OPINION: 10 great moments in sports cars 2022

Richard Dole/Motorsport Images

OPINION: 10 great moments in sports cars 2022

Insights & Analysis

OPINION: 10 great moments in sports cars 2022

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While making a mental inventory of the most interesting stories in sports car racing this year, many great moments came to mind. The U.S. sports car racing season begins and usually ends with two of the greatest endurance races in the world — the Rolex 24 at Daytona and the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta. Both were once again stellar events with plenty of drama, but several aspects of this year’s Rolex were particularly enthralling.

The word “epic” is far overused, but in the case of the 2022 Rolex 24 at Daytona I will happily make an exception. Not one, but two (and there is a case to be made for several more) of the most fantastic moments of the year came out of the event, and they lead the list — one admittedly U.S.-centric and in no particular order, although roughly chronological. It’s tough enough to pick the best moments without trying to rank them.

So here, in my opinion, are ten of the best sports car moments of 2022.

Meyer Shank Racing wins the Rolex 24

Jake Galstad/Motorsport Images

Ten years on from Mike Shank’s first, and until now only, Daytona 24 Hour victory, the team won again in a race-long fight with Wayne Taylor Racing in the season opener of the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship. It also revealed star qualities in a driver who hadn’t perhaps had the best opportunity to shine. A lesson in perseverance, the team kept themselves in the hunt through a bunch of adversity with a squad consisting of a sports car driver working on attaining legend status — Oliver Jarvis; a pair of MSR IndyCar Series aces — Simon Pagenaud and Helio Castroneves; and a rookie DPi driver in Tom Blomqvist.

It would have been easy for Blomqvist to be overshadowed by the rest of this stellar lineup, but in the not-quite-anchor position, Blomqvist put in crucial stints to hand the car over to Castroneves in the lead and let him bring it home.

“The car was working for me and I was able to manipulate it in the right way,” Blomqvist said after the race. “And that just kind of made the difference. I managed to get a good run on Ricky [Taylor in the WTR Acura]. We seemed to be a little bit stronger than him at that point in the race, and I think ultimately I teed it up – Helio, he only had one job and it was not to mess it up.”

And, yes, with Tom, Ollie, Helio and Simon in high spirits and top form – and goading Shank to think about Le Mans in 2023 – the post-race press conference was certainly part of what made the victory a highlight.

The Rolex 24 GTD PRO battle to the finish

Richard Dole/Motorsport Images

As close as the DPi fight was at the end – the tiniest mistake by Castroneves could have handed victory to the WTR squad – it was eclipsed by the GTD PRO battle between two Porsche squads: Pfaff Motorsports and KCMG. Use your favorite expression to describe an hours-long nail biter that often got perhaps a little more physical than it should have and it likely applies.

Tooth-and-nail; knock-down, drag-out; maybe something more colloquial or vulgar… Whatever you flavor, it works to describe the proceedings.

The final warriors were Mathieu Jaminet for Pfaff and Laurens Vanthoor – Pfaff’s former and future driver – for KCMG.

“Those last two hours have been maybe the most stressful of my life,” said Jaminet. “Yeah, I mean, what a crazy fight with Laurens. We all know how good he is — one of the best GT drivers out there in the world. We had a great fight. It was sometimes on the limit, maybe even over.”

There’s no definitive count of the incidents of contact over the final laps, but it was high, coming to a head on the final lap when Vanthoor took the dive inside Jaminet in the Bus Stop – newly named the Le Mans Chicane – and the two 911 GT3 Rs made side-to-side contact, Vanthoor getting the worst of it with a half-spin that actually cost him second place as well. Jaminet, Matt Campbell and Felipe Nasr took the first of many victories for Pfaff as the Canadian team steamrolled to the inaugural GTD PRO title. It was a fine opening for a new class.

Bourdais’ drive back to the lead at Long Beach

Michael L. Levitt/Motorsport Images

Sebastien Bourdais created one of his worst moments of 2022 that led to one of his best. Making a rare error and brushing the wall exiting the Hairpin at the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach, Bourdais found himself and the No. 01 Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac last in the DPi field. In an absolutely inspired drive, he put the car back into the lead before handing over to Renger van der Zande who brought it home for the squad’s first IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship victory of the season.

SRO America brings professional racing back to NOLA

SRO America

It was a last-minute substitution for Ozarks International Raceway, and some track facilities had been damaged by a hurricane the previous fall, but the NOLA Motorsports Park staff stepped up to bring the Fanatec GT World Challenge America and the rest of the SRO America series to the Big Easy track. It was the first professional race at the facility since 2015 when the track hosted the IndyCar Series shortly after it was built.

Despite a few issues, the track received high praise from competitors and SRO America officials for pulling it off, and the the track retains its place on the calendar for 2023.

Filipe Albuquerque’s pass in traffic at Road America

Jake Galstad/Motorsport Images

If there’s an award for pass of the year, there’s a good case to be made for Filipe Albuquerque’s pass on Oliver Jarvis to put the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Acura into the lead in the IMSA FastLane SportsCar Weekend Road America race in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship with less than half an hour left.

As Jarvis in the No. 60 MSR Acura was balked by GTD traffic heading out of Turn 7 and juked right, Albuquerque went left, putting two wheels in the grass but maintaining better momentum to take the position. Using more GTD traffic as a pick, he managed to put a nice gap on Jarvis through the Carousel. It was a textbook example of seizing an opportunity, as Albuquerque demonstrated frequently throughout the season.

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