IMSA: Fourth top-10 in a row for Katherine Legge and Hardpoint
Katherine Legge and team Hardpoint ran as high as second in class at the fourth round of the IMSA season at Laguna Seca, claiming the fourth top-ten finish in a row despite a late driver change to make up for a miscalculation in the minimum driving time.
The world-famous WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca circuit hosted the 100th race in the history of the North American premiere Sports Car Championship IMSA in its current form, since the merger of the American Le Mans Series and Rolex Sports Car Series. At the Californian venue, team Hardpoint and Katherine Legge resumed their IMSA campaign after the three opening rounds of the season, strong of three top ten finishes in the GTD class. At the Daytona 24H that traditionally kicks-off the IMSA season, Legge and driver/owner Rob Ferriol shared the #99 Hardpoint Porsche 911 GT3 R with Stefan Wilson and Nick Boulle. Wilson returned at the 12 Hours of Sebring - and will team up with the full-time duo in all the Endurance rounds. At the first Sprint race of the season - on the iconic street circuit of Long Beach - Legge and Ferriol charged through the field to claim seventh place, topping their best finish of eighth in 2022. At the tricky Laguna Seca rollercoaster, Rob Ferriol was 12th fastest in qualifying in the GTD class; to further confirm the potential of the Hardpoint crew, Legge put the #99 Porsche in fifth place in the warm up. Ricky Taylor claimed overall pole position in the #10 Konica Minolta Acura DPi, ahead of Oliver Jarvis and Alex Lynn. It was a clean start for the DPi category, while the LMP2 leader Thomas (#11 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports) spun at the first corner. There was trouble also for the front-running #12 Vasser Sullivan Lexus of Frankie Montecalvo, who had to serve a drive through straight after the green flag for changing tyres after qualifying. After early drama at Sebring - as well as at Long Beach, when he was then able to recover and win - Sebastien Bourdais was forced to retire his #01 Cadillac in the opening laps. The Frenchman's prototype came to a halt, restarted after a reboot, but then parked in the pitlane. At the first Full Course Yellow - triggered by Russell Ward's Winward Mercedes making contact with the tyre barrier - the prototypes pitted as soon as the pitlane was open - then followed by the GTD cars a few laps later. Rob Ferriol managed to recover a few positions, resuming the race in ninth place in class after a solid first stint. He would stop again shortly after the race went back to green with 1 hour and 49 minutes to go, as Katherine Legge started her driving shift. Ahead, Filipe Albuquerque had taken over the overall lead from Taylor in the #10 Acura and preceded Tom Blomqvist (Meyer Shank Racing Acura), Tristan Vautier, Pipo Derani and Alex Lynn. After a messy restart from the GTD field, marked by several contacts, Mathieu Jaminet led in the Pfaff Porsche, ahead of Hawksworth and Taylor. Having rejoined almost from the bottom of the GTD pack, Katherine Legge quickly made her way up and re-claimed the top-ten. When Schandorff (Inception Racing McLaren) was handed a drive through for having too many mechanics over the wall at the pitstop, Legge gained one more position. Having recovered from his first lap spin, Thomas battled with his PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports teammate Kelly and the two traded places at the top of the LMP2 category. There were more troubles for the #18 ERA Motorsports Oreca of Merrimann - who ended in the gravel - and the Dragonspeed Oreca of Juan Pablo Montoya, who spun in pit road while he was serving a drive through penalty. The two leading Acuras were as close as ever and Blomqvist attacked Albuquerque - before losing momentum in the LMP2 traffic. Meanwhile, the #02 Cadillac of Alex Lynn went off in the gravel - triggering a collective pit stop, as everyone anticipated a caution. After the stop, The Meyer Shank Acura of Blomqvist made it up into first place overall. Albuquerque, though, fought back and got back ahead with a stunning move at the Corkscrew, taking advantage from a group of lapped cars that slowed down the #60 Acura. With a superb second stint, Katherine Legge navigated through the GTD field and ran as high as second in class before the second stop - also ahead of a few GTD-Pro entries. With 50 minutes to go, though, she had to pit again and handed back over the wheel of the #99 Porsche to Rob Ferriol, who had missed the minimum driving time by a few seconds, having miscalculated the time spent in pit lane. In the final 30 minutes of racing, all the action focused on the battle for the DPi lead, with Albuquerque and Blomqvist following each other closely for most of the race. But there was exciting action also in GTD, with Jan Heylen (Wright Motorsports Porsche) overtaking Bill Auberlen (Turner Motorsport BMW M4 GT3) for the top spot. De Quesada (Alegra Motorsports Mercedes) slid off the track and hit the tyre barriers with less than 10 minutes to go from sixth in GTD, but managed to reverse and rejoin. Taylor/Albuquerque took victory for Wayne Taylor Racing Acura after a closely fought DPi race, ahead of Blomqvist/Jarvis and Nunez/Derani - the first of the Cadillac prototypes over 24 seconds down the road. Deletraz and Farano claimed LMP2 victory in the Tower Motorsport Oreca, while Porsche secured victories in both the GTD-Pro and GTD categories, respectively with the Pfaff Racing (Campbell/Jaminet) and the Wright Motorsports (Hardwick/Heylen) crews. Having rejoined from P10 in GTD after his final stop, Rob Ferriol drove with a series of fast laps to Hardpoint's fourth top-ten in a row - only one of three teams able to do so this year. “The car was good and we could have done a lot more with it", said Legge. "We made some unfortunate errors during the race, but we had good pace. Rob showed some good pace after the errors to finish the race. But everybody on the team keeps improving, so as long as we don’t make the same mistakes again we can learn and move on, and I know we will" - she concluded. "It's a double edged sword to finish lower than you had the potential to finish because of small errors that have an effect on the race", echoed Ferriol. "When you're to the point where small errors are making a difference, it's a good place to be." The next IMSA round - yet another 2 hour and 40 minute race - will be at Mid Ohio Sports Car Course, for the Lexus Grand Prix on May 15th.