By Mark Robinson - IMSA.com
Move over, Danny Sullivan. Rasmus Lindh has put an emphatic new twist on the “Spin and Win” strategy.
Lindh successfully survived a 360-degree on-track whirl midway through Sunday’s IMSA Prototype Challenge race at VIRginia International Raceway, lost the lead on a late restart and then made a bold pass on the final lap to collect the victory with co-driver Dan Goldburg in the No. 6 Performance Tech Motorsports Ligier JS P320.
Josh Sarchet and Dakota Dickerson had a memorable day of their own in the No. 54 MLT Motorsports Ligier, charging from 14th on the starting grid to finish second and grab the championship lead with one race remaining.
Goldburg started on the outside of Row 1 and was still running second to pole sitter Moritz Kranz in the No. 21 Muehlner Motorsports America Duqueine D08 when he turned the car over to Lindh on the first pit stop some 45 minutes into the three-hour race – the longest of the Prototype Challenge season.
Just before the halfway point, Lindh was still hounding the No. 21, driven then by 18-year-old Ugo de Wilde. As they approached Turn 10 on the 3.27-mile road course, Lindh suddenly spun on track but had the presence of mind to pop in the clutch as the No. 6 briefly went airborne and completed the 360-degree spin still on the asphalt – much as Sullivan did when he won the 1985 Indianapolis 500.
“They were so much faster than us on the straightaway, so I was really pushing in that middle sector and lost it,” Lindh said with a sheepish grin. “Yeah, that was my save for the year, I think. Luckily, I pressed in the clutch to not reverse the gearbox. I just saw the sky and I don’t know what happened, really.”
Lindh didn’t lose a position and, in fact, took the race lead seconds later when de Wilde, the Belgian making his Prototype Challenge debut, slowed dramatically with a rear axle issue. Watching it unfold from the pit stand, Goldburg said he and the Performance Tech crew were ready to write off the day when Lindh spun.
“We were pretty sure he was done for at that moment,” Goldburg admitted. “(I thought) the car was going to be on its hood wholesale, and then he saves it, keeps position and picks up first. It was just nuts!”
From there, Lindh was in command until a restart with 17 minutes remaining following the fourth and final full-course caution of the race. Lindh locked his tires as he braked entering Turn 1, giving Stevan McAleer enough time and room to pass for the lead in the No. 43 Robillard Racing Duqueine.
It stayed that way until the final lap, when McAleer made his own mistake, sliding wide in the famous Oak Tree Turn (Turns 11 and 12). Lindh pulled alongside and the two cars bumped several times speeding along the back straight. They touched again in Turn 14, with McAleer sliding into the grass and Lindh speeding away to win by 0.305 seconds over Dickerson.
“They told me it was in (Turn) 11 where I needed to do it,” Lindh said, “because that was where we were faster. I just went off the brake and did it … finally.”
The runner-up finish was enough to push Dickerson and Sarchet into the points lead in the Lmp33-1 class. They hold a 100-point edge on Kranz, who finished 10th in class with de Wilde in the No. 21 Muehlner entry.
“A weird but great race,” Dickerson said. “Josh did an awesome job coming from the back, getting us into fighting contention. Unfortunately, the (No.) 21 car had an issue – you never want to see that – but great points for us. We were a little off strategy with an early pit stop, and then having a tire delaminating at the end didn’t really help us. But a great comeback by the team and ultimately we’re really thankful to get second place.”
In the Le Mans Prototype 3-2 (LMP3-2) class for last year’s cars, Mike Watt and Nic Jonsson won handily in the No. 15 D Motorsports Ligier JS P3. The No. 61 Conquest Racing Norma M30 spent lengthy time in the garage making mechanical repairs but finished second to clinch the class championship for co-drivers George Staikos and Danny Kok.
“My first year and to make it all the way through and be champions is really exciting,” said Staikos, who drove the race with fractured ribs. “I’m just grateful and proud. Awesome team.”
He and Kok strung together five straight second-place finishes in LMP3-2 – without a win – to secure the crown.
“It wasn’t pretty for us today,” Kok said, “but at the end, all you do is work on the championship. We’re really thankful. The team did a wonderful job as always.”
Brothers David and Keith Grant, co-drivers of the No. 40 JCD MotorSports Duqueine, were winners in Bronze Cup for entries with only Bronze-rated drivers.
IMSA Prototype Challenge at VIR: Provisional Results
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