Winward Racing | Race Report | WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca
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Race Report | WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca

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For the second year in succession, late race drama cost Winward Racing a podium place and possible victory in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge race at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. With the leader in sight, the #57 Sonic Tools AMG GT4 of Christian Hohenadel began the last lap in second place. The team had pitted during an early caution and was marginal on fuel. The decision was made to gamble and run to the finish, a gamble that was not to pay off as the car ground to an agonizing halt, completely out of fuel, mere yards from the finish line.

Hohenadel took over from team owner, Bryce Ward, in the 49th minute of the two-hour race under the event’s only full course caution period. At that point, the resulting track position was the pay-off for the inevitable late-race fuel stop as the chances of running for a further one hour and eleven minutes were remote.

The race restarted on Lap 30 with the #57 sitting in P20 with Russell Ward’s #33 Techemet car in fourth position but still to stop for fuel, tires and a mandatory driver change. As a number of teams, including the Winward/HTP Motorsport Techemet AMG GT4 stopped under Green, Hohenadel’s Sonic Tools Mercedes moved quickly through the field. On lap 35, the German was scored P15 and five laps later, the AMG Racing regular had broken into the Top 5 in fourth position. With just under forty minutes remaining, Hohenadel got by the #80 Mustang of Brett Sandberg and began to close the gap to the leading Porsche of Dylan Machavern.

The job of catching and passing the leading Porsche was made all the more difficult by the presence of Machevern’s RS1 Motorsport teammate, Jan Heylen, who was running one lap down and just in front of the Sonic Tools AMG GT4. The presence of the Dutchman could well have been the deciding factor in the outcome for Winward/HTP Motorsport.

“Bryce had saved a lot of fuel so while we weren’t 100% sure, we were confident that we could make it to the finish,” explained Hohenadel. “Ultimately, battling with the lapped #18 Porsche, used up too much fuel and we should have just let him sit in front of us and we then could have started saving fuel earlier. Nevertheless, it was a great race, the car was absolutely fantastic and the team did such a good job!  I’m so disappointed for them really, not for myself. It was my last race in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge and I had a lot of fun, I’m going to miss it.”

Hohenadel’s positivity was countered by the reaction of his teammate, Bryce Ward, who summed his team’s tactical gamble succinctly.. “We bet everything on Black and lost”, said the Winward team owner.

The #33 Techemet was one of the cars to stop not long after the restart of the race, but while Damien Faulkner was able to make progress after Russell Ward’s solid start to the race, eighth position was the best the Irishman could manage in an exceptionally competitive race.

With a third place in Canada and a sensational charge by Indy Dontje to second place at Lime Rock Park, Round 10 at Road Atlanta represents the final opportunity for Winward/HTP Motorsport to win in it’s maiden season of IMSA Competition.

Round 10 of the 2018 IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge, The Fox Factory 120, will take place at Road Atlanta on Friday, October 12th. The Green Flag is at 1:25 EST and you can get session-by-session updates from the Official Winward Racing Twitter and Instagram accounts at https://twitter.com/WinwardRacing and https://www.instagram.com/winwardracing/