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Palmer extends TUSCC NAEC podium streak and points lead

June 30, 2015

• Californian overcomes issues and weather to finish second in class

Andrew Palmer took a step closer to clinching this year’s TUDOR United SportsCar Championship North American Endurance Cup title last weekend after finishing second in class at the Six Hours of The Glen (June 26-28).

The 20-year-old Californian, along with co-drivers Mike Guasch and Tom Kimber-Smith, headed the points as the season reached its third round courtesy of victories at Daytona and Sebring, but was made to work hard for the right to extend that advantage in New York State. 

Indeed, brake issues and Guasch’s off in third practice meant the Spyder Active Athlete had only turned six laps aboard the #52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Prototype Challenge entry before Sunday’s race began. And his task was made all the more difficult when he climbed behind the wheel after 90 minutes already one lap down on the leaders.

What followed was, in Palmer’s own words, his “best PC performance of the season” as he battled to regain the lost lap over his opening stint. An hour later he’d achieved just that, before a lengthy pit-stop issue required the same feat over the following 60-or-so minutes. Frequently the quickest man on track, the Californian set a string of fastest class laps and went toe-to-toe with title rival Colin Braun’s CORE Autosport entry.

With the car now back in contention his co-driver Kimber-Smith could set about completing the job, albeit amid the same appalling weather conditions that had cancelled qualifying. So bad was the rain that at one point the contest had to be suspended, but once racing resumed it was the British driver who looked most comfortable by moving from fourth to second in class.

“It was one of those up and down weekends that fortunately finished on a high!” recounted Palmer afterwards. “It was a good job we’d tested at Watkins Glen beforehand because otherwise my lack of practice might have been more of a factor. As it was I felt very comfortable with the car, which I was really able to take by the scruff of the neck during my two stints. There was a lot of ground to make up but I enjoyed the challenge. It’s the sort of circuit that rewards bravery and I felt very confident at the limit.”

The result has helped Palmer, Guasch and Kimber-Smith establish a three-point gap over their nearest rivals ahead of the final round of the season – Petit Le Mans’ 10-hour encounter at Road Atlanta – on October 1-3. And such a slender advantage means the Pomona College student is keeping his expectations firmly in check.

“The NAEC races reward consistency by dishing out points at certain intervals rather than just the end, so there’s still a lot to play for at Road Atlanta,” he confirmed. “As a result I’m sure we won’t be approaching it any differently to this season’s previous rounds. That tactic has proved extremely prudent thus far and, with the championship still so tight, it would be unwise to become complacent. There’s enough experience between Mike, Tom and the team to ensure that won’t happen.”

While Palmer will likely be back behind the wheel of a sports-prototype before Petit Le Mans, his focus now switches to the European-based Blancpain Endurance Series’ blue riband event – the 24 Hours of Spa – on July 21-26 when he’ll be making his debut as the youngest member of Lamborghini’s GT3 Junior Driver roster for GRT Grasser Racing Team.