SEBRING, Fla.—The second year of the Tudor United SportsCar Championship is starting with a roster of firsts.
For the first time since 2000, the same drivers and car won both the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the 12 Hours of Sebring. For the first time since 1965, a Chevrolet-powered prototype won the 12 Hours of Sebring. For the first time in series history, the winning car lapped the field.
Action Express Racing wasn’t particularly dominant in practice or qualifying; the team’s Coyote-Corvette was quickest in the first session but not in any other, and qualified three-tenths off the pole. But as driver Christian Fittipaldi said after winning the race, “A 12-hour race is a team effort—you can’t win with just a fast car.
“What makes this team strong is we always try to improve. After Daytona, this team analyzed everything we did good and all the small mistakes we made. We always try to improve and if we can’t we at least minimize the mistakes.”
This approach works for Action Express and Fittipaldi and co-drivers Joao Barbosa, and Sebastien Bourdais: as of the end of Sebring, the team completed 10415 miles of racing—every lap of every race in the two-year-old Tudor championship—without a single mechanical failure, always finishing on the lead lap.
Along the way the team won the 2014 Tudor Championship Prototype title and the North American Endurance Cup—and are halfway to winning the Cup again (and have a healthy lead in championship points as well.)
Action Express shared the Prototype class podium with Jordan and Ricky Taylor and Max Angelelli of Wayne Taylor Racing. WTR came second despite losing a lap when its Dallara-Corvette developed brake problems. A couple of yellow flags late in the race helped bunch up the field, but the AXR car had too much pace; the Taylors and Angelelli couldn’t catch up.
Third-placed team VisitFlorida with drivers Mike Rockenfeller, Richard Westbrook, and Michael Valiante in the #90 Coyote-Corvette finished twelve seconds behind the WTR car.
Chevrolet engines powered all the winning prototypes and also provided motivation for the GT Le mans winning #3 Corvette Racing C7.R. This car, which also won Daytona, was not as quick as some of the competition, but like the Action Express car, it avoided the mechanical problems which slowed the Porsche North America 911 RSRs and by dint of careful fuel-saving managed to outlast the Risi Ferrari 458.power
Chevy engines also powered the entire Prototype Challenge class, where the #52 PR1 Mathieson Oreca-Chevrolet driven by Michael Guasch, Andrew Palmer, and Tom Kimber Smith took the class win.
The only class which wasn’t won by Chevy power wads GTD Datona, where Dodge and Porsche fought it out all race long, with the #23 Team Seattle/Alex Job Racing Porsche 911 GT America and the #33 Riley Motorsports SRT Dodge Viper V10 went tooth-and-nail until the final few minutes.
The GTD win also almost came down to fuel savings as the #23 Porsche had to pit from the lead with a few minutes left in the race. The #33 Viper seemed sure to take the win——but with less than two minutes left, the car’s engine expired due to overheating. The #23 Seattle/AJR Porsche driven by Ian James, Alex Riberas, and Mario Farnbacher managed to make it home nine seconds ahead of the #007 TRG-AMR Aston Martivn Vantage of Christina Nielsen, James Davison, and B. Davis.
The Tudor Championship series heads across the country to California for its next event, the Tequila Patron Sports Car Showcase at Long Beach on April 18. Tickets and information are available at the Grand Prix of Long Beach website.