BRASELTON, Ga. – The first round of champions have been crowned on Friday at Road Atlanta after another busy day of track activity, while IMSA also featured a number of activities and announcements itself.
Meanwhile the polesitters have been set for Saturday’s Motul Petit Le Mans, the 20th edition of the fall endurance classic.
Quick notes and results links are below. Thursday’s day-end roundup is linked here.
WEATHERTECH QUALIFYING AND PRACTICE
- Polesitters for the final race of the season, Motul Petit Le Mans, are as follows: Helio Castroneves (No. 6 Team Penske Oreca 07 Gibson, 1:11.314), Toni Vilander (No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE, GT Le Mans), Matteo Cressoni (No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3, 1:20.661, GT Daytona) and James French (No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports Oreca FLM09, 1:16.069, Prototype Challenge) (Results).
- The pole for Castroneves comes in both his and Team Penske’s sports car racing return. Castroneves won his most recent Petit Le Mans start in 2008, in the LMP2 class. Both Tequila Patron ESM Nissan Onroak DPis were second and third, Pipo Derani in the No. 22 car ahead of Brendon Hartley in the No. 2 car. The No. 13 Rebellion Racing Oreca was fourth ahead of a pair of Ligier JS P217s, then the first Cadillac DPi-V.R, Ricky Taylor in seventh in the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac at 0.807 of a second behind.
- Castroneves on track conditions today: “It cooled down quite a bit. Our car was really good in both directions. What I like most was, when you pushed it – the car accepted it. I was a little concerned coming from a lighter more crispy car in IndyCar. This is different. But I’m able to manage now.”
- GTLM qualifying was, unsurprisingly, quite close. All nine cars in class were covered by just 0.766 of a second but the top five itself, covering four manufacturers, were spread by less than one tenth of a second – just 0.071 covered Vilander (1:17.660) to Bill Auberlen (1:17.731).
- Cressoni’s pole is the first for Scuderia Corsa this year and the second for Ferrari, the first since Alessandro Pier Guidi did for Spirit of Race in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January. This also ends a run of four straight GTD poles for the Lamborghini Huracán GT3.
- French’s pole is his and the Performance Tech team’s seventh in eight races this year. The only pole they lost was to Gustavo Yacaman at Sebring, for BAR1 Motorsports. The gap between first and second in PC was greater than the gap from first to ninth in GTLM (1.175 vs. 0.766) and first to 13th in GTD (1.175 vs. 0.987).
- In fourth practice, Team Penske again led the timesheets, this time at a 1:11.968 for the No. 6 Oreca 07 Gibson (Practice 4).
CONTINENTAL TIRE SEASON FINALE
- The two-hour Fox Factory 120 ended under yellow following a pair of incidents inside the final seven minutes, 15 seconds of the race. An ST class BMW had an apparent brake issue at Turn 6 and was beached in the gravel, the No. 84 Bimmerworld car driven by Tyler Cooke. When the race was meant to restart, an accordion effect stack-up occurred in ST, and Tom Long got into the back of Freedom Autosport teammate Andrew Carbonell, who then bumped into another BMW before the race could restart.
- Race winners in GS and ST were the No. 69 MIA McLaren 570S GT4 of Jesse Lazare and Chris Green (GS) and the No. 44 CRG-I Do Borrow Nissan Altima of Owen Trinkler and Sarah Cattaneo (ST) (Results).
- Champions in GS and ST both drive Porsches. Dillon Machavern and Dylan Murcott bring home the GS title for the RS1 team, having driven their No. 28 Porsche Cayman GT4 MR. The team won last year’s ST class title with Spencer Pumpelly and Nick Galante in a Porsche Cayman. Meanwhile another Porsche Cayman in the hands of Eric Foss, the No. 56 Murillo Racing Porsche, won the ST title. Foss, like in 2014, was meant to share the crown with regular co-driver Jeff Mosing, but a back injury has sidelined Mosing the last three races. Foss also won the 2014 ST title in a similar manner, with Mosing having missed a round due to injury. Justin Piscitell has filled in for Mosing in his absence.
- Kenton Koch (LMP3) and Kyle Masson (MPC) doubled up in the second of two IMSA Prototype Challenge races this morning (Results).
- Alas, it’s Colin Thompson that wins the LMP3 title for Kelly-Moss Road and Race in a Norma M30 by eight points over Koch. Koch missed the season-opening doubleheader in Sebring and had a 7-2 win edge. Good things may be on the horizon for both, though. Masson easily secured the MPC title with wins in all but two races in class this year.
- Trenton Estep took the final Porsche GT3 Cup win of the weekend and the year, ahead of series champion Jake Eidson (Results). Corey Fergus finished second in the points ahead of Estep.
- IMSA held an hour-long briefing at Road Atlanta this morning to roll through a number of announcements in a row, which are as follows:
- The No. 84 D3+Transformers Racing Ligier JS P217 Gibson is, in fact, a thing for 2018. Dawson Racing principals Ian Dawson and Simon Dawson, along with the director of marketing for Hasbro, Mike Fletcher, unveiled the team’s show car (a Ligier JS P3) and confirmed its chassis selection. Robbie Kerr was also present, announced as the team’s first driver.
- Following that announcement, IMSA announced a strategic alliance with the award-winning, world-renowned Forza franchise developed by Turn 10 Studios and published by Microsoft Studios. IMSA President Scott Atherton was joined by Michael McClary, partner development, Microsoft, for this press conference. Forza and IMSA, with its predecessor the American Le Mans Series, enjoy a long-term relationship dating to the first Forza in 2005.
- Next up on the docket was the announcement of Motul as the new “Official Motor Oil” of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, and the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge. Motul will also have entitlement rights for the Motul Pole Award of the Prototype and GT Daytona classes. Motul’s Guillaume Palleret (Motul USA president) and Romain Grabowski (Motul external communications manager) joined Atherton here, with the pair noting Motul’s desire to expand into the U.S. market following a long legacy in sports car racing dating to the company’s first Le Mans bow in 1954.
- Michelin was next up with its first long-form press conference since confirmation it would be the official tire partner of IMSA starting in 2019. Chris Baker, Michelin director of motorsport and Andrew Meurer, vice president, marketing for Michelin North America, joined Atherton to extol both an extensive testing program and activation plans to go along with its increased role in the championship.
- There was more to come with another announcement, this time the inaugural Michelin IMSA SportsCar Encore at Sebring International Raceway from Nov. 9-11, 2018. This will be a four-hour race including LMP3, GT3, GT4 and TCR global specification race cars and Pro-Am driver lineups (no Platinum-rated drivers) though and will be the first full race under the Michelin-only umbrella as a preview into 2019. Sebring president/GM Wayne Estes joined Baker, Meurer and Atherton here.
- Atherton then made his own remarks about the series’ direction and growth trends. The next major item of note for IMSA to determine is its TV package beyond 2018, with current partner FOX Sports confirmed through the end of next season.
- At 1:30 p.m. ET, Team Penske president Tim Cindric joined new Acura sports car driver Helio Castroneves and Honda Performance Development president Art St. Cyr for Castroneves’ first formal at-track press conference since his switch. Cindric extrapolated on the testing plans, the humor that’s followed Castroneves, Juan Pablo Montoya and Simon Pagenaud all doing driver changes, and the timeline for figuring out the remainder of the driver lineup – the hope is to have all six drivers (three each for the two Acura ARX-05s) sorted in the next two to three weeks. Castroneves said he’ll enter into the right mindset as a sports car driver in terms of compromise and understanding endurance racing, as he transitions out of IndyCar. The team will feature a number of IndyCar crossovers including engineers Jonathan Diuguid and Raul Prados, and will be known officially as Acura Team Penske.
- Given these interviews, nuggets and announcements, there’s quite a bit more to follow over the coming days from all these availabilities.
- Among the notables on the ground this weekend: a number of individuals who spent a majority of the year in the Pirelli World Challenge paddock, a good number of drivers without rides this weekend but searching for one in 2018 (among others, Matthew Brabham, Cameron Lawrence, Jade Buford and Mike Skeen), and some high-profile members that contributed to Audi’s LMP1 success throughout its tenure (engineers Leena Gade and Justin Taylor and PR aces Martyn Pass and Eva-Maria Veith). Joest Racing, which ran Audi’s program, now operates the Mazda Team Joest program in 2018, where Taylor will be an engineer. Gade joined IMSA Radio coverage on Radio Show Limited’s RS2 channel throughout the day, adding her unparalleled insight and expertise from the timing stand to the broadcast booth.