Petit Le Mans Preview

Will Cadillac take the Prototype championship? [Photo by Jack Webster]

Will Cadillac take the Prototype championship? [Photo by Jack Webster]

by Jack Webster & Eddie LePine

Well, it all comes down to the final race of the season in the 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, with driver, manufacturer and team titles all up for grabs next Saturday at Road Atlanta for the running of the MOTUL Petit Le Mans.

In the Prototype class, it appears to be Cadillac’s championship to lose, as they go into the final round of the season with a healthy lead over Nissan in the manufacturer’s point standings. It also appears to the Taylor brothers (Jordan and Ricky) year for a championship as well, as they have a 29-point lead over Dane Cameron and Eric Curran going into the final race of the season.

Of course, at Petit Le Mans this year, a joker has been added to the deck, as Penske Racing announced at the last minute that they will be entering the race with drivers Juan Pablo Montoya, Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud behind the wheel of an ORECA LMP2 as a tune up for next season’s full time run at the title in the Acura DPi.

In the LMPC class, James French and Patricio O’Ward all but have the final championship for the class sowed up and certainly want to go out a winner.

In GTLM, things are tight and depending on fortunes in the race any number of things could happen. Currently Chevrolet Corvette leads Ford, BMW and Porsche for the manufacturer’s title, but only 19 points separate the top four marques.

In the GTLM driver’s battle, things are close as well, with Jan Magnussen and Antonio Garcia (Corvette) leading Richard Westbrook and Ryan Briscoe (Ford) by only 19 points as well. Anything can happen at Petit Le Mans in a 1000-mile race and this one is going to be a very hard fought contest for the championship.

Finally, in GTD, Christina Nielsen and Alessandro Balzan hold a pretty good lead in the driver’s championship, leading Jeron Bleekemolen by 26 points going into Petit after their fine victory at Laguna Seca. Barring a disaster, look for the Ferrari duo to come out on top.

In GTD manufacturers, things are much tighter than the driver’s race, with Ferrari leading Mercedes AMG, Porsche, Acura and Lamborghini, but only 22 points separate the top five manufacturers.

39 cars in four different classes will take the green flag next Saturday morning, and by the end of the day we will have all our questions about the 2017 championship answered.

Then it is on to 2018, when the eyes of the world will once again be on the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. If the outstanding 2017 season is any indication, 2018 looks to be a continuation of a new golden era in American sports car racing.

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