IMSA and The Art of Racing in the Rain – Petit Le Mans Preview

Can Tom Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis take the driver's championship for Shank? [Jack Webster photo]

Can Tom Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis take the driver’s championship for Shank? [Jack Webster photo]

By Jack Webster & Eddie LePine

Twice previously, IMSA’s season finale at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta has been severely affected by remnants of a hurricane. In both 2009 and 2015, torrential downpours caused Petit Le Mans to be shortened due to track flooding and low visibility.

Both, however, were exciting races which were not decided until the very end of the race. In 2009 the winning Peugeot 908 HDi FAP only took the lead on the final lap of the race, as race leader Allan McNish in the Audi R15 spun off in the horrible conditions while leading.

In 2015, it was a total upset as a GT car won the race overall, leaving all the prototypes behind – either stuck in the mud or the pits at the finish of the race. Tandy, Pilet and Lietz took a win for the ages with their Porsche 911 RSR.

The point is that IMSA races in the rain – they always have and they always will. They have great cars capable of running at speed in the wet and they have the best rain tires in the world (Michelin). We know there is a lot of uncertainty about Hurricane Ian, which is bearing down on the Tampa, Florida area (at least as of when this was written), and it looks like it will become a major rain event for the Atlanta area by Friday and into raceday on Saturday. Unless there are downpours that flood the track or lightning that endangers the people spectating or working there, the race should go ahead as scheduled. Again, IMSA races in the rain.

Motul Petit Le Mans will decide all 5 of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championships – Dpi, LMP2, LMP3, GTD-Pro and GTD. While a couple of those driver championships are pretty well locked up prior to the start of Petit (GTD-Pro, LMP2 and LMP3 for instance), the rest of them need to be decided in Atlanta this weekend.

Driver, team, and manufacturer championships need to be decided, along with the season long winners of the Michelin Endurance Cup. After such a competitive and hard-fought championship season, it seems fitting that the winners of all the different championships this year will have to survive ten hours of knuckle biting tension in the wet at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta to claim their just rewards. Winning in such conditions will make the championship seem much more special. If this were easy, anyone could do it.

The season ending race at Motul Petit Le Mans also marks the end of an era, just as the Rolex 24 in January 2023 will mark the birth of a new one, for Petit will mark the final race for the DPi class of prototypes, which will be replaced with the all new GTP class beginning at Daytona. Acura teams (the Wayne Taylor Racing squad and the Michael Shank group) have been going back and forth all season long in the points battle but only one will emerge victorious to claim the championship after Petit. With a well-deserved manufacturers championship by Acura, now it is up to these two Acura teams to determine the team and driver championships.

So, grab your rain gear and head on down to Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta for Motul Petit Le Mans this Saturday – the weather may be cool and damp, but the competition is guaranteed to be red hot.

We will be there, wet or dry – we wouldn’t miss this one for the world.

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