Late yellow negates the strategy call that would have brought the team from nearly two laps down to a possible podium finish
BOWMANVILLE, Ont. (9 July 2023) – Sean Creech Motorsport (SCM) came agonizingly short of an outstanding comeback in the Chevrolet Grand Prix at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park on Sunday, when a late yellow canceled out a bold strategy call that could have brought the LMP3 team back from two laps down to a podium finish – or more.
Drivers Lance Willsey and João Barbosa combined to keep the No. 33 SCM Focal One Ligier JS P320 in contention in the two hour and 40-minute race – the first non-endurance event for the LMP3 class this season. Finding themselves almost two laps down midway through the race, outstanding strategy, stellar pit work and two exceptional stints from Barbosa brought the team home in fifth – oh so close to a remarkable comeback.
Both Willsey and Barbosa found the bumps at CTMP to be much more of a challenge than in previous years, with the team working hard through two practice sessions to settle the rear of the Ligier through the high-speed corners and over those bumps – especially the exit of the left-handed, blind, downhill turn four, a turn that would come into play during the race.
Also competing in the VP Racing SportsCar Challenge doubleheader, Willsey gained valuable track time through two 45-minute races – with the No. 30 SCM Focal One Ligier JS P320 sharing a platform with the WeatherTech series car, the experiences were quite relatable, especially when it came to establishing racing lines and optimal corner exit and entry. He finished sixth in race one on Saturday afternoon, and seventh in race two on Sunday morning.
Having qualified sixth, Willsey took the green flag in the main event, but on lap two, spun in the exit of the difficult turn four, flat spotting the tires. He recovered quickly, but nonetheless found himself in the middle of a brawling GT field. Willsey soldiered on, fighting the resulting vibration and between the spin and the time lost from the tire difficulties, headed to pit lane almost two laps down.
Barbosa took the wheel as soon as the pit window opened. An incident in turn nine brought out a full course caution and the resulting field re-order put him back on the lead lap, albeit at the end of the front train of LMP3 cars. The two-time series champion began making moves, passing his way into fourth position with 35 minutes remaining.
The team then made the bold strategy move to bring Barbosa into pit lane while the other LMP3 cars stayed out, ducking in just ahead of another yellow flag. The crew performed a lightning-fast stop for fuel and tires – the thought process being that Barbosa would be on fresher tires and be assured of making it to the end on fuel, whereas the four cars ahead would most likely have to stop.
But when a GTP car went off course and hard into the tires, a yellow came out with five minutes remaining, ensuring the team’s competitors an easy run to the finish and leaving the team contemplating what might have been.
“It was a challenging weekend,” said Willsey. “We rolled off the truck a bit out of the window but with every session, the team got the car better and better. We had a good race car today, one that could have run up front. Credit to the team, strategy-wise, and to João who got us back in the hunt. Unfortunately, we got that yellow at the end but there’s no question that was the right decision. But the team did a great job all weekend, we’ll be back at it soon.”
“The car was competitive, the team did a super job,” said Barbosa. “We took a gamble late, when we were playing catch-up and came in when everyone else stayed out. But I think it was the right call, given how hard it is to overtake. We were hoping for no yellows to the end, but that’s the way it goes. I’m happy with everything we did this weekend, just move on to the next one.”
“The guys did a nice job to get us back on the lead lap,” said team principal Sean Creech. “João was right there. We really did think the other teams wouldn’t be able to make it on fuel and we’d be out on good tires to chase them down. It was the perfect scenario; it just didn’t play out. Outstanding job by the entire team this weekend, but especially today – the pit stops really kept us in it.”
SCM thanks partner Focal One for its continued support.
Next up for SCM will be the IMSA SportsCar Weekend at Road America, August 3 – 6. The race will be broadcast live in the U.S., in its entirety on USA Network and Peacock TV in the US, and on REV TV in Canada. International viewers can watch via IMSA.tv, with IMSA Radio also available at IMSA.com.
Team leader Sean Creech has competed in a multitude of sports car series from 1990 until the present day, including Group C, IMSA GTP, WSC, Grand-Am, SRO World Challenge, and IMSA. SCM will contest the full WeatherTech SportsCar Championship in 2023 with João Barbosa and Lance Willsey. http://seancreechmotorsport.com/
About Focal One
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