Petit Le Mans quick post-race notes

Photo courtesy of IMSA
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BRASELTON, Ga. – With 39 cars in the 2017 Motul Petit Le Mans, the season finale of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, invariably there are a lot of things to cover and pay attention to.

While a number of breakouts will follow in the coming days, here’s some quick post-race notes:

INDYCAR DRIVER RESULTS

  • Team Penske was best of the bunch with its trio of Juan Pablo Montoya, Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud finishing third overall and in Prototype in its No. 6 Oreca 07 Gibson, after starting on pole.
  • The Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT drivers, Scott Dixon and Sebastien Bourdais, ended only seventh and eighth in the GT Le Mans class with the No. 66 and 67 cars.
  • Similar struggles hit Ryan Hunter-Reay early on, his No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R retiring early with engine issues.
  • NBCSN IndyCar analyst Townsend Bell finished sixth in GT Daytona in the No. 23 Alex Job Racing Audi R8 LMS he shared with Bill Sweedler and Frankie Montecalvo.

PROTOTYPE 

  • The win for Scott Sharp, Ryan Dalziel and Brendon Hartley ensures both Tequila Patron ESM Nissan Onroak DPis have won this season, and extends the run of different winners in Prototype to six different cars in the last six races. After the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi-V.R won the first five races in a row, five other cars followed with the Nos. 5 and 31 Cadillacs, the No. 22 Nissan and the No. 90 VISIT FLORIDA Racing Ligier JS P217 Gibson winning the last four races prior to the No. 2 Nissan breaking through tonight. All told in the first year of combination DPi and LMP2 racing with new cars, DPis ended with a 9-1 win advantage.
  • Brendon Hartley told NBC Sports he’s “not 100 percent sure what will happen next year” but did highly hint at driving more regularly in the U.S. next season. The New Zealander has been strongly linked to Chip Ganassi Racing’s IndyCar team and like Ricky Taylor’s impending move to Team Penske’s sports car program, it’s among the “it isn’t official even though it basically feels like it” type of topics in the paddock.
  • Dane Cameron told NBC Sports after the race that “he didn’t have anything to say, but would let the penalties speak for itself” about Filipe Albuquerque’s move following a restart to shift Cameron down to the grass.  Cameron was nonetheless happy to have ended his third season with Eric Curran with Whelen Engineering and Action Express Racing second in points before his departure to Team Penske next season.
  • Team Penske rallied to third after its first hour incident. Helio Castroneves told NBC Sports post-race, “It was impressive. I never stay ‘behind the scenes.’ This is the first time watching Tim Cindric, Jonathan Diuguid doing strategy. I knew before, but now I was seeing it from the stand. Myself, Juan Pablo and Simon worked well together. It was a great learning curve and it’ll create a great foundation for 2018.” Teammate Simon Pagenaud added, “It was great. It was awesome to get the kinks out. These are the best conditions to get the program going. That’s what we did. We’re on the podium. There’s a long road ahead of us.”
  • The Nos. 22 and 5 cars, which were penalized in the final 15 minutes, fell to fourth and fifth place.
  • The No. 85 JDC-Miller Motorsports Oreca 07 Gibson had a roller coaster day but still ended sixth in class and overall, ensuring John Church’s team had finished between second and sixth in all but one of the 10 races in its step up to Prototype.

GT LE MANS

  • The third win for Bill Auberlen and Alexander Sims, joined by third driver Kuno Wittmer, gave the No. 25 BMW Team RLL BMW M6 GTLM its third win of the season, which tied the champions Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia, in their No. 3 Corvette C7.R for most this season. Auberlen said watching Sims perform his strategic defense against Garcia in the final stages of the race was his latest great drive in his first full season in North America.
  • Garcia and Magnussen’s runner-up finish ensured Chevrolet won its second straight Manufacturer’s Championship in GTLM (and 12th in GT classes dating to ALMS era). Garcia wanted to know where the sister No. 4 Corvette C7.R was late in the race so he could push against Sims if he needed to. Jim Campbell, vice president, Performance Vehicles and Motorsports of Chevrolet, told NBC Sports post-race of the accomplishment: “This is really a great night. Corvette was not the fastest all year long. I’m so proud of the entire team, the engineers for calling great strategy, the crews amazing stops, and drivers up on wheel making smart decisions. It mattered for the team and manufacturer’s championships.”
  • Each of the top seven cars in class finished on the lead lap, the only exceptions being the No. 67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT which sustained late-race contact with the aforementioned No. 22 Nissan and the No. 24 BMW, which lost 10 laps early with an power steering issue.

GT DAYTONA

  • It was a dream day for both Land Motorsport and its American star driver, Connor De Phillippi, with the win in class. The team won two other international races on the same day (DMV and VLN competition earlier in the day at Hockenheim and the Nürburgring) and for De Phillippi, it’s his first win in the U.S. since the ‘Night Before the 500’ Star Mazda race at Lucas Oil Raceway (formerly Indianapolis Raceway Park) in May 2012. After leaving the Rolex 24 at Daytona with a “sour taste in their mouths,” they came on strong for this race. He also won his first Star Mazda race at Road Atlanta in 2010.
  • With the No. 28 Alegra Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R second to the No. 29 Land Audi R8 LMS, it was a reversal of the order at Daytona, when the two were switched. The No. 73 Park Place Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R continued its run of form at Petit Le Mans with third, highlighted by a strong extra effort from third driver Matt McMurry alongside the full-season pair of Joerg Bergmeister and Patrick Lindsey.
  • Attrition hit the GTD class hard with only nine of the 17 cars that entered making it to the checkered flag.

PROTOTYPE CHALLENGE

  • None of Garett Grist, John Falb nor Tomy Drissi had driven more than a handful of PC races this year but together kept it clean and quick to deliver Brian Alder’s BAR1 Motorsports its first win in four years, since the 2013 season finale and ALMS series finale at the same track.
  • BAR1 had a 1-2 with the No. 26 car ahead of the full-season pair of Buddy Rice and Don Yount, joined by Grist’s fellow Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires alumnus Danny Burkett in his third PC start of the year.
  • The Performance Tech Motorsports perfection quest fell short, after contact from the No. 13 Rebellion Racing Oreca knocked Kyle Masson off the road. The car recovered after losing laps but had a late spin with James French making a very rare unforced error.

More will follow from IMSA’s season finale and all the interviews conducted in the coming days.

Meyer Shank Racing wins Petit Le Mans to take final DPi championship in dramatic finale

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Meyer Shank Racing outdueled Wayne Taylor Racing to win the Petit Le Mans and clinch the championship in a thrilling final race for the DPi division.

Tom Blomqvist, who started from the pole position, drove the No. 60 Acura ARX-05 to a 4.369-second victory over Pipo Derani in the No. 31 Action Express Cadillac.

“That was incredible,” Blomqvist told NBC Sports’ Matt Yocum. “I’ve never dug so deep in my life. The adrenaline. I did that for the guys. I was so motivated to win this thing this weekend. But I’ve got to thank everyone on the whole team.”

With co-drivers Oliver Jarvis and Helio Castroneves, Blomqvist helped MSR bookend its season-opening victory in the Rolex 24 at Daytona by winning Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale at Michelin Road Atlanta.

In between those two victories, the No. 60 earned five runner-up finishes to stay in the thick of the championship hunt and trail WTR’s No. 10 Acura by 14 points entering Saturday’s race.

WTR’s Filipe Albuquerque had a lead of more than 10 seconds over Blomqvist with less than 50 minutes remaining in the 10-hour race.

But a Turn 1 crash between the Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillacs brought out a yellow that sent both Acuras into the pits from the top two positions.

Though he entered in second, Blomqvist barely beat Albuquerque out of the pits, and he held the lead for the final 45 minutes.

Blomqvist said he gained the lead because of a shorter fuel fill after he had worked on being efficient in the second-to-last stint.

“The team asked a big job of me with the fuel; I had a big fuel number to hit,” Blomqvist said. “We knew that was probably our only chance. The yellow came at the right time and obviously we had a bit less fuel to fill up, so I was able to jump him and then it was just a matter of going gung-ho and not leaving anything on the line. And obviously, the opposition had to try too hard to make it work. I’m so thankful.”

Albuquerque closed within a few car lengths of Blomqvist with 14 minutes remaining, but he damaged his suspension because of contact with a GT car in Turn 1.

It’s the first prototype championship for Meyer Shank Racing, which also won the 2021 Indy 500 with Castroneves.

“We’ve had in the last four years, three championships for Acura, the Indy 500 win and the Rolex 24, it doesn’t get any better,” team co-owner Mike Shank told NBC Sports’ Kevin Lee.

It’s the third consecutive runner-up finish in the points standings for Wayne Taylor Racing, which won the first Daytona Prototype international championship in 2017. The premier category will be rebranded as the Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class with the LMDh cars that will establish a bridge to racing in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Kamui Kobayashi finished third in the No. 48 Cadillac of Action Express that also includes Jimmie Johnson and Mike Rockenfeller.

The podium showing marked Johnson’s last scheduled race in IMSA’s top prototype division. The seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion has raced in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac lineup as the Action Express entry has run the Endurance Cup races.

Johnson said a lack of inventory will preclude him having a 2023 ride in the top category. But he still is hopeful of racing the Garage 56 Next Gen Camaro in next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans and possibly running in a lower class for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“I’d love to be at Le Mans next year,” Johnson told NBC Sports’ Dillon Welch after his final stint Saturday. “I’d love to be at the Rolex 24. The series is going through a shake-up with the reconfiguration of the rules and classes, so I don’t have anything locked down yet, but I’m so thankful for this experience with Action. The support Ally has given us, Mr. Hendrick, Chad Knaus, all of Hendrick Motorsports. It’s been a fun two years, and I certainly hope I’m on the grid again next year.”