Fast but unlucky this season, Chip Ganassi Racing scored a breakthrough victory in Saturday’s Chevrolet Sports Car Classic at Detroit’s Belle Isle Park, with Kevin Magnussen and Renger van der Zande leading all but two of the 66 laps to give the No. 01 Cadillac DPi-V.R its maiden IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship triumph.
The 100-minute Chevrolet Sports Car Classic came down to a two-lap sprint race. Bill Auberlen, running second in GTD, suddenly lost power in the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW with only 10 minutes remaining, bringing out the second caution of the event.
That gave Felipe Nasr in the No. 31 Whelen Engineering Cadillac started by Pipo Derani – running a close second throughout his stint – another shot at van der Zande. The top two pulled away at the waving of the green flag. Nasr got slightly sideways at one point, allowing the Ganassi Cadillac to get some breathing room and win by 0.573s.
“We had the speed at Daytona and at Sebring, and now we finished it off with a double win,” van der Zande said, referring to Marcus Ericsson’s NTT IndyCar Series victory prior to the IMSA event. “Kevin [Magnussen] is a hell of a teammate, I’ll tell you that.”
— IMSA (@IMSA) June 13, 2021
The IndyCar race was slowed by a pair of red flags that delayed the start of the IMSA event by one hour.
“I’ve been craving his win,” Magnussen said. “We’ve led a fair amount of laps this year, but no wins. It’s been overdue, and the whole team has had an amazing day. It was hot today, and I forgot to switch on my helmet fan.”
Rounding out the podium was the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura of Ricky Taylor and Filipe Albuquerque, despite battling an unknown mechanical problem. Albuquerque was +4.028s back at the checkered flag, but managed to hold off the No. 55 Mazda of Oliver Jarvis to take third.
The race went yellow after only eight minutes for an incident among three GTD cars, bringing out an 11-minute slowdown that changed the complexion of the race. Suddenly, fuel strategy dominated the pit road talk – could the DPi teams make it on only one stop?
— IMSA (@IMSA) June 12, 2021
Magnussen pitted from the lead with 47 minutes remaining, with van der Zande cycling to the lead on Ricky Taylor’s pit stop. At that point, Nasr began flashing his headlights at Ganassi’s gray Cadillac. Van der Zande worked traffic like a maestro, frustrating Nasr while holding a slim lead. At this point, fuel mileage was still a relative unknown, which put some of the attention on the battle for third between Albuquerque, Jarvis and Loic Duval in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling/JDC-Miller Motorsports Cadillac.
However, with the Auberlen incident, fuel strategy was forgotten as the event came down to a sprint.
GT Daytona also had a dominant winner as Richard Heistand and Jeff Westphal led all but two laps in the No. 39 CarBahn with Peregrine Racing Audi R8 LMS. Running for only the second time, the Steve Dinan-engineered team saw Westphal beat Ross Gunn to the checkered flag by 5.713s.
The celebration was short-lived, though.
Following the race, IMSA moved the No. 39 Audi to the rear of the field after a post-race audit revealed that the entrant demonstrated a refueling time faster than the minimum full fill refueling time in the class-specific BoP table.
That gave the GTD victory to Gunn and co-driver Roman De Angelis in the No. 23 Heart of Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT3. The triumph also extended their lead in the IMSA Sprint Cup, with the No. 39 team losing second in the standings as a result of the penalty. The late caution saw a split GTD field behind the pace car, and with time running out, Gunn was unable to close up to the Audi before the green flag.
“A win’s a win,” said De Angelis, the 20-year-old who grew up just across the Canadian border from Detroit in a suburb of Windsor and was racing on his home track for the first time. “Whether you take it after the race or during the race, it’s always going to say that we won the Detroit Grand Prix in 2021. I’ve always dreamt about winning an IMSA race, let alone competing in one.
“To say that we won the Detroit Grand Prix and that the Heart of Racing finally won their first race with the Aston Martin is just unbelievable,” added De Angelis, competing in his 13th series race. “I can’t be more proud and happy of the whole team. It’s so amazing to do it in front of pretty much my home crowd.”
— IMSA (@IMSA) June 12, 2021
It was the first WeatherTech Championship race for Gunn in only his fifth race.
“We didn’t expect Detroit to be our best circuit but we hit the ground running and the team did an awesome job setting up the car,” Gunn said. “Of course, it’s not the circumstances that you want to get your first IMSA win, but a win is a win. We’re very happy and we want to take this momentum forward to Watkins Glen. The Sprint Cup championship holds just as much importance as all the championships,” Gunn said. “Every points-gaining position we can get, the better. So far we’ve executed a good season, we haven’t made many mistakes. Very, very proud of this team. I came here with really high expectations from what I saw last year and they’ve exceeded it in many ways.”
The penalty saw Marco Mapelli and Misha Goikhberg moved up to second in the No. 19 GRT Grasser Racing Team Lamborghini Huracan GT3, one lap down, followed by Michigan driver Marc Miller and Timm Bechtolsheimer in the No. 66 Gradient Racing Acura NSX GT3.
With GTD running for Sprint Cup points, GTLM was an exhibition class for the two Corvette Racing entries. Tommy Milner came home the winner in the No. 4 C8.R started by Nick Tandy, beating the No. 3 of Jordan Taylor and Antonio Garcia by 0.226s.
The first full-course caution came out less than six minutes into the contest, when Rob Ferriol in the No. 88 Team Hardpoint EBM/Richard Mille Porsche 911 GT3R had contact with Michael de Queseda in the No. 28 Mercedes-AMG GT3. The lone Porsche in the field sustained heavy right-front damage and was eliminated from the event.
Moments after racing resumed, Frankie Montecalvo in the No. 12 Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3 spun in Turn 3 after light contact with Madison Snow in the No. 1 Paul Miller Racing Lamborghini Huracan GT3. Montecalvo needed to visit a runoff area to get turned back around, and then rejoined the event which remained under green. Snow then served a drive-through penalty for incident responsibility.
Jack Hawksworth cut down a tire while running fourth with 48 minutes remaining in the No. 14 Lexus, dashing hopes for a last-to-first drive. He returned to the race in seventh, and eventually finished fourth.
UP NEXT: Two weeks from now, the WeatherTech Championship competes in back-to-back weekends at Watkins Glen International. The Sahlen’s Six Hours of The Glen – Round 3 of the Michelin Endurance Cup – is set for Sunday, June 27. The following Friday (July 2), IMSA returns to Sprint Cup mode with the WeatherTech 240 at WGI at 6 p.m.