Pipo Derani took advantage of teammate Filipe Albuquerque’s misfortune late in Saturday’s Motul Petit Le Mans, taking the lead with 20 minutes remaining to go out a winner in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season finale.
Pole winner Felipe Nasr and Eric Curran joined Derani in the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi-V.R, with the trio also combining to capture the Michelin Endurance Cup – Action Express Racing’s sixth consecutive victory in that competition.
Derani took the checkered flag 1.896s ahead of Jordan Taylor, with Ricky Taylor third to put both sons of inaugural 1998 Petit Le Mans winner Wayne Taylor on the podium.
“We finally get the win here, in my fourth try, it’s incredible,” said Derani, who celebrated his 26th birthday. “I’m really happy and really proud to be part of this team, a big thank you to Whelen, to Action Express, to Cadillac, for everyone who put the program together, and of course to the team for making perfect pit stops. We are winners of Petit Le Mans!”
Juan Pablo Montoya and Dane Cameron finished fourth in the No. 6 Team Penske Acura ARX-05, just good enough to edge Derani and Nasr for the DPi title by five points.
The race was AXR’s No. 5 Mustang Sampling Cadillac’s race to lose, with Albuquerque, Joao Barbosa and Mike Conway running a flawless race near the front for nine hours, 40 minutes before a brake disc failure suddenly took them out of contention. A year ago, Albuquerque ran out of fuel on the final lap — within sight of the finish line — with Jordan Taylor taking the victory. This time, the No. 5 wound up seventh, bringing to an end Mustang Sampling’s five-year run sponsoring the team.
Oliver Jarvis took sixth in the No. 77 Team Joest Mazda RT-24P. That car ran near the front throughout the second half of the event and seemed in a position to challenge the AXR Cadillacs, only to lose power following a late restart with 25 minutes remaining after only the fourth caution of the event.
Scott Simpson gained three positions in the final 10 minutes to take fifth in the No. 84 JDC Miller Motorsports Cadillac DPi-V.R co-driven by Simon Trimmer and Chris Miller.
The 10-hour race ran an event-record 465 laps after being slowed by only four full-course cautions. A green-flag run of nearly 4h40m ended with 39 minutes remaining following a trip to the gravel by the No. 63 WeatherTech Ferrari 488 GT3 of Toni Vilander. That set the stage for an eventful 25-minute sprint to the finish.
Risi Ferrari wins GTLM in IMSA return
It was a Ford vs. Ferrari battle all the way in GTLM, although without the Hollywood finish. No. 62 Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 GT3 driver Alessandro Pier Guidi passed the dominant Chip Ganassi Racing No. 67 Ford GT of Richard Westbrook with 2:15 remaining. James Calado took over the Ferrari and went on to beat the Ford taken over by Ryan Briscoe by 7.795s seconds.
“It was just the most emotional feeling in the world,” Calado said. “Something came out of me ever that I’ve never had before. I knew Ford would push; it was their last race. It was Ferrari versus Ford and that’s what it’s about.”
It was Risi’s second race of the year in IMSA, with the team placing second in the season-opening Rolex 24 At Daytona.
After Ferrari led the opening 1h20m from the pole, Fords dominated the middle section of the event. The team’s No. 66 of Joey Hand, Dirk Mueller and Sebastien Bourdais ran up front before a trip by Mueller to the Turn 1 gravel trap cost the team two laps. Dixon drove a dominant mid-race triple stint in the Ford, racing for the final time in WeatherTech Championship competition.
The finish also gave Briscoe and Westbrook the Michelin Endurance Cup, edging Porsche drivers Patrick Pilet and Nick Tandy by one point due to their taking four points in the third and final segment.
“As far as what you can do in a race, and how the guys performed across the board, I think it’s one of the best outright performances we’ve ever had as a team,” Briscoe said. “We just did everything absolutely right to the maximum, no mistakes. We had such a close battle at the end with the Ferrari, they just had a bit more speed and luck with the traffic. We gave it all we had. We got the Endurance Championship and got close to the manufacturer championship. The way we performed today made me so proud of the guys. It’s a bit emotional, I had a lot of thoughts going through my head the last few laps, but I’m really proud of the job that everyone’s done – today and for the past four years.”
Tom Blomqvist, Connor De Phillippi and Colton Herta took third in the No. 25 Team RLL BMW M8 GT3, followed by Antonio Garcia, Jan Magnussen and Mike Rockenfeller in the final race for the No. 3 Corvette Racing C7.R.
Earl Bamber and Laurens Vanthoor took the GTLM title with a fifth-place finish in the No. 912 Porsche GT Team 911 RSR shared by Mathieu Jaminet. Pilet, Tandy and Frederic Makowiecki finished sixth in the team’s No. 912.
Auberlen scored record-tying last-lap triumph in GTD
Unlike GTLM, the GT Daytona category had a Hollywood-scripted finish, with Bill Auberlen celebrating his 51st birthday with a last-lap victory. His 60th career triumph tied Scott Pruett for the all-time lead as IMSA closed out its 50th anniversary season. Auberlen joined Robby Foley and Dillon Machavern in the No. 96 Turner Motorsport Liqui Moly BMW M6 GT3 that started from the back of the grid due to an issue in qualifying.
“Our BMW was a rock all weekend,” Auberlen said. “We were not going to make it until the end without a yellow. Then when we got it, it was full-power to the finish. I’ve won this race four times, and it only gets better. Tying Scott Pruett with 60 wins is just amazing. It reminds me of how great a career I’ve had with BMW.”
Felipe Fraga went off on the final lap in the No. 33 Wynns/Riley Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3, denying Ben Keating — running his final race — and Jeroen Bleekemolen the class victory. Fraga wound up finishing fourth, but joined his co-drivers in winning the Michelin Endurance Cup by two points over fifth-place Scuderia Corsa Ferrari drivers Vilander, Cooper MacNeil and Jeff Westphal.
Auberlen won by 0.51s over Christopher Mies in the No. 29 Montaplast by Land Audi R8 LMS, followed by Scott Hargrove in the No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R.
Mario Farnbacher and Trent Hindman were crowned GTD champions by starting the race in the No. 86 Meyer Shank Racing with Curb Agajanian Acura NSX GT3. Unfortunately, their car was sidelined after 201 laps due to engine damage resulting from debris piercing the radiator.
“I’m very proud – in all my years of racing I’ve never won a championship, in any division,” team owner Michael Shank said.
No finishers in LMP2
The LMP2 race was decided in the paddock, with both competitors out of the race just past the midway point. Newly crowned champ Matt McMurry joined Gabriel Aubrey and Dalton Kellett in the winning No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA Gibson, which was parked after 201 laps with suspension damage.
Cameron Cassels was punted off by Helio Castroneves in the Esses at the 1h24m mark, resulting in severe rear-end damage in the No. 38 Performance Tech Motorsports ORECA. Cassels and co-driver Kyle Masson did manage to win the Michelin Endurance Cup in the class.