IMSA SportsCar Championship: Petit Le Mans decides all the champions
Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta was the last race of the 2016 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship and we got the champions in all four classes.
Action Express Racing’s Dane Cameron and Eric Curran are the winners of Prototype class, after finishing fourth at Road Atlanta in the #31 Chevrolet Corvette DP. The championship winning-pair was joined in the car by recently crowned IndyCar champion Simon Pagenaud. Curran and Cameron took the title with one-point gap over teammates Joao Barbosa and Christian Fittipaldi, who finished fifth, partnered by Filipe Albuquergue in the decisive race. Barbosa and Fittipaldi at least won the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Cup.
Starworks Motorsport‘s Alex Popow and Renger van der Zande are Prototype Challenge champions. They parked the #8 Oreca FLM09 with less than two hours remaining due to brake problems. At the end, they were classified sixth in a class, which was good enough to take the championship title. They are tied in the points with race winners Robert Alon and Tom Kimber Smith, but Popow and Van der Zande have four wins against three wins of rivals.
The #4 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C7.R duo of Tommy Milner and Oliver Gavin picked up the GTLM title with a third-place class result alongside endurance co-driver Marcel Fassler. The Chevrolet also won the manufacturer’s title in GTLM class.
The historic moment happens in GTD class, as Christina Nielsen becomes the first female driver with IMSA title. She finished third at Petit Le Mans, partnered by Alessandro Balzan and Jeff Segal in the #63 Scuderia Corsa Ferrari 488 GTE. For her and Balzan, third place is enough to close the season with a championship trophy.
Victory for Michael Shank Racing in its 250th Prototype race
The winners at Road Atlanta were Olivier Pla, Oswaldo Negri Jr and John Pew in the #60 Ligier JS P2 (Honda) of Michael Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian. After ten hours of racing and 412 laps, Pla held of Piro Derani in the #2 Tequila Patron ESM’s Ligier and beat him by 3.524 seconds. The #60 crew started from pole and lead for 230 of 412 laps in their second victory of the season. For Michael Shank Racing it was 250th Prototype race, so the team featured a red, white and blue livery on the car and invited spectators to autograph the race car during the pre-race grid walk.
Brothers Ricky and Jordan Taylor, joined by Max Angelelli, finished third in the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing’s Corvette DP, finishing also third in the championship order.
Victory wasn’t good enough for the title
PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports took its third Prototype Challenge (PC) victory of the season in the #52 Oreca FLM09, with Robert Alon, Tom Kimber-Smith and Jose Gutierrez in the car. As we said, for Alon and Kimber-Smith it could be a championship-winning race, but 355 points on their account wasn’t enough. For consolation, PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports and drivers Alon, Kimber-Smith and Gutierrez took the championship in the Tequila Patrón North American Endurance Cup.
James French, Kyle Marcelli and Kenton Koch finished second at Road Atlanta in the #38 Performance Tech Motorsports car, 51 seconds behind the winners. Mikhail Goikhberg, Stephen Simpson and Chris Miller rounded out the podium, taking third in the #85 JDC-Miller Motorsports entry.
Ferrari wins Petit Le Mans in GTLM class
The #62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GTE co-drivers Giancarlo Fisichella, Toni Vilander and James Calado clinches their first victory of the season in GTLM class. In a fact, it was teams first win since Virginia International Raceway in 2014.
They won by 15.618 seconds over the #66 Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT, driven by Dirk Muller, Joey Hand and Sebastien Bourdais. The #4 Corvette of Gavin, Milner and Fassler, finished third. It was seventh podiums in 11 races for the #4 crew and that consistency earneh them a title.
GTD win for Riley Motorsports’ Viper
The winners of the final race in GTD class are Ben Keatin, Jeroen Bleekemolan and Marc Miller in the #33 Dodge Viper GT3-R of Riley Motorsports. It was the third GTD victory of the season for Keating and Bleekemolen, while it was the first in WeatherTech Championship competition for Miller, a full-time 2016 IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge competitor who joined the team as a third driver for Petit Le Mans.
Bleekemolen originally crossed the finish line behind Andy Lally in the #44 Magnus Racing’s Audi R8 LMS GT3, but the #44 crew was moved to last place in the GTD class as John Potter, who was paired with Lally, didn’t meet the three-hour drive-time requirement. Patrick Lindsey, Joerg Bergmeister and Matt McMurry finished second in the #73 Park Place Porsche 911 GT3 R. Christina Nielsen, Alessandro Balzan and Jeff Segal finished third in the championship-winning Ferrari.