Victor González takes dramatic victory in Sonoma opener
Victor González secured his maiden victory in the TC America series after emerging on top of a dramatic opening race of the weekend at Sonoma Raceway.
The Honda driver had qualified on the third row of the grid for the first of two 40 minute races but worked his way to the front as others ran into issues and as his Honda Civic Type R came on strong in the closing stages.
Having qualified on pole position for his return to the series, Mason Filippi had been able to retain his lead when the lights went out at the wheel of Copeland Motorsports’ debuting Hyundai Veloster N, despite the best efforts of points leader Michael Hurczyn through the opening lap.
Although a failed bid to go around the outside at turn one cost Hurczyn valuable time, he was able to chase down Filippi through the remainder of the opening lap but was unable to make a move stick.
Filippi looked to try and edge away at the front and managed to eek out a lead of just over a second by the end of lap four, with the top two edging away from a closely-fought battle between the Honda of Harry Cheung and Nate Vincent for third.
With Filippi holding his lead at around a second as the leaders started to catch the back-markers in the TCA class, Vincent was able to get ahead of Cheung into third spot and started to close in on team-mate Hurczyn for second.
At the same time, Cheung started to slip back towards fellow Honda racer González – with the VGMC Racing man making a move stick on lap ten.
Having been comfortable out front for the opening half of the race, contact with a back-marker would suddenly see Filippi’s pace drop, with front end damage affecting the handling of the Hyundai and providing Hurczyn and Vincent with the chance to close in.
With the fight for the lead becoming a three-way affair, the trio came up to lap the TCA leaders at the end of lap 14 and Hurczyn was able to get a run on Filippi coming out of the final corner; sweeping around the outside going into turn one to secure P1.
Hurczyn immediately opening up a lead of more than two seconds as Filippi found himself struggling to keep Vincent at bay, with Gonzalez making the most of the squabbling between the pair ahead to join the fight for second.
As Vincent tried to make a move at the final corner on lap 17, contact saw Filippi tipped into a half spin and delayed the Volkswagen behind, allowing González to sweep round the inside into second spot.
As the pair tried to get going, James Walker suddenly found himself in third, with Vincent and Filippi eventually rejoining in fourth and fifth.
Once into second spot, González quickly chased down Hurczyn as the VW started to struggle under braking at the final chicane, with González’s decision to try and save his tyres in the early stages paying dividends as the Honda emerged as the quickest car on track.
Having already run across the grass once at the end of lap 20, Hurczyn again struggled to get his Golf GTI TCR stopped at the same point on the following lap, giving González a run going into the final hairpin.
Putting his Civic Type R up the inside, González moved into a lead he would then retain through the final lap to secure his first victory in the series.
Second place for Hurczyn ensured he extended his championship lead, with Walker completing the podium in his Risi-run Alfa Romeo. Vincent and Filippi would end up fourth and fifth with the incident between the pair – as well as the earlier contact between Filippi and the TCA class Subaru of PJ Groenke – to be investigated post-race.
Having led the TCR Cup class in qualifying, Stephen Vajda maintained his lead at the start and remained out front for the opening nine laps before Bryan Putt got ahead into a class lead he would then retain right through to the finish.
Putt would end up sixth overall, with Christian Cole also getting ahead of Vajda to secure second in class and seventh overall.
Vajda and Cheung, who would drop down through the order as the race wore on, completed the nine finishers, with Virginia race winner Michael McCann Jr being ruled out of action by an incident during the second practice session earlier in the day.