IMSA PREVIEW: Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix

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Round 5 of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship sees the series share the weekend once again with the Verizon IndyCar Series, as both tackle the 2.35-mile Raceway on Belle Isle this weekend.

Only the Prototype and GT Daytona classes will be at Belle Isle this weekend – the GT Le Mans class is off to allow teams contesting the 24 Hours of Le Mans (e.g. Corvette Racing, Ford Chip Ganassi Racing, Porsche GT Team, and BMW) time to prepare, with Le Mans testing beginning on Sunday.

At 1 hour and 40 minutes, Detroit is the same length as the BUBBA Burger Sports Car Grand Prix at Long Beach, which ties it for the shortest race on the calendar.

But, as a street circuit, it doesn’t mean things will be any easier.

Previews for Prototype and GT Daytona are below.


The No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac continues to lead the Prototype championship, with Filipe Albuquerque and Joao Barbosa showing the way. Photo courtesy of IMSA.
  • Action Express continues to sit 1-2 in the championship standings, with Filipe Albuquerque and Joao Barbosa atop the standings in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R. Teammates Eric Curran and Felipe Nasr sit 10 points behind them, though only the No. 5 has found its way to Victory Lane this year. But, Nasr and Curran have been on the podium twice already in 2018 (at the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring), and a victory could easily be in the cards this weekend. Regardless, Action Express remains the king of the Prototype class at the moment.
  • Belle Isle marks the one-year anniversary of Wayne Taylor Racing’s last win. Jordan Taylor and Renger Van Der Zande have the No. 10 Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi third in the championship at the moment, 15 points behind the No. 5 Action Express entry. But, a much-needed victory will be required if they are to vault themselves into full championship contention.
  • Acura Team Penske is the most recent winner in the Prototype class, with the team going 1-2 in the Acura Sports Car Challenge at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (Helio Castroneves and Ricky Taylor took those honors in the No. 6 ARX-05, with Juan Pablo Montoya and Dane Cameron coming home second in the No. 7). They sit fourth and sixth in the championship respectively, but either could go on a hot streak as the summer begins and make a title run. Expect the Acura/Penske combo to only get stronger.
  • Mazda Team Joest had their best weekend yet at Mid-Ohio, with Oliver Jarvis and Tristan Nunez bringing the No. 77 RT-24P home in third. Like the Acura/Penske combo, the Mazda/Joest combo seems to get stronger with every race, and a victory could be in the cards soon. Of note: Harry Tincknell returns as co-driver of the No. 55, alongside Jonnathan Bommarito, after missing Mid-Ohio while competing at the Six Hours of Spa with Ford Chip Ganassi Racing.
  • Outside of a Sebring triumph (for Johannes van Overbeek and Pipo Derani, alongside Nicolas Lapierre) and a second-place at Long Beach (for Scott Sharp and Ryan Dalziel), Tequila Patron ESM has had a rough go of it in 2018. Despite plenty of speed, reliability and driver errors have resulted in four finishes of 12th or worse – two each for both cars. Still, with speed aplenty, the potential is there for them to right the ship, if they can keep themselves clean.
  • The Spirit of Daytona Racing Cadillac returns after missing Long Beach and Mid-Ohio as the team regrouped followed Tristan Vautier’s violent crash at Sebring. Vautier and co-driver Matt McMurry will be keen to make a positive impression on their return.
  • Non-DPi teams AFS/PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports, CORE Autosport, and JDC-Miller Motorsports will look for their first wins of 2018. Though the DPi teams have shown more pace, it was at this point last year that the WEC-spec LMP2 platforms, especially JDC-Miller’s, started to shine. Don’t be too surprised if you see one of these entrants near the front.

GT Daytona (GTD)

  • Paul Miller Racing continues to lead the GTD class, on the strength of three podiums and landmark win at Sebring with Bryan Sellers, Madison Snow, and Corey Lewis in the No. 48 Lamborghini Huracan GT3. Snow and Sellers lead the championship for the Paul Miller squad. This team already has one major triumph in 2018 – the aforementioned Sebring win – and they’re on pace for a possible GTD title.
  • Per SportsCar365, a last-minute entry for Meyer Shank Racing sees the No. 86 Acura NSX GT3 of Katherine Legge and Mario Farnbacher, standing in for Alvaro Parente, who is competing in the Blancpain GT Series Endurance Cup this weekend, on the grid. At second in the GTD standings, Legge is very much in title contention, at only eight points behind the Paul Miller Racing No. 48. If they can keep this season going, this is a team to watch in the title picture. They could easily end up in Victory Lane this weekend.
  • Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports sits third with Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen. They have a podium already – at Sebring – but at 15 points down to the No. 48 Lambourghini, they’ll need a victory to start making up some ground.
  • Defending GTD champs Scuderia Corsa have stumbled out of the gates somewhat. A second-place at Sebring is their best result, but finishes of 10th (Daytona) and eighth (Mid-Ohio) leave Cooper MacNeil and Alessandro Balzan 19 points back in fourth, something they’ll look to improve upon in Detroit. (Note: Also per SportsCar365, Jeff Segal subs for Balzan this weekend, with Balzan having undergone a small medical procedure that will require a little time to heal).
  • Potential powerhouse Patrick Long, Christina Nielsen, and the Wright Motorsports No. 58  Porsche 911 GT3 team have also stumbled, with a sixth at Sebring their high-water mark so far. The team has again entered a second car – Michael Schein and Wolf Henzler will pilot the No. 16 Porsche – and the second entry should help them gather yet more setup data. But both entries will need clean results, with Long and Nielsen particularly looking to rebound.
  • 3GT Racing will look to continue their winning ways after Dominik Baumann and Kyle Marcelli claimed victory at Mid-Ohio in the No. 14 Lexus RC F GT3. They and teammates Jack Hawksworth and David Heinemeier Hansson (in the No. 15) will look to go back-to-back for Lexus Racing USA.

Friday’s practice sessions take place at 8:15 a.m. and 1:05 p.m., with qualifying at 5:20 p.m. that evening. Saturday’s race rolls off at 12:40 p.m.


Toyota No. 8 car wins the 24 Hours of Le Mans for third consecutive year

24 Hours of Le Mans

LE MANS, France — Toyota Gazoo’s No. 8 car comfortably won the 24 Hours of Le Mans by five laps Sunday to secure a third straight victory in the prestigious endurance race.

It was also a third consecutive win for Swiss driver Sebastien Buemi and Japan’s Kazuki Nakajima driving. Brendon Hartley was the other driver, having replaced two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso.

Buemi and Hartley sat on the side of the car as Nakajima drove toward the podium. Hartley won for a second time after tasting success with the Porsche LMP Team in 2017 before an unhappy season in Formula One.

The Swiss team’s Rebellion No. 1 featured American driver Gustavo Menezes and Brazilian Bruno Senna – the nephew of late F1 great Ayrton Senna.

It finished one lap ahead of Toyota Gazoo’s No. 7, with Rebellion’s No. 3 finishing in fourth place.

For much of the race it looked like Toyota’s No. 7 would win after leading comfortably from pole position. But late into the night the car encountered an engine problem and the 30-minute stop in the stands proved costly.

The race was first held in 1923. A total of 252,500 spectators attended in 2019, but there were none this year when the race started three months late because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

“We miss the fans,” New Zealander Hartley said. “I look forward to seeing all the fans again.”

In other divisions:

United Autosports won the LMP2 division with the entry of Filipe Albuquerque, Paul Di Resta and Phil Hanson.

–In LMGTE Pro, the victory was claimed by Aston Martin Vantage AMR of Maxime Martin, Alex Lynn and Harry Tincknell (who drives for Mazda in the DPi division of IMSA).

–TF Sport won the LMGTE Am class.

The Toyota No. 7 took pole after former F1 driver Kamui Kobayashi narrowly edged out the Rebellion No. 1 team in qualifying.

In damp and humid conditions Mike Conway got away cleanly from the start, while Senna held off Buemi.

After nearly seven hours, Toyota’s No. 8 fell back after a 10-minute stop in the stands to fix a brake-cooling problem on Kazuki Nakajima’s car. Rebellion’s No. 1, driven by Frenchman Norman Nato, took advantage to move into second place behind Toyota’s No. 7.

Then came the decisive moment at 2:40 a.m. as the No. 7 – also featuring Argentine Jose Maria Lopez – encountered a turbo problem. When the car came back out it was back in fourth.

“We had a few problems early in the race,” Nakajima said. “Later they had a bigger issue than us.”

Rebellion’s No. 1 encountered a problem on the hood at around 9 a.m. and the change took six minutes, allowing the Rebellion No. 3 (Nathanael Berthon-Louis Deletraz-Romain Dumas) to close the gap.

It was becoming a tight battle between the two Rebellion cars behind Toyota’s No. 8.

At 12 p.m. Rebellion No. 3 with Dumas behind the wheel was only one second ahead of No. 1 driven by Menezes. Then both cars came in for a driver change with Deletraz swapping for Dumas on a lengthy stop, and Nato for Menezes as Rebellion No. 1 suddenly moved ahead of its team rival.

Dumas, a winner in 2016 with Porsche, appeared unhappy at the strategy decision to bring his car in first and the length of the stop. There were tense explanations in the team garage.

Colombian Tatiana Calderon, an F1 test driver with Alfa Romeo, was in the Richard Mille Racing Team in the LMP2 category. She was joined by German Sophia Florsch – an F3 driver – and Dutchwoman Beitske Visser. They placed ninth out of 24 in their category.