IMSA DPi Mid-Season Report

Ganassi Cadillac at Mid-Ohio. [Jack Webster Photo]

Ganassi Cadillac at Mid-Ohio. [Jack Webster Photo]

By Jack Webster & Eddie LePine

Time flies, as it seems like just yesterday that we were covering the first race of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship – the Rolex 24 at Daytona, and here we are, right after the sprint race at Belle Isle, looking forward to the last half of the 2022 season.

Daytona started off with a classic win for Acura, and a very popular one at that, as the winning Meyer Shank w/Curb Agajanian entry featured four-time Indy 500 winning driver Helio Castroneves, who delighted the record large crowd with his traditional climbing of the fence after his victory (along with his co-pilots Tom Blomqvist, Simon Pagenaud and Oliver Jarvis), edging out the similar Wayne Taylor Acura of Ricky Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque, Alexander Rossi and Will Stevens by just 3 seconds at the finish. It was the first 1-2 Daytona finish for Acura.

Helio Castroneves was certainly pleased; “This is incredible! We made history in Daytona! Let’s go climb a fence! The team gave me an amazing car, and I had amazing teammates: Tom, Olly, Simon, everyone on our team, our sponsors, Acura and HPD.

So, Daytona was a very strong start for Acura. The best Cadillac could pull off was the third step on the podium, with the JDC MotorSports Cadillac DPi clinching third.

Next it was on to the second endurance race of the season, the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.

Cadillac came roaring back into championship contention, with Earl Bamber, Alex Lynn and Neel Jani taking the top spot in their Chip Ganassi Cadillac Racing DPi, over a similar Cadillac of JDC MotorSports and the third-place finishing Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi. The Wayne Taylor Acura finished third, while the Shank Acura finished fifth. All of the top 5 cars were on the same lap at the finish, again showing how closely contested DPi and overall honors continue to be in IMSA WeatherTech racing.

After Daytona and Sebring, it was out to California and the streets of Long Beach. The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship would be going from the longest races on their schedule to the shortest – 100 minutes of intense racing on the storied southern California circuit.

Once again, Cadillac showed their stuff, winning the race, this time with Sebastien Bourdais and Renger van der Zande piloting the Ganassi Cadillac Racing #01 car to victory over teammates Earl Bamber and Alex Lynn in the #02 sister Ganassi Cadillac DPi. It was an all Cadillac podium, with Richard Westbrook and Tristan Vautier taking third in their JDC MotorSports entry.

The best Acura was the Shank entry, which finished 4th, with the Konica Minolta Taylor entry finishing 6th.

Next on the schedule was the roller coaster ride at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca with its large elevation changes and the famous corkscrew turn, where Acura hoped to get back to the winning ways they displayed at the first part of the season in the Florida endurance contests.

And win they did, with Filipe Albuquerque and Ricky Taylor taking the victory for Wayne Taylor Racing, with the Meyer Shank Racing Acura of Tom Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis claiming second. Pipo Derani and Tristan Nunez took third in the Whelen Engineering Cadillac and going into the race at Mid-Ohio, it looked like the winning ways of the Acura were back on track.

And at Mid-Ohio, that Acura resurgence continued, with Taylor and Albuquerque once again taking the win, with Blomqvist and Jarvis once again second in the other Acura. Derani and Nunez made the Mid-Ohio podium exactly the same as Laguna Seca by taking third. It was the second year in a row that Wayne Taylor Racing took victory at Mid-Ohio.

Filipe: “I mean, I think it was a hard battle like it always is in IMSA. The team did an amazing job on strategy and on the calls that we did on the setup. Coming with the exact thing as last year with a P2 in qualifying and a race win, it’s beautiful.”

Ricky Taylor added: “I think the great teams just find a way to win. We weren’t the fastest in qualifying but it just goes to show how strong our team is that we find a way to win no matter what.”

To bring things up to date, this past weekend at Belle Isle saw Sebastien Bourdais and Renger van der Zande back on the top step of the podium, with Blomqvist and Jarvis second in the Shank Acura, followed by Bamber and Lynn in the Cadillac. The Wayne Taylor Acura finished 4th, and once again it was a very competitive contest, as all 6 DPi entries finished on the same lap in the one hour and forty-minute contest.

“It was a good points day,” said van der Zande. “The championship is not over until it’s over, so all we have to do is keep winning races and see where we end up. We had some trouble this year, so I’m very happy to get it behind us. Win this one, and hopefully some more.”

Now there is a short break in the season, as so many of the IMSA drivers are racing next weekend at Le Mans (looks like 12 of them are going), and IMSA gets rolling on the second half of their season with the Sahlen’s 6 Hours of the Glen at historic Watkins Glen on June 26.

Going into Watkins Glen here are the DPi point standings:

In the driver’s championship, Oliver Jarvis and Tom Blomqvist are on top, leading Filipe Albuquerque and Ricky Taylor by 40 points, thanks to their consistent finishes so far this season (and that season opening win at the Rolex 24). Alex Lynn and Renger van der Zande are the current leaders among the Cadillac pilots, but are closely followed by the rest of the Caddy drivers. Essentially, the championship is wide open for any of the drivers who have scored podium finished so far in 2022, as the DPi competition is just that close.

Among teams, it is the Meyer Shank Racing w/Curb Agajanian team on the top of the standings, again thanks to their consistent results this season. They are closely followed by the other Acura squad, the Konica Minolta team of Wayne Taylor Racing, with all the Cadillac runners close behind.

One thing for sure so far this season, the final year of the DPi class before the introduction of the new GTP class and cars next year, this is going to be a championship similar to others in recent IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship history – the winner of the championship (be it driver, team or manufacturer), will likely be determined on the last turn of the last lap of the last race of the season – Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta.

We are looking forward to it, and will be there to cover it.

See you at the races.

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