July 18, 2014  |   By Matt Cleary

Oak Racing Triumphs in Canada

With six races and over 50 hours of racing now in the books, the top three teams in the IMSA TUDOR United SportsCar Championship are separated by all of ten points as the series is set to return to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 24-25 for the Brickyard Grand Prix.

Last weekend at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, IMSA staged its fastest race yet. With 55 cars in three different classes, all with different speeds, fighting on an ultra-fast 2.5-mile circuit, it was a recipe for a highlight reel of crashes.

Instead, the Mobil 1 SportsCar Grand Prix clicked off at an unrelenting pace to go from the green flag to the checkered flag nearly three hours later without a single caution lap.

The high-speed track, long known as “Mosport,” set the stage for Oak Racing to score an impressive overall victory with drivers Gustavo Yacaman and Olivier Pla. Oak Racing is making its first U.S. campaign this season, and the Le Mans, France-based team provides the IMSA scene with some added international flavor with a Colombian driver in Yacaman, with his co-driver Pla hailing from France.

Yacaman, who raced at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indy Lights competition, led the field to the green flag and went unchallenged through his stint on the undulating natural terrain road circuit outside of Toronto before turning the car over to Frenchman Pla to drive to the checkered flag, just ten seconds ahead of Richard Westbrook’s Chevrolet Corvette DP.

“It was a perfect race from beginning to end,” said Pla. “The car was great and the strategy was as well. The team has done a fantastic job the whole season to understand the car and tires. I could not be more excited to have won the race. Gustavo (Yacaman) did a wonderful job at the beginning of the race to keep a gap to the next car.”

The win was the first North American triumph for Oak, but individual race wins are not the only focus for the squad as the championship is on everyone’s mind.

“I am so happy for Gustavo (Yacaman) and Olivier (Pla),” said Philippe Dumas, Team Principal.  “It was a perfect weekend. It is not a small victory to land on the podium, but rather a great, great victory for the whole team. We will keep fighting for the championship during the remainder of the season.”

But the top Prototypes were not the only guys racing for honors “North of the Border,” as the two GT-based Classes, GTLM (factory-supported efforts with professional drivers in some of the most advanced GT racecars from Porsche, Ferrari, Aston Martin, Viper and Corvette), and GTD (GT cars from those same brands that have a little less performance and feature driving line ups that include amateur racers) were both in action.

In the GTLM Class, it was yet another banner day for the Corvette Racing squad, which opened the year with a pair of disappointing finishes in Daytona and Sebring, but have come on strong to win the last four races with drivers Antonio Garcia of Spain and his Danish co-pilot Jan Magnussen. Their win streak, which stretches back to Long Beach, has given them a 19-point advantage in the championship.

“It’s by no means easy what we’ve achieved with the four wins,” Magnussen said after his 41st career victory. “It’s difficult out there. You have to be so precise and really work the traffic – that’s where big gains can be made.” 

The Mosport GTD race was a breakthrough weekend for the Riley Motorsports-managed Viper SRT program of Ben Keating and Jerome Bleekemolen, who scored the pole and then the win to show an incredible come back after their car had burned to the ground just a few months ago in Sebring.

“This is not only our first win, but our first podium,” Keating said. “We have had our share of tough luck this season, so to a certain extent we felt like we were due. We’ve always been down on top speed, but the sweeping corners here really suit our car.”

So with tight championship battles in all the classes that will race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and new winners every round, there is no guessing what will happen when IMSA makes its debut on the newly reformatted Grand Prix circuit on July 25.