Motul Petit Le Mans

Race winning Cadillac. [Photo by Jack Webster]

Race winning Cadillac. [Photo by Jack Webster]

By Jack Webster & Eddie LePine

The curtain has come down of IMSA’s historic 50th anniversary season with the conclusion of Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta and race winners have been determined, championships decided and IMSA heads into the second half of their century of existence with history behind it and opportunities and challenges ahead.

Petit Le Mans was won overall by a team that is cutting back to a one car effort for next season. The Whelen Engineering Cadillac of Felipe Nasr, Pipo Derani and Eric Curran took the victory with just under a one second margin from the Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac, followed by the #7 Penske Acura DPi to round out the podium. The heartbreak of the race belongs to the sister car of the winning entry, the Mustang Sampling Cadillac DPi of Joao Barbosa, Filipe Albuquerque and Mike Conway which looked to be on its way to victory until failing with about an hour to go. That car will not be entered in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship for 2020 and will be missed.

In GTLM, Ferrari was victorious, with fan favorite Risi Competizione’s Ferrari 488 GTE of Alessandro Pier Guidi, James Calado and Daniel Serra taking a fine victory after starting on the class pole. They were followed by the #24 BMW M8 GTLM and the #67 Ford GT. Perhaps Risi can be enticed to run the 2020 GTLM season for Ferrari.

In LMP2 it was an easy win for the PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports Oreca, which was never challenged all day. We are all hoping for more than the two season long entries we had in the class this season. With a more compact schedule (read: smaller budget), hopefully some new teams can be enticed to join IMSA from overseas.

In GTD, it was an historic victory for BMW, and in particular Bill Auberlen, who has now tied IMSA Legend Scott Pruett’s sixty IMSA wins with this class victory. The final result was decided by only one half second over the Team Montaplast by Land Audi R8, with the final podium spot going to Porsche.

IMSA’s 50th anniversary season is now history and there are many changes in the works going forward. Scott Atherton, who has been President of IMSA for the past 20 years and guided sports car racing to its current strong position, is retiring at the end of the year. Just today, Mazda’s John Doonan was announced as the new President of IMSA, an announcement that was met with universal praise. John is well respected throughout the IMSA paddock and his “hands on” type of leadership and positive attitude seems like the exact thing IMSA needs going forward, as there are challenges ahead.

As for some of those challenges, the series is losing the presence of the Ganassi led Ford Motorsport Ford GT program, which has been very popular with the fans and has provided some excellent competition in the class. There are big changes for Corvette as well, as they will be racing the all new Corvette C8.R next season and it was announced just prior to Petit Le Mans that popular driver Jan Magnussen will not be back with the team full time next year. Honestly, there were some bummed out Corvette people at Road Atlanta, as Jan has been very popular with the fans. Also, as mentioned earlier, Action Express is cutting back to a one car entry for next season, which will be a big blow to the DPi ranks.

Yes, there are lots of changes and challenges coming for next year. There are a lot of drivers who are now looking for new rides, sponsorships that have ended and have to be replaced, cars that have to be updated to remain competitive, and new teams to entice to enter the series.

Yes, it looks like John Doonan is the right man for the job as IMSA races into the future.

Share Button