GT Daytona McLaren 720S GT3
- Paul Holton
- Matt Plumb
Duo notch first win of the season in their S3; Keegan and Rondet consolidate championship third place in McLaren
MONTEREY, CA — The penultimate round of IMSA’s Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge was a dramatic four-hour battle set amongst the picturesque, rolling grasslands of the Monterey, California peninsula. Widely considered one of the most iconic tracks in the world featuring signature corners including the unique “Corkscrew”, Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca is also one of the favourite circuits of Compass Racing / C360R, whose success at the track dates back to a win in the series in 2007.
The event marked the second four-hour race of the CTSC season and proved to be a test of the drivers, crew and cars. In early practice, C360R’s No. 75 ST-class Audi S3 looked strong in its freshly-revised livery, notching top time of the day on Thursday. The team’s two GS-class McLaren 570S GT4s struggled for pace, though, with the team working through handling issues on the notoriously slippery Northern California pavement.
This trend continued into qualifying on Friday, with Pierre Kleinubing putting No. 75 on pole, and setting a lap record in the process. The No. 76 qualified in ninth with Paul Holton at the helm, whilst Mathew Keegan was 11th in the No.77 McLaren. Incredibly for one of the winningest Touring Car drivers in North America, this marked Kleinubing’s first IMSA pole position.
“What an amazing day,” gushed Pierre. “I can’t say enough about how this whole team has developed this car. This is probably one of the best cars I’ve ever driven and am so proud to be a part of this effort."
Knowing that anything can happen in a four-hour race, the C360R crew worked tirelessly overnight to prepare the cars and were ready to go for Saturday’s race. Kleinubing kept his APR / Audi Genuine Parts / Pfaff Automotive / Brooklyn Tailors / Race Day Foundation Audi at the head of the field, with Holton making up places in the AlphaClone / AERO Advanced Paint Technology / Race Day Foundation car. Keegan, meanwhile, similarly moved forward in his first stint in the Misahara Jewelry / Santo Mezquila / Alexandre Family Farms / AERO Advanced Paint Technology / Race Day Foundation McLaren.
At the first stop, the team opted for different strategies on the McLarens, with Holton only taking two tires and Keegan getting a full four-tire service. Despite the time saved in the pit (which moved Holton up the order), the car suffered on the low-grip Laguna Seca surface and he fell back, whilst Keegan moved forward. At the team’s second round of stops, Keegan pitted from third position, but Holton was ninth.
In the Audi, Block took over for Kleinubing and drove a great stint, handing back over to Pierre with two hours to go. The McLarens pitted for driver changes, with Nico Rondet taking over for Keegan and Matt Plumb taking the reigns from Holton. Towards the end of Plumb’s stint No. 76 developed an issue with its front brakes, requiring a pit stop for repairs, which put it down a few laps. It returned to the track with Holton back at the helm.
With twenty minutes to go the No. 76 stopped on the front straight with its mechanical issue being terminal, causing a late-race yellow flag that bunched up the field; Kleinubing was seventh in ST and Rondet similarly placed in GS. The run to the front from No. 75 was nail-biting for the team, as Pierre made a dramatic pass around the No. 44 Nissan in turn nine for the lead. He edged away as the cars behind battled for position, taking the chequered flag for the Audi for the first time this season. No. 77 finished in a hard-fought fifth place, which solidifies Keegan and Rondet in third place in the championship, with Holton and Plumb dropping to fifth.
“We’ve been working towards this for two years,” enthused Block. “This win is for all those people that didn’t think we could win in this car! You keep the faith, keep working, improving. You never give up. Succeeding in this series is so, so very hard and that’s what makes taking the win here so sweet.”
Team Principal Karl Thomson was similarly effusive. “Working with Roy and Pierre to get the S3 back to the winner’s circle has been incredibly rewarding. This year's podiums at COTA and VIR were just our warm-up with this car, and we have to thank our partners, especially APR, Audi Genuine Parts and Pfaff Automotive. We can’t wait for the finale at Road Atlanta next week!”
The race is broadcast on FOX Sports and can be viewed on-line at http://imsatv.imsa.com/videos/series/sportscarchallenge.
The final IMSA CTSC event of the season is Road Atlanta on October 6th.