In an action packed, multi-incident endurance race at Road Atlanta this past weekend the old adage to keep pushing no matter what class you’re in or where you are at the moment once again held true.
There were at least ten caution periods that kept reshuffling and closing up the field. The 10-hour Petit Le Mans race in Braselton, Georgia, is the end of the 2021 IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship. Since its 1998 inception, the race has grown is now one of the most sought-after prizes in GT and sportscar racing. Following are highlights of the grueling contest.
The Whelen Engineering Cadillac team of Felipe Nasr and Pipo Derani won the DPi Championship by finishing second in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season. The top finisher among two contenders at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta would be the champion. With five wins on the season, three of those by the Whelen Engineering Cadillac team, the brand won its third IMSA WeatherTech DPi Manufacturer Championship. The Whelen Engineering Cadillac team posted wins at Watkins Glen, Road America and Long Beach. Contributing to the win total was the Mustang Sampling Cadillac team recording a victory at Sebring in March and the V-Performance Academy Cadillac team bringing home the checkered flag at the company’s hometown race in Detroit in June.
On Saturday night, Felipe Nasr held on as Ricky Taylor tried to pass him on the final lap, recovering after Taylor bounced through a gravel trap and back on track in front of him, to claim the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Daytona Prototype international (DPi) title by finishing second in the Motul Petit Le Mans.
Nasr was chasing eventual race winner Harry Tincknell, but leading the championship battle when Taylor tried to pass Nasr heading into Turn 10A on the final lap. The two cars made contact, and Taylor’s No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura ARX-05 bounced off course and returned to the track ahead. However, Nasr’s No. 31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R passed Taylor heading into Turn 11 and held on for second place in the race – and the championship – through the final turn of the final race of 2021 to prevail by 0.405 seconds.
Cadillac has said it will compete in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) LMDh category in 2023 with a fourth-generation Cadillac V-Series prototype. Cadillac and its partners will bring their considerable experience from American endurance racing to compete for overall victory in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.
Antonio Garcia and Jordan Taylor, drivers of the #3 Mobil 1/SiriusXM Chevrolet Corvette C8.R took a second straight sweep of the full-season GTLM Drivers and Team titles. Porsche finished second in GTLM Manufacturer Championship.
Following the final race of the GT Le Mans (GTLM) category at this weekend’s Petit Le Mans in Georgia, Corvette Racing will shift to the new-for-2022 GT Daytona (GTD) PRO category. Garcia and Taylor are contesting the full 10-race championship in the No. 3 Mobil 1/SiriusXM Chevrolet Corvette C8.R. Catsburg will rejoin the Garcia/Taylor duo for the Rolex 24 At Daytona (where they won the 2021 GTLM class), Sebring and Petit Le Mans. Corvette Racing will return to IMSA in January for the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona in the new GTD PRO category. (Corvette Racing Goes Global – IMSA, FIA WEC in 2022)
After two Rolex 24 victories in Daytona (USA) and five IMSA series class wins, the farewell GTLM race saw the MOTUL BMW M8 GTE adding the 26th podium finish and a pole position. Jesse Krohn (FIN) put the #24 MOTUL BMW M8 GTE on pole position in class and led the field. However, The race was harsher than qualifying but shortly before the end of the ten hours, Krohn and his BMW Team RLL colleagues John Edwards (USA) and Augusto Farfus (BRA) took over P3 and could step on the GTLM podium one final time. The #25 sister car and the Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3 had to retire due to racing incidents.
The Le Mans Prototype 2 (LMP2) class saw a three-way brawl for the Motul Petit Le Mans victory, with No. 8 Tower Motorsport ORECA LMP2 07 drivers John Farano, Gabriel Aubry and James French gaining the victory when the No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA was penalized postrace for an unserved pit-lane drive-through for incident responsibility in a late clash with the No. 8. It was the second Motul Petit Le Mans win for both Farano and Aubry; the first for French.
The No. 52 still clinched the LMP2 championship for drivers Mikkel Jensen and Ben Keating with the runner-up finish. They also took home the IMSA Michelin Endurance Cup title along with third driver Scott Huffaker. Jensen was leading as during the final minutes but needed to conserve fuel with the No. 8 Tower ORECA pushing hard from behind.
“We had to fuel save because the (No.) 8 car was catching us and we couldn’t afford to stop again,” Jensen said post-race. “I got a fuel number, I had to keep it every single lap. In the end, he just got very close and then we had contact in Turn 10. “But most important, we won the IMSA championship, we won the (Michelin Endurance Cup), so we accomplished everything we wanted to achieve this season. But it would have been nice to win this one to finish off.”
BMW M Motorsport provided updates on the LMDh project for the 2023 season and its plans for the coming year. BMW Team RLL, who have been celebrating successes with BMW M Motorsport since 2009, will compete in the two LMDh prototypes as of 2023, which will be called BMW M LMDh. Alongside the LMDh test program, BMW Team RLL will field two BMW M4 GT3s in the new GTD Pro category in the 2022 IMSA season.