and Barbosa could still win the championship; they are only 13 and 15 points behind the Wayne Taylor crew. They have shown speed, but they lack consistency. If they have a good race a Lime Rock, they could advance; they could even win themselves the tile.
They would need a little luck; rather, the pair would need both Wayne Taylor Racing and Telmex Ganassi to have bad luck. It could happen.
The 2013 Rolex Sports Car Series championship will be decided at Lime Rock Park on the 28th. Tickets are available online through the Lime Rock Park website.