IMSA titles set to be decided at Petit Le Mans

Titles to be decided at Road Atlanta. Photo: Getty Images

All championships are on the line ahead of the 2015 TUDOR United SportsCar Championship season finale at Road Atlanta this weekend, for Petit Le Mans Powered by Mazda.

IMSA has outlined what’s at stake for both the full season and Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup championships. The points system breakdown is linked here. Those two releases are posted below:

All four TUDOR United SportsCar Championship class titles are up for grabs entering the 2015 season-ending Petit Le Mans powered by Mazda at Road Atlanta on Saturday, Oct. 3.

The 10-hour endurance classic will decide the driver, team and manufacturer championships in the Prototype (P), Prototype Challenge (PC), GT Le Mans (GTLM) and GT Daytona (GTD) classes.

Michael Valiante and Richard Westbrook, drivers of the No. 90 Corvette DP, enter the finale leading both Action Express Racing driver pairings by six points, 279-273, in the Prototype championship race.

Defending champions Christian Fittipaldi and Joao Barbosa share the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Corvette DP, while Dane Cameron and Eric Curran co-drive the No. 31 Whelen Engineering/Team Fox Corvette DP, both fielded by Action Express Racing. Also in the running are Scott Pruett and Joey Hand, who won the most recent race at Circuit of The Americas in the No. 01 Ford EcoBoost/Riley, with 268 points.

“Both 2013 and 2014 were difficult years for us, but we’ve come back stronger this year,” said Westbrook, who joined Valiante in winning two races this season. “The fact that only six points are separating the three Coyotes [Corvette DP chassis] shows how even it is. I’m sure the championship is going to go down to the last hour of Petit Le Mans, which – from a fan perspective – is incredible. The championship would be an incredible achievement, but we haven’t won it yet.”

Bill Auberlen and Dirk Werner won in the GTLM class at Circuit of The Americas to close to within three points of Porsche North America driver Patrick Pilet, 279-276. Pilet joins 2015 24 Hour of Le Mans overall winner Nick Tandy in the No. 911 Porsche 911 RSR, with Auberlen and Werner in the No. 25 BMW Team RLL IHG Rewards Club BMW Z4 GTLM. Corvette Racing’s Antonio Garcia and Jan Magnussen, drivers of the No. 3 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R, are 10 points back with 269, while No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari F458 Italia drivers Giancarlo Fisichella and Pierre Kaffer are 13 points back with 266.

The closest battle is in GTD. TRG-AMR’s Christina Nielsen – on the cusp of becoming the first female driver to win a championship in major international sports car competition – leads Christopher Haase and Dion von Moltke by only one point, 256-255. Nielsen co-drives the No. 007 Royal Purple/Orion Energy/LaSalle Solutions/PassTime USA Aston Martin Vantage with Kuno Wittmer, while Haase and von Moltke are in the No. 48 Castrol EDGE Audi R8 LMS for Paul Miller Racing.

Scuderia Corsa drivers Bill Sweedler and Townsend Bell, who co-drive the No. 63 Robert Graham/Royal Purple Ferrari 458 Italia, are only four points out of the lead with 252 points. Others in contention include Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen in the No. 33 Dodge Viper SRT GT3-R with 245 points; Mario Farnbacher and Ian James in the No. 23 Team Seattle/Heart of Racing Porsche 911 GT America with 242; and Leh Keen and Cooper McNeil in the No. 22 Alex Job Racing WeatherTech Porsche 911 GT America with 238.

CORE autosport drivers Jon Bennett and Colin Braun hold a 12-point lead in their bid to defend their 2014 PC title, with a total of 289 points in the No. 54 Flex-Box/Composite Resources ORECA FLM09. Should they stumble, two teams are separated by two points in the battle for second. Mike Guasch and Tom Kimber-Smith have 277 points in the No. 52 Cuttwood/Spyder ORECA from PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports, while RSR Racing co-drivers Chris Cumming and Bruno Junqueira have 275 points in the No. 11 AutoMaxUSA ORECA.

The 18th annual Petit Le Mans powered by Mazda, Round 12 of the 2015 TUDOR Championship and Round 4 of the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup, will be broadcast live. Coverage begins on FOX Sports 2 at 11 a.m. ET, and will alternate throughout the day with, including the finish and post-race coverage on FOX Sports 2 beginning at 8:30 p.m. ET.

There also will be a three-hour highlight telecast airing at 1:30 p.m. ET on FS1 on Sunday, Oct. 4.

Multiple championships will be decided in next weekend’s Petit Le Mans powered by Mazda at Road Atlanta. In addition to the four class titles in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup also wraps up its four-race competition in each category.

Adding spice to the mix is that each of the four classes – Prototype (P), Prototype Challenge (PC), GT Le Mans (GTLM) and GT Daytona (GTD) – has different leaders in both the TUDOR Championship and Patrón Endurance Cup, opening the possibility of different driver pairings achieving the coveted top step on the podium following the 10-hour sports car classic.

Each of the four classes are still to be determined in the Patrón Endurance Cup, which encompasses 52 hours of racing including the Rolex 24 At Daytona, Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida and Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen.

In the Prototype competition, defending Patrón Endurance Cup champs Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi of the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Corvette DP hold a seven-point lead over Chip Ganassi Racing drivers Joey Hand and Scott Pruett, 35-28.

“We’ll put a little emphasis on winning the Patrón Endurance Cup,” Fittipaldi said. “We’re so close, but if we don’t pay attention we can lose it. Hopefully we’ve put a wrap on the Patrón Endurance Cup at the four-hour mark, which is a possibility. After that we can control our own destiny and do everything we can to win the TUDOR Championship.”

There is a six-way tie for the number three spot in the Prototype standings, among Max Angelelli, Sebastien Bourdais, Jordan and Ricky Taylor, Michael Valiante and Richard Westbrook, all with 27 points. drivers Valiante and Westbrook currently lead the TUDOR Championship points.

The battle for the top spot in GTLM has gotten tighter as Corvette Racing’s No. 3 Chevrolet Corvette C7.R of Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia’s lead has shrunk to four points over the team’s No. 4 Corvette C7.R of Tommy Milner and Oliver Gavin, 33-29.

“While our main goal is the drivers’ championship, the Patrón Cup is also very important,” Garcia said. “We will try to achieve every championship we have on the line. Petit Le Mans is going to be back to endurance racing, and that’s where we’ve had success this year. We’ll see how our pace compares to the competition, and we will give it everything we have.”

Team Falken Tire’s collective eight points from the Sahlen’s Six Hours — five of which came from their victory in the race — has bumped the team and drivers Bryan Sellers and Wolf Henzler up to third in the GTLM standings with 27 points. The No. 911 Porsche North America team of Nick Tandy and Patrick Pilet is fourth with 26 points.

In GTD, the Daytona and Watkins Glen-winning No. 93 Riley Motorsports Dodge Viper SRT GT3-R of Al Carter and Cameron Lawrence hold a seven-point advantage in GTD over the No. 63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 458 Italia of Townsend Bell and Bill Sweedler, 37-30.

“This Petit Le Mans is more interesting for us than in any previous Petit,” said Viper owner Ben Keating, who drove in the winning car in the Rolex 24 in addition to winning two races in the No. 33 Dodge Viper SRT GT3-R. “It’s been obvious that our strategy this year is score points at the right times. It’s made it a lot of fun. We’re going into the last race with the lead, but not a lock. Ferrari is bringing a second car to make it more interesting. I love the longer races – the longer the better for me – and I’m excited to be going to Road Atlanta, I love the track.”

In Prototype Challenge, the No. 52 PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports Cuttwood/Spyder ORECA FLM09 team of Mike Guasch, Tom Kimber-Smith and Andrew Palmer holds a three-point advantage over the defending champion No. 54 CORE autosport Flex Box/Composite Resources team with Jon Bennett, Colin Braun and James Gue, 36-33.

“We’re going to go in prepared,” Guasch said. “I think we’re going to have to be cautious. We need to finish the race. We need to be as fast as we can without taking big chances. Two years ago, we got taken out at Petit Le Mans. Stuff happens. We’ll run the race, and try to get points wherever they land.”

Points in the Patrón Endurance Cup are awarded at specific intervals throughout each race, with the leader at the end of each segment scoring five points, four points for second, three points for third, and fourth place on back receiving two points. Points will be scored at four hours, eight hours and 10 hours at Petit Le Mans, for a maximum of 15 points.

Patrón Endurance Cup round-winning drivers at each event receive a limited edition bottle of Gran Patrón Platinum, numbered and signed by Francisco Alcaraz, the creator of the Gran Patrón Platinum recipe and Tequila Patrón’s Master Distiller and Blender. Round-winning team owners win specially designed PRS Guitars.

Season-ending Patrón Endurance Cup awards will be presented during the TUDOR Night of Champions at the Georgia Aquarium in downtown Atlanta on Monday evening, Oct. 5.

SuperMotocross: Ken Roczen urgently needed change

Roczen change
Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

Change can be frightening, but it is often exhilarating and Ken Roczen, a rider in his ninth season on a 450 bike, it was urgently needed.

Roczen ended the 2022 Supercross season with his worst performance in five years. After finishing outside of the top five in seven of his last eight rounds in the stadium series, well down the points’ standings in ninth, he decided to put that season on hold.

How it ended was in stark contrast to how it began. Roczen’s 2022 season got off to the best possible start. He won the Supercross opener at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California by more than seven seconds over the 2021 champion Cooper Webb.

That would be his last podium and he scored only one more top-five in the Glendale, Arizona Triple Crown.

MORE: Ken Roczen sweeps top five in Anaheim 2 Triple Crown

Before 2022, Roczen was a regular challenger for the championship despite being plagued by major accidents that required surgery in 2017 and 2018. On his return, he was diagnosed with the Epstein-Barr virus, which presents with symptoms of heavy fatigue, muscle weakness and loss of appetite and last year he tested positive for COVID-19.

Against those odds, he finished second in the outdoor season in 2019 and third in 2020. In the Supercross series, he finished third in 2020 and second in 2021.

But the abbreviated season of 2022 signaled a need for change for Roczen.

“I needed the change urgently,” Roczen said in last week’s post-race press conference at Angel Stadium. “I did a pretty big change in general.”

Those comments came three races into the 2023 with him sitting among the top three finishers for the first time in 10 Supercross rounds. It was the 57th podium of his career, only six behind 10th-place Ryan Villopoto. It was also the first for Suzuki since 2019 when Chad Reed gave them one in Detroit 63 rounds ago.

Taking time off at the end of the Supercross season had the needed effect. He rejoined SuperMotocross in the outdoor season and immediately stood on the podium at Fox Raceway in Pala, California. Two rounds later, he won at Thunder Valley in Lakewood, Colorado. The relief was short lived and he would not stand on the podium again until this year.

Roczen Motocross Round 3
Ken Roczen won Round 3 of the outdoor season in 2022 at Thunder Valley after finished second in Moto 1 and first in Moto 2. Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

Winds of Change

Roczen’s offseason was dramatic. Citing differences over his announcement to compete in the World Supercross Championship, he split with Honda HRC and declared himself a free agent. It wasn’t a difficult decision; Roczen was signed only for the Supercross season.

That change had the desired effect. Roczen won the WSX championship in their two-race, pilot season. More importantly, he proved to himself that he could compete for wins.

Late in the offseason, Roczen announced he would also change manufacturers with a move to HEP Progressive Ecstar Suzuki. He won the 2016 Pro Motocross title for Suzuki with nine wins in 12 Nationals and finished no worse than second. He easily outran the competition with an advantage of 86 points over second-place Eli Tomac.

“I just think change overall made it happen – and these overseas races – it’s really just a snowball,” Roczen said. “You start somewhere and you feel like something works out and I got better and had more fun doing it. Working with the team as well and working on the motorcycle to get better and actually see it paying off. It’s just, it’s just a big boost in general.”

The return to Suzuki at this stage of his career, after nearly a decade of competing on 450 motorcycles, recharged Roczen. He is one of three riders, (along with Cooper Webb and his former Honda teammate Chase Sexton), with a sweep of the top five in the first three rounds of the 2023 Supercross season.

But last week’s podium really drove home how strong he’s been.

“I think we’re all trying to take it all in,” Roczen said. “I wouldn’t say it came out of nowhere really, but before the season starts you think about – or I thought of how my whole last season went – and it’s been a long time since I’ve been on the podium.”

Roczen’s most recent podium prior to Anaheim 2 came at Budds Creek Motocross Park in Mechanicsville, Maryland last August in Round 10 of the outdoor season. His last podium in Supercross was the 2022 season opener that raised expectations so high.

Supercross Round 1 results
Ken Roczen raised expectations with his season opening win at Anaheim but did not stand on the box again in the Supercross series. Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

The change Roczen needed was not just a different team and bike. More importantly, he needed the freedom to set his own schedule and control his training schedule.

“It’s long days, but I’m really into it at the moment,” Roczen said. “Overall, I felt [that] throughout this off season and now my health has been really well, really good, so that helps. It’s needed to get to the top. I’m pretty confident that we’re, we’re doing the right thing – that I’m doing the right thing.

“I’m doing all my training on my own and I’m planning out my entire week. And I feel like I have a really good system going right now with recovery and putting in some hard days. Right now, I don’t really have anybody telling me what to do. I’m the best judge of that.

“It’s really hard to talk about how much work we’ve put in, but we’ve been doing some big changes and riding a lot throughout the week, some really, really late days. And they’re paying off right now; we’re heading in the right direction. We’re all pulling on the same string, and that helps me out big time.”