WTR still in control of Petit Le Mans in tight strategic title battle

Michael Levitt/Lumen

WTR still in control of Petit Le Mans in tight strategic title battle

IMSA

WTR still in control of Petit Le Mans in tight strategic title battle

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Over the longest period of green flag running the race had seen, The No. 31 Action Express Racing Cadillac has been in control much of the time, mostly with Pipo Derani at the wheel. Then the No. 02 Chip Ganassi Racing began to command the race, but The No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Cadillac has been showing more speed as the sun headed for the horizon, and Ricky Taylor had run Alex Lynn down and taken the lead.

That long run of green, 2h23m, ended as the third quarter of the race came to a close, with Rob Ferriol losing control of the No. 99 GTD Hardpoint Porsche 911. During the ensuing pit stops, Action Express did a timed fueling of the No. 31 to get it back in the lead, but that only allowed them to take three tires. A short time later, they brought Olivier Pla in the 31 back in to top off the fuel, leaving Ricky Taylor in the lead for WTR and Helio Castroneves second in the No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing Acura. Lynn runs third in the No. 02 Cadillac. All the DPis are on the lead lap, the No. 48 Action Express Cadillac getting back on the same lap after falling two laps down.

“It comes down to track position,” said Wayne Taylor. “And sometimes, especially now in IMSA, where it’s so bloody competitive, there are so many good drivers that it’s almost impossible to pass on the racetrack. So you’ve got to do a lot of strategy. And you basically got to make track position in the pit lane.”

As the race winds down and either the No. 10 or the No. 60 needs to finish ahead of the other to win the championship, it’s likely to be strategy that wins or loses the race and the championship.

“We struggled a little bit with the car in the heat but I think the the track’s coming to us,” said Oliver Jarvis after he handed the No. 60 over to Castroneves. “But the No. 10 found some pace from somewhere and it’s gonna be a…fight to the flag. I think any anyone can win it. You only need a safety car at the right or wrong time and it mixes things up so you know there’s gonna be a lot of strategy, fuel saving, and on-track battles to come.”

Some championship hopefuls have suffered setbacks, including some that have ended any hope. The No. 18 Era Motorsport ORECA had a slim chance at the LMP2 title for Dwight Merriman and Ryan Dalziel, but suffered a suspension failure that took them many laps to repair. The car returned to the track, but was eventually retired. That leaves John Farano as the champion, whose No. 8 Tower Motorsport ORECA is running second in the hands of Rui Pinto de Andrade behind Juan Pablo Montoya in the No. 81 DragonSpeed USA ORECA.

The No. 32 Team Korthoff Motorsports Mercedes-AMG that Stevan McAleer had hoped to drive to the GTD championship had an electrical issue while Dirk Mueller was at the wheel that required a reset and a trip to the pits. The No. 32 still heads the championship-leading No. 27 Heart of Racing Aston Martin Vantage of Roman De Angelis, but not by enough to take the title.

Seb Priaulx leads GTD in the No. 70 Inception Racing McLaren 720S that Brendan Iribe started and completed his drive time in before jetting off to Spain for another race. Robby Foley is second in the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M4 GT3, followed by the other BMW in the class, the No. 1 Paul Miller Racing M4 in the hands of Madison Snow. The No. 66 Gradient Racing Acura NSX is looking strong in fourth, Kyffin Simpson at the wheel.

Ben Barnicoat is at the front of GTD PRO in the No. 14 VasserSullivan Lexus, followed by the No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 (Matt Campbell) and the No. 3 Corvette with Antonio Garcia at the wheel.

“We’re on a slightly different strategy from the Ferrari,” said Barnicoat about the Risi 488 before he got in the car. “I think it’s all kind of come back together. Our Lexus RCF GT3, we’ve got really strong pace; it’s flying. We’re just unfortunately a bit slower than our competitors in a straight line. It’s quite difficult to race, quite difficult to pass for us, but we’ve definitely got the speed. If we…if we have the track position, I’m confident we can come out on top and this thing. It’s just little hard to move forward right now.”

Gabby Chaves leads LMP3 in the No. 36 Andretti Autosport Ligier, followed by Garett Grist in the No. 30 JR III Racing Ligier, the only cars on the lead lap. Both the No. 54 CORE Autosport and the No. 74 Riley Motorsports Ligiers have had issues, but CORE remains in position to secure the title for Colin Braun, currently at the wheel, and Jon Bennett.

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