Spring Break Sweep at St. Pete for Jones and Lazare

Staff Report

IMSA Wire Service

The wins felt so nice they decided to do it twice.   Jagger Jones and Jesse Lazare completed the sweep of Rounds 3 and 4 in the Le Mans Prototype 3 (P3) and Grand Sport X (GSX) classes of the VP Racing SportsCar Challenge at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on Saturday.   Jones made it a priority for the No. 87 FastMD Racing with Remstar Duqueine D08 to open a comfortable gap on the field at the start of the second race of the day, and with each of the two restarts from full-course caution, to make things as easy on himself as possible. It worked following the final restart with just over eight minutes to go in the 45-minute sprint as he finished 3.815 seconds ahead of P3 Bronze Cup winner Miguel Villagomez in the No. 23 Escuderia ABRO Ligier JS P320 and 14.764 seconds ahead of third-place finisher Brian Thienes in the No. 77 Forte Racing Ligier.   “Full sweep of the weekend – it’s awesome,” exclaimed Jones, whose only previous VP Racing Challenge races came in the final 2023 round at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta. “It feels so good to be winning races. I think last year was my first year in my career of racing that I didn’t win a race with racing Indy NXT.   “The team got me such a good car – we even got the car way better for the second race, which is almost scary with how fast we’d already been all weekend. I was just taking it easy, making sure I didn’t make any mistakes. That’s all I had to do. … hopefully, I can come back and do some more races with Remstar.”

While Jones once again proved dominant, Lazare had to work a bit harder behind the wheel of the No. 21 Motorsports in Action McLaren Artura GT4 in the second race. Earning the GSX pole after his win in the first race, Lazare was passed by Jackson Lee in the No. 82 van der Steur Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT4 at the start of Race 2.

Lee led the first 24 laps but Lazare stayed close, stalking Lee, remaining patient but relentless, frequently stepping out of line to remind Lee he was there. He wasn’t able to complete the pass until the final restart when Lee hung back from the P3 class and Lazare got a great start, darting to the lead and then pulling away to win by 3.211 seconds. Gregory Liefooghe overcame an anti-lock brake system issue that had plagued the No. 19 Stephen Cameron Racing BMW M4 GT4 (G82) all weekend and rounded out the top three. Michael Dayton repeated his Race 1 effort as GSX Bronze Cup winner.

“Right from Session 1 we were super-fast and I got comfortable real quick,” said Lazare. “I knew Lee was going to be up there with me – he was quick all along. This race he got a really good start, got me on the outside; there was more grip out there. I was waiting for the perfect moment to execute a pass. I got it on the (final) restart and I’m really excited to bring home the second victory today.”

Steven Aghakhani (No. 6 MLT Motorsports Ligier), who swept the P3 races at Daytona in January, retained the class lead after Saturday, 190 points ahead of Villagomez and Thienes. In GSX, Luca Mars (No. 59 KohR Motorsports Ford Mustang GT4) – also a double winner at Daytona – kept the class lead following his finishes of third and fifth on Saturday. He is 120 points ahead of Lazare.

Rounds 5 and 6 of the VP Racing Challenge will take place at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, June 7-9.