Winward’s Last Lap Agony at Lime Rock Park
The #57 Mercedes-AMG GT3 finished fifth at Lime Rock Park due to fuel pump failure. (IMSA photo)
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — The drivers and crew of Winward Racing must be scratching their heads, wondering what they need to do to clinch a win in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship.
It’s not for lack of trying.
During last weekend’s FCP Euro Northeast Grand Prix at Lime Rock Park, Winward Racing’s #57 Mercedes-AMG GT3 took the lead in the GT Daytona (GTD) on a restart with less than 10 minutes remaining and appeared the class winner on the final lap, until the car sputtered on the final corner – a victim of fuel pump failure.
The No 57 was driving increasingly slowly as driver Philip Ellis feverishly attempted to switch to an emergency fuel pump installed in the car for this situation, but to no avail.
Ellis fell to fifth place as he crossed the finish line.
Among those watching helplessly from the pit lane was co-driver Russell Ward.
“I have to say it was a new experience for me,” admitted Ward. “It could have failed a corner later and we would have won the race, or it could have failed practice. It was just kind of a freak accident; it happens sometimes. It was really disappointing.
Ward said the fuel pump was new, installed after the previous race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park two weeks prior. The racing gods just weren’t looking for Winward that day.
“We had plenty of fuel to finish the race,” Ward said. “The car has a spare fuel pump for this case; you swap it out, then turn the car back on. By the time Philip was able to do this, the damage was already done.
“It adds another race to the list of races that have eluded us – and this year there have been many.”
In effect. Lime Rock marked the third race in a row where the #57 Winward Mercedes challenged for victory but fell short.
At Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen on June 26, the car won the checkered flag first in GTD, but was among nine competitors moved to the back of their respective classes for failing to meet driving times. adjusted minimums in the race shortened by weather conditions.
The following week, Ward and Ellis – whose only win came on their series debut with Winward at the 2021 Rolex 24 At Daytona – were less than a second away from winning at the CTMP, finishing just 0.493 seconds off No. 27 Heart of Racing Team Aston Martin GT3.
Despite the disappointments, Ward said morale remained high.
“Since Detroit (early June) we’ve been able to execute everything pretty well and we just haven’t had a chance to put it all together,” he said, adding that optimism is high due to the Mercedes’ prowess at the three remaining tracks this season – Road America, Virginia International Raceway and Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.
“I think the next two tracks are really good for us. I was a bit worried about the pace at Lime Rock because the Mercedes don’t usually do very well there. Road America suits the car much better, Virginia suits the car much better, and so does Atlanta. The next three races to come are some of my favorites on the calendar.
The first is the IMSA Fastlane SportsCar weekend at Road America from August 4-7.