Whatever home-track advantage exists at Circuit of the Americas, drivers with local connections worked it this weekend during the IMSA Advance Auto Parts Sportscar Showdown.
Corey Fergus, who drives for Austin-based Moorespeed, simply could not be denied in Saturday’s Porsche GT3 Cup, powering his No. 00 US LED/Byers/Moorespeed machine to victory in a 21-car field.
Austin driver Jeff Mosing batted 1.000 — 3 for 3 — this weekend, winning the Masters class of the same race, as he did in Friday night’s first Porsche GT3 event. Mosing also won the ST class of the Continental Tire Challenge earlier Friday.
Fergus’ win came in a tense, back-and-forth battle with 17-year-old San Antonio driver Trenton Estep, who held off Fergus for the victory Friday night. Fergus’ margin Saturday was a scant 0.97 seconds.
“That’s the most exciting, hardest race I’ve had in my 16 years,” said Fergus, a 28-year-old Porsche salesman in Columbus, Ohio, and self-described “Buckeye fan for life.”
Fergus and Estep took turns passing each other four times — just in the first half lap. Fergus regained the edge and held it until Estep made one more pass, but the Moorespeed driver returned the favor with some daring maneuvers with five laps to go.
“He sent me out wide in turn 19, but he was losing grip and got defensive going into the last corner,” Fergus said. “I set him up with a little over/under move out of turn 20, and he took me to the wall. That’s definitely not the preferred place to be, but I made it stick and we got it.”
Fergus credited the win to “the way our team set up the car and, let’s just call it, a unique tire strategy.”
David Moore, owner of the large Moorespeed shop located only 10 minutes from COTA, said, “yeah, let’s keep those details quiet” to not tip off competitors.
“It’s great winning a race on our home track,” said Moore, a Round Rock High and University of Texas alum. “We consider ourselves contenders everywhere, but you especially want to shine at home. That’s Corey’s first win for us, but he’s won championships in other series. He got passed a few times but took it back.
“This was redemption for us after what happened to Will (Hardeman) last night.”
Hardeman, an Austinite who’s won at COTA before, qualified third for Friday’s race and was in contention when he was smashed from behind by a driver who lost the wing of his car. Hardeman was checked out and released from the medical center, but his could not be repaired for Saturday.
“Will spent the race spotting and advising,” Moore said. “He pushes his teammate. They have two different styles. If you could morph these guys into one, they’d be unbeatable. But they do rub off on each other.”
Although Fergus is an Ohioan, he had ample support here with co-workers from his dealership and sponsors from US LED.
He also said the victory was meaningful because he wanted to give an emotional lift to his boss Moore, who recently lost his dog.
“I told David I would win one for Ranger,” Fergus said.
Mosing, driving the No. 01 Mosing Motorcars Porsche, couldn’t have enjoyed his weekend more.
“Sometimes, you take this track for granted because it’s so close,” Mosing said. “But you can’t beat living just 30 minutes away, eating at home, sleeping in your own bed and then winning the races before friends and family.”
C.J. Wilson, the former Texas Rangers pitcher who owns an Austin race shop and was making his COTA driving debut, finished 16th overall after an eighth-place showing Friday.
Austin driver Fred Kaimer took second in the Gold Cup class and 13th overall, equaling his Friday finish. Another Austinite, Alan Metni, went out after two laps after a 14th place in the first race.
Maverick Vinales posted the fastest lap of the weekend, but Saturday morning’s practice session for the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas was captivating for all the crashes.
Nine riders tumbled onto the track at Circuit of the Americas on a chilly morning after a cold front passed through Austin and kicked up north winds. The track was not wet but might have been a bit damp from some early-morning drizzle.
Marc Marquez, who has won all four MotoGP races at Circuit of the Americas, crashed twice on his Repsol Honda. Shocking, really, considering the way he has owned this track.
Vinales, who has won the first two races of 2017, didn’t appear to have problems. He hung up a 2:03.979, the best for anyone in the three practices so far.
There is a fourth practice this afternoon immediately preceding qualifying.
Dani Pedrosa, Marquez’s Repsol Honda teammate, posted the second-fastest time in practice 3 with a 2:04.296.
Cal Crutchlow of LCR Honda was third at 2:04.677, followed by Marquez and Scott Redding.
Other riders who crashed include Aleix Espargaro, who fell twice off his Red Bull KTM, Jorge Lorenzo of Ducati Team, Andrea Iannone of Suzuki Ecstar, Alex Rins of Suzuki Ecstar and Sam Lowes of Aprilia Gresini.
Rins, a 21-year-old Spaniard, reportedly has a fractured left wrist and has been ruled out for race.
Injuries to other riders did not appear to be serious, although there were several nasty falls.
Marc Marquez owns Circuit of the Americas, but the Spanish rider wasn’t the fastest in the first free practice Friday morning for the Red Bull Grand Prix of the Americas.
Maverick Vinales, who has won both races in 2017 for the Movistar Yamaha team, posted a 2:04.923 time for a fast lap in the early session, a half second faster than Marquez, who has won all four MotoGP events at COTA.
Marquez, who rides for Honda, had a 2:05.500 best lap.
Vinales’ speed topped out at 205.736 mph.
Andrea Dovizioso of Ducati was third quickest, followed by Johann Zarco of Monster Yamaha Tech 3 and Alvaro Bautista of Pull&Bear Aspar Aprilia.
Bautista posted the top speed over any portion of the track, flying at 209.309 mph.