A Few Parting Prototype Thoughts:
- CORE will have its monster lineup in position as Le Mans winner and ALMS champion Romain Dumas returns to partner with Bennett and Braun. At the Rolex 24 At Daytona, with Dumas and Braun doing most of the heavy lifting, the trio was a fighting third at the finish line. Bennett’s been fast, Braun’s been a miracle worker, and with Dumas inserted for the most important race of the year, AXR are in for a tussle.
- AXR will have IndyCar/IMSA veteran Gabby Chaves in the No. 31 to complement Nasr and Curran, who will step back from full-time driving after Petit. Chaves has experience with the team after subbing for the injured Joao Barbosa at Watkins Glen, and in the DeltaWing a few years ago at Petit, he was an absolute rocket. Just as AXR will have headaches with the CORE team, CORE can look forward to similar problems from the point leaders. Barring contact and misfortune, a proper duel for the Prototype championship awaits fans at Road Atlanta.
- Let’s also acknowledge the nothing-to-lose mindset that’s worked wonders for the CORE team. Nobody at CORE expected to be in this position, and as it has risen up the standings to displace all but one DPi entry, there’s been a palpable sense of joy and surprise. They will race extremely hard in pursuit of the title, but only one team — AXR — would leave Road Atlanta feeling depressed if the championship was lost. Being able to race freely could benefit Bennett, Braun, and Dumas.
- WTR and Mazda Team Joest are among the front-running teams with one chance left to earn their first win of the year.
- Along with Curran, Tequila Patron ESM’s Johannes van Overbeek will curtail his driving career after Road Atlanta. ESM is also preparing to bid farewell to Patron as its title sponsor Saturday night.
A Few Parting GTLM Thoughts:
- For the sake of posterity, if the No. 3 Corvette ends up winning the championship, it wouldn’t hurt if the team also won the race. Without a victory at Petit Le Mans, Garcia and Magnussen would be crowned as season-long champions without scoring win from Daytona through Road Atlanta.
- From the 10 GTLM rounds held so far, the No. 3 has been on the podium eight times. That’s why the Spanish-Danish duo are on the cusp of another title.
- By comparison, the No. 67 has only visited the podium four times from 10 chances, but three of those appearances involved spraying champagne from the top step. Using a point structure where consistency is rewarded over wins, Corvette’s winless streak has been rendered meaningless by its 80-percent finishing rate inside the top three. At 40 percent for the Ford, its three wins — more than any other GTLM entry — have been the big differentiator to keep its title ambitions alive.
- The chances are somewhat remote, but if the No. 67 has a spectacularly bad race, the sister No. 66 Ford and the No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR entries could leapfrog their way to second overall in the Drivers’ and Teams’ standings.
- Of the eight full-season GTLM entries, only the aforementioned No. 3 Corvette and the No. 24 BMW Team RLL teams enter Petit Le Mans without wins.
Provided the private testing continues according to plan, Saturday could mark the final IMSA race for Corvette’s venerable front-engine C7.R as the mid-engine turbocharged C8.R is readied for competition.
- After Petit, Ford will have completed three of its four-year GTLM program with the GT.
A Few Parting GTD Thoughts:
- Corvette-like consistency has been the magic formula for PMR. Seven podiums, including a streak of five straight to open 2018, has been impressive in a class with so much diversity in talent and vehicle type.
- Heading into the final TPNAEC round of the year in need of a podium to guarantee the title, here’s a friendly PMR factoid to tuck away: from the three TPNAEC rounds held so far, the No. 48 is the only GTD entry with a 100-percent finishing rate on the podium.
- As far as two-horse races go, it’s been PMR and MSR all season. The Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG of Ben Keating and Jeroen Bleekemolen is a solid third, but with a whopping 21-point margin to Legge, there’s no chance to improve to second.
- If Legge wins the GTD title, she’ll become the third woman in succession to do so after Christina Nielsen scored back-to-back championships in 2016 and 2017.
- Whether it’s Legge or the combo of Sellers and Snow, the MSR driver or the PMR twosome will win their first major professional title once the GTD race is over.
- In a growing list of farewells, Continental’s role as IMSA’s official tire supplier will meet its end after Petit Le Mans; Michelin will take over the position starting in 2019. FOX will also host its last IMSA race after decades of covering endurance events, including the 24 Hours of Le Mans, Grand-Am, and the ALMS. NBC/NBCSN grabs the baton in January.