With tensions high on their respective pitboxes, Wayne Taylor Racing and Meyer Shank Racing battled down to the wire to determine the winner of Motul Petit Le Mans and the 2022 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship DPi title. It came down to a broken WTR Acura and a season full of ups and downs bookended by victories for new champions Tom Blomqvist, Oliver Jarvis and Meyer Shank Racing.
A late-race caution caused by the two Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillacs taking each other out turned the race on its head, bringing new life to battles throughout the field; but in the end, with the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing bending a suspension wishbone in the last 15 minutes after side-by-side contact with a GTD car, Blomqvist and Jarvis took the championship in the No. 60 Acura, aided to Petit Le Mans victory by Helio Castroneves.
With a good shot at victory for one of the CGR Cadillacs, Renger van der Zande in the No. 01 and Earl Bamber in the No. 02 came together while running third and fourth behind WTR and MSR. Bamber was held up by a GTD car and van der Zande got a run on the outside, but they made contact and both ended up off track, bringing out a full-course caution. Both cars would get pulled out of the gravel and make it back to the pits for repairs, but were several laps down and no longer factors in the race.
That left Filipe Albuquerque in the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Acura and Tom Blomqvist in the No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing Acura to fight for the race win and the championship. Whichever one finished in front of the other was going to claim it. The Acuras were joined by Pipo Derani in the No. 31 Action Express Racing Cadillac that had been a lap down, but got back on the lead lap thanks to the caution. During the caution, all pitted for tires and fuel, with the No. 60 getting out front ahead of the 10. With less than 45 minutes left and a long yellow, they were able to run to the finish.
Albuquerque was pursuing Blomqvist through traffic and got a run on the No. 60 to attempt an outside move in Turn 1. But Blomqvist fought off the attack, and a few seconds later, Albuquerque, who had made many masterful moves through traffic to earn victory for the No. 10 throughout the season, finally fell victim to traffic when he made contact with the No. 57 Winward Racing GTD Mercedes-AMG with 15 minutes left. The No. 10 Acura suffered a broken left-rear suspension and ended WTR’s bid for victory and the championship.
It’s over for Felipe Albuquerque.
Wayne Taylor Racing came into tonight the championship leaders, but won’t win it. #IMSA
— Motorsports on NBC (@MotorsportsNBC) October 2, 2022
“It feels good,” said Jarvis as Blomqvist was bringing the car into pit lane “Wow, what a race! It looked like we were out of it with about an hour and 20 to go, but I’ve been on the receiving end where I led it a few years back and we had an issue while we were leading, so I know how the No. 10 feels. They’ve had a fantastic year, so full credit to them. But for Meyer Shank to come away with victory and the championship, that’s something really special.”
Blomqvist had qualified on pole, but within 10 minutes Bamber had pushed his way past. The WTR crew was at the back because Taylor had spun the car in qualifying, flat-spotting the tires. Unable to change tires before the race or face the loss of qualifying points per IMSA rules, the team opted to start the race on the damaged set and bring the car in for four new tires and a top-off of fuel at the end of the first lap. It proved a solid decision, as the No. 10 would eventually come back to the sharp end, and with two hours to go it looked like they had the pace to win handily.
The CGR Cadillacs, though, had a clear edge on everybody in speed for most of the day, especially if they were out front. Two hours in, Sebastien Bourdais in the No. 01 was in that position and stretching out a lead, up to 20s before the race was interrupted by the next caution. And it wasn’t just the CGR cars, but the JDC-Miller No. 5 and the No. 31 Action Express Cadillacs that showed winning potential at different stages in the race. The JDC-Miller car left the race a little more than four hours in after Loic Duval made contact with the No. 12 GTD Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F driven by Aaron Telitz. Both cars made heavy contact with the tire wall and were done for the day.
In the end, it was likely going to come down to pace vs. fuel. The Acuras were going a bit farther, and the MSR car in particular was stretching out a lap or two on a stint even compared to WTR. The CGR Cadillacs, though had the pace to win if the yellows fell such that fuel savings didn’t come into play.
“We were [extending our mileage] to give us an advantage in case of a yellow,” explained Blomqvist. “WTR could have gone to the end anyway. We knew that the Cadillacs actually had to do an extra stop, so it was only really us and the team going to the end. So the fuel at that point time was wasn’t really giving us anything extra, it was more a case of if there was a yellow if we came in on the No. 10’s tail, we could fuel less than them and get ahead. That was kind of our only shot. We were closing in slowly and I do believe we would have got to them eventually before the end of the race. But, obviously, things changed with that yellow and it worked out.”
The race ended under yellow when the Winward Mercedes, likely damaged in the contact with Albuquerque, ended up in a gravel trap. Already knowing they had won the championship, the MSR crew could then celebrate a race victory. It was the second consecutive Petit Le Mans victory for Jarvis, who won last year with Jonathan Bomarito and Harry Tincknell in Mazda’s final race. Jarvis has now capped off Mazda’s run, and the end of the DPi era with Petit Le Mans victories.
Derani, Olivier Pla and Mike Conway finished second in the No. 31 AXR Cadillac, and Mike Rockenfeller, Kamui Kobayashi and Jimmie Johnson made it a double podium for Action Express in the No. 48 Cadillac after having not been a factor for most of the race.
After a lot of back-and forth with the No. 81 DragonSpeed USA ORECA driven by Henrik Hedman, Juan Pablo Montoya and Sebastian Montoya, The No. 8 Tower Motorsport ORECA crew of John Farano, Louis Deletraz and Rui Pinto de Andrade claimed the win and the LMP2 championship for Farano.
“It’s actually hard to put into words,” said Farano. “Certainly we all start off with goals at the beginning of the year. And to achieve what we said this year, it’s relatively new team, second year with Tower Motorsports and a lot of people to thank of course, but it’s one huge accomplishment for us for sure. And to win the race and do it that way as well, it really caps things off.”
Dwight Merriman and Ryan Dalziel entered the race with a shot at claiming the championship in the No. 18 Era Motorsports ORECA, joined by Indy Lights racer Christian Rasmussen. However, a suspension failure ended any hope they had of taking the title. Hedman and father-and-son Montoyas were second, with polesitter Steven Thomas along with Josh Pierson and Tristan Nunez in the No. 11 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA in third.
The No. 36 Andretti Autosport Ligier squad of Jarett Andretti, Gabby Chaves and Josh Burdon won LMP3. The two teams leading the championship, CORE Autosport and Riley Motorsports both had their turns at the front, but experienced a few problems along the way, but it was CORE’s Jon Bennett and Colin Braun, with George Kurtz as the third driver for the endurance races, that took the championship.
“It never gets old,” declared Bennett. “It was a pleasure to race with Colin and George this year in the race car. It’s a bit cliche, but you know, a really good team behind us, everyone had a good time, everyone getting along and just enjoying the sport. And I think that when you can find that chemistry it’s it’s a good thing and it’s a pleasure to race.”
Ari Balogh, Garrett Grist and Nolan Siegel were second for Jr III Racing, with the Sean Creech Motorsport squad of Joao Barbosa, Malthe Jakobsen and Nico Pino third.