Close Finish At Petit Le Mans

Race winning Cadillac. [Photo by Jack Webster]

By Jack Webster and Eddie LePine

The race started with a tribute to Don Panoz with a lap of honor for his Panoz GTR-1 and DeltaWing cars and the final race result was a tribute to what Dr. Don had created back in 1998 at the historic Road Atlanta race circuit – exciting and close racing where the final result wasn’t decided until the last corners of the last lap of the last race of the season.

The 2018 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship is now history with the finish of the 21st Motul Petit Le Mans. Championships have been decided and now all the teams and drivers start planning for 2019.

One of the big changes for 2019 is that Michelin will become the official tire of IMSA and will be on every DPi and GTD entry (GTLM will remain an open class, but the current teams all use Michelin tires). Testing of the new tires for DPi start on Monday after Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta.

Another big change is coming to Road Atlanta. Beginning in 2019, the track has a new name: “Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta” and along with naming rights, Michelin is building a new, state of the art media and hospitality center in place of the old media center in the paddock. Members of the media took turns signing their names to the wall of the old media center, which will be torn down beginning this week to make room for the new building.

Petit Le Mans this year was a barnburner for sure, and the final result wasn’t known until the winning #10 Cadillac DPi-V.R. of Renger van der Zande came down the hill and took the checkered flag. The car that started that last lap in the lead, the #5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac, sputtered as it was running out of fuel and was passed just three turns from victory. It was a win earned by the Konica Minolta squad after a full day of hard driving by Renger van der Zande, Jordan Taylor and Ryan Hunter-Reay. As Jordan Taylor said: “You never give up with these types of races, you never know what’s going to happen. You could win a race. And that’s what happened today.”

Mazda once again came close to winning, but that first victory still eludes the Joest Mazda squad. Their cars finished 2nd and 3rd.

In GTLM, it was Porsche’s day, as the #911 car of Patrick Pilet, Nick Tandy and Frederic Makowiecki took the victory over the #4 Corvette and #24 BMW.

In GTD, the WeatherTech sponsored Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GT3 took top honors with Cooper MacNeil, Daniel Serra and Gunnar Jeannette behind the wheel, with Acura taking second and Lamborghini taking third.

Championships were decided as well, with Action Express Racing taking their 4th Prototype championship in the past five years. Eric Curran and Felipe Nasr were the driver’s champions, again for Action Express Racing, thanks to fuel saving driving by Eric Curran on his final stint, finishing just high enough in the standings to clinch the title. “We went slow to win the Championship”, he said.

In GTLM, after an eventful day for the #3 Corvette and a very strong race for the #4 car, Corvette Racing clinched the Teams Title, while Corvette pilots Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia captured the driver’s championship. Ford, however, did take the manufacturer’s title, so both Chevrolet and Ford have titles that they can promote.

It GTD, it was Bryan Sellars and Madison Snow taking a well-deserved driver’s title, with their team, Paul Miller Racing, taking the GTD teams title and their car manufacturer Lamborghini taking the manufacturers title.

Petit Le Mans was a fitting end to a hard fought IMSA season. IMSA is on a roll, and the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship keeps going from strength to strength. With the new partnership with Michelin, and new rules to unleash the potential of the DPi class, 2019 looks to be an incredible season.

It will have to be, for 2018 was a great one.

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