Stunning drives by Nick Tandy and Patrick Pilet earn victory and championships in soaking and abbreviated race at Road Atlanta.
Nick Tandy has driven sensationally every time he’s set foot in the No. 911 Porsche GTLM entry this season, and it took him into the lead on a rain-soaked Road Atlanta track with two-and-a-half-hours to go of the 2015 Petit Le Mans race.
The event finally finished under yellow with 2hrs8mins still on the clock, after several complaints about track conditions, and Tandy's co-driver Patrick Pilet thus earned the GT Le Mans crown, and Porsche North America team clinched the manufacturers' title.
What a fantastic race it was for us.
Following an hour-long red-flag period (see previous update), the race restarted still on a soaking track, and the Daytona Prototypes of Action Express No. 5, Wayne Taylor Racing, and Chip Ganassi Racing all immediately pitted for Sebastien Bourdais, Jordan Taylor and Scott Pruett to hand over to Joao Barbosa, Max Angelelli and Scott Dixon, respectively.
“Grand Le Mans and Petit Le Mans”: historical win in GTLM
At the same time Pilet handed over to Tandy, who charged hard, past the Corvette C7.Rs and into the lead of GTLM and finally sweeping past overall leader, No. 31 AX Racing Corvette DP of Eric Curran.
“Grand Le Mans and Petit Le Mans,” said an exhilarated Tandy. “What a fantastic race it was for us. We thought a bit of rain would help us, but a lot of rain certainly did. I can’t take the drivers’ championship with Patrick, but we’ve won the teams’ and manufacturers’ with Porsche."
Progress was interrupted twice thereafter – once for a lengthy yellow for a spun Anthony Lazzaro in Turn 3 and then track conditions, and then again for a three-car PC coming together. The subsequent yellow-flag period led directly to the checkered flag. When it fell, the Jonathan Edwards/Jens Klingmann/Lucas Luhr-driven No. 24 BMW Z4 GTE was in second, overcoming its earlier traction-induced spins in the model’s final race with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.
The Curran/Dane Cameron/Max Papis AX Racing entry’s off-strategy tactics had worked perfectly with how the yellows fell throughout the afternoon, until the final one arrived just after they had pitted. Cameron got back up to P3 in class and fifth overall, but teammates Barbosa/Christian Fittipaldi and Bourdais thus won the Prototype class (third overall) and clinched the championship.
Admitted Fittipaldi: “It was a stroke of luck at the end of the race. It was either going to the 5 or 31. That’s racing. We’ve lost a couple of races like that before. The team was 100 per cent. I’m lost for words to win two in a row. It has been a fantastic ride."
Barbosa added: “What a race, unbelievable. It could have gone either way, and it’s unfortunate the championship was decided this way. But it’s a perfect day for us."
The PC class was won by the PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports entry of Tom Kimber-Smith, Andrew Palmer and Mike Guasch who kept it clean and stayed ahead of their pursuers throughout most of the race, barring pit stops. The one alarming moment came in that final PC snafu at the end, when Kimber-Smith had to take avoiding action as Alex Popow spun.
“I had to go across the grass, drove over the trench, that’s why I’m covered in mud,” said the Briton. “It was an awesome job all weekend from the team."
GT Daytona was a hotly contested category which eventually went the way of the Park Place Motorsports entry of Patrick Lindsey, Spencer Pumpelly and Madison Snow. Pumpelly made the decisive pass on Andy Lally’s Magnus Racing entry in the final 20 minutes between yellow flags, and pulled out to win by 10 seconds. The No. 93 Viper, driven sensationally by Trans-Am ace Cameron Lawrence in the early stages, finished third.
However, the big winners in class were Jeff Segal and Townsend Bell who, together with Bill Sweedler, clocked fourth on the day but won the championship.
Race stopped early
Explaining his decisions, Beaux Barfield told Motorsport.com, “The race was called for visibility issues. Although the grip remained consistent, the spray from the cars, especially the prototypes, made visibility unsafe. I didn't want to send a bunch of blind drivers out there."
Barfield added that had he known what would happen after the one-hour race stoppage, he said he would have done nothing differently.