IMSA Petit Le Mans: Ganassi Cadillac leads at quarter-distance

Sebastien Bourdais is leading the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship field in the season finale at Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta, as the Acura teams sit second and third, dueling for the Prototype title.

IMSA Petit Le Mans: Ganassi Cadillac leads at quarter-distance
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Prototype

At the start of the race, Meyer Shank Racing’s Tom Blomqvist converted his pole into the lead, his Acura ARX-05 running ahead of Earl Bamber in the Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R, Tristan Vautier’s JDC Miller MotorSports Cadillac, Kamui Kobayashi in the Action Express Racing Cadillac, Sebastien Bourdais in the second Ganassi entry and Pipo Derani in the full-time AXR car.

Ricky Taylor, who had damaged his tires with his spin at Turn 5 during qualifying, started the race on his damaged tires so he lost no points, but pitted the #10 Wayne Taylor Racing Acura after just one lap.

On Lap 6, Bamber pounced on Blomqvist when the latter got held up at Turn 7 as he lapped a GT car, and into Turn 10, the #02 Ganassi Caddy was through into the lead. On Lap 12, Kobayashi moved the #48 Cadillac ahead of Vautier to claim third and start closing on Bamber and Blomqvist.

Derani pitted after just 19 laps, to go off strategy. As he emerged from the pits, he was about 10sec ahead of the struggling WTR Acura, in which Taylor was trying desperately to not go a lap down to Bamber.

Blomqvist, Kobayashi, Vautier and Bourdais pitted on Lap 25 in response to a GT car stopped on track which prompted a full course yellow. By the time the yellow flew, Bamber, too, had stopped. His closest competitor at the restart would be Derani, whose first stop was so recent that he didn’t need to stop again. This caution was the relief that WTR needed, allowing Taylor to regain the 9/10ths of a lap he had been running behind Bamber and close up to just 12sec behind.

Following the restart, Bamber held off Derani and Blomqvist without problem but then the Tower Motorsport car and the Era Motorsport car went off at Turn 6 and out came a full course yellow.

Two minutes later, out came the yellow once more because the Magnus Racing Aston Martin had been knocked off course by the AF Corse Ferrari.

The restart with just under eight hours to go would see Sebastien Bourdais in the #01 Ganassi Cadillac leading the Meyer Shank Racing Acura now driven by Helio Castroneves, the pair of whom had stopped only twice, and Brendon Hartley in the WTR Acura which had only made two scheduled stops (three including the Lap 1 tire change), with Olivier Pla now installed in the #31 AXR Cadillac, ahead of Alex Lynn in the #02 CGR Caddy, Richard Westbrook in the #5 JDC Miller car and NASCAR legend Jimmie Johnson in AXR’s extra Caddy.

Bourdais quickly stretched away from Castroneves, who was anxious not to blow things for his championship-contending full-time teammates, so his priority was to keep his Acura ahead of the similar car of Hartley. Some 2hr15min into the race, Westbrook was on a charge and moved up to fourth ahead of fellow Caddy drivers Lynn and Pla.

That had nothing on Bourdais’ charge, which at quarter distance had stretched to 20sec, while the next five cars were covered by just six seconds.

GT

In GTD Pro, Jack Hawksworth’s pole-winning Lexus RC F led away, and had a buffer between himself and his nearest class rivals – Jesse Krohn’s Rahal Letterman Lanigan BMW M4, Antonio Garcia’s Corvette C8.R, Alex Riberas’ Heart of Racing Aston Martin Vantage, and James Calado’s Risi Ferrari 488. That buffer was the GTD-class car Madison Snow in the Paul Miller Racing BMW M4, who thus ran several cars and seven seconds ahead of Jaden Conwright’s NTE/SSR Lamborghini Huracan.

The Carbahn with Peregrine Racing Lamborghini Huracan of Robert Megennis had been running in the top five but it ground to a halt at Turn 2 with a faulty throttle potentiometer, according to IMSA Radio. That required a full-course yellow.

Following the stops, the RLL BMW was given a stop and 60sec hold penalty for working on the car in a closed pits. That left Maxi Buhk leading the class in the WeatherTech Racing Mercedes AMG GT3 ahead of Garcia’s Corvette, new championFelipe Nasr in the Pfaff Motorsport Porsche 911 GT3R, Calado, and Kyle Kirkwood who had taken over the #14 VSR Lexus from Hawksworth and Riberas.

Following the third stops, Kirkwood was up front, ahead of the Corvette now piloted by Jordan Taylor, Nasr’s Pfaff Porshe, Davide Rigon in the Risi Competizione Ferrari 488 and Mikael Grenier’s WeatherTech Benz.

In GTD, with one hour down, Richard Heistand led in the pro-am Lexus ahead of Snow, Stevan McAleer’s Team Korthoff Mercedes, Matt Dinan in the Turner Motorsport BMW M4, Russell Ward in the Winward Racing Mercedes and Ian James in the other HoR Aston Martin. Sadly for McAleer, he was adjudged to have jumped the restart and so was ordered to serve a drive-through penalty.

Following the caution caused by the Magnus Aston’s misfortune, Erik Johansson kept the PMR BMW at the front of the field chased by the similar Turner M4 of Dinan, the #12 Lexus now driven by Frankie Montecalvo, the Winward Racing Mercedes, and the Inception Racing McLaren 720S.

Others

In LMP2, the race settled with Steven Thomas and Ben Keating ran 1-2 for PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports, 10sec apart, with a 15sec margin over Henrik Hedman of DragonSpeed. Following the first yellow, however, it was Keating leading Hedman, John Farano in the Tower Motorsport car, and Dennis Andersen in fourth for High Class Racing. Thomas was now down in fifth having had the misfortune to stop under green conditions, just before the first caution.

He would climb back up to third for the restart at the 2hr10min mark, behind his teammate Keating, who was passed by Sebastian Montoya who had taken over the DragonSpeed car.

In LMP3, CORE autosport leads the class currently, Colin Braun at the wheel, chased by the Andretti Autosport machine driven by Jarett Andretti, with Nico Pino of Sean Creech Motorsports and Gar Robinson of Riley Motorsports.

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IMSA Petit Le Mans: WTR Acura leads at halfway point

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