• Almost perfect US debut for Ligier JS P2
Alex Brundle came within 2.4secs of recording the perfect race weekend at Circuit of The Americas on Saturday (September 20) after following up pole position and fastest race lap with second overall in the penultimate round of the 2014 IMSA Tudor United SportsCar Championship.
It was the Briton’s second consecutive pole and podium double for the OAK Racing squad after he and co-driver Gustavo Yacaman also finished second at Watkins Glen in June.
Nevertheless, bad luck ultimately put paid to Brundle’s chances of securing a first North American victory after largely dominating the weekend.
Despite switching to the team’s HPD-powered Ligier JS P2 coupe – which was making its series debut – the BRDC Superstar was immediately on the pace and, having topped final practice, duly claimed pole position by a commanding 0.8sec.
Yacaman then took the start of Saturday’s two-hour 45-minute race and had established a sizeable 20secs lead when a full caution was called after an hour. The Colombian was now back in range of the chasing DP entries, which would prove decisive when the #90 Spirit of Daytona Corvette DP made contact and spun the Ligier around soon after the restart.
Having dropped to fifth, Yacaman was at least able to pick up a position before handing over to Brundle at mid-distance. Slick work from the OAK Racing crew meant he returned to the fray in third, albeit facing an uphill battle to catch the leaders whose fuel saving strategy meant they would require one fewer pit-stop.
The only answer was to attack, and the 24-year-old did just that over his three stints to not only cancel out the time lost at his extra stop but also reel in the top two. Indeed, the race was set for a grandstand finish as it entered the final 10 minutes when just 1.2secs covered all three podium places.
First up came an opportunistic move on the championship-chasing #5 Action Express Corvette DP, which was momentarily baulked by slower GT traffic. But having made the pass stick, the same fate then struck Brundle who was forced to defend from Joao Barbosa down the long back straight. The pair reached the tight left-hander side by side, only for more heavy traffic to settle the matter in the Ligier’s favour.
Unfortunately the squabble had allowed the #01 Telcel Ford/Riley to break clear, and despite Brundle cutting the gap over the remaining two laps he was ultimately forced to settle for second.
“We came very close to dominating this weekend,” reflected Alex afterwards. “The Ligier is undoubtedly a step ahead of the Morgan but to turn up with it in a new series that uses different tyres and perform so strongly still felt very satisfying indeed. In the end there was nothing more any of us could have done. That’s the way it goes sometimes.
“The car felt fantastic straight away and obviously I was delighted to stick it on pole by a healthy margin. Gustavo [Yacaman] then continued in that same vein at the start of the race. Ifs and Buts make the world go around, but having built up such a commanding lead I do think we were looking really good for the win, regardless of the Safety Car. Unfortunately that wasn’t the limiting factor in the end.
“I climbed aboard knowing we had to push like hell to overturn the leading DPs’ fuel strategy. The car felt great and I was able to give it absolutely everything. To come up two seconds short is of course disappointing, but we also understand what a strong car we have. I think we’ll be very competitive at the final round; a big victory to end the season would make up for missing out here.”
Petit Le Mans’ 10-hour/1000-mile event at Road Atlanta brings the curtain down on this season’s IMSA Tudor United SportsCar Championship on October 2-4.