Petit Le Mans IMSA, H8: Montoya leads with two hours to go

Meyer Shank Racing is leading at Road Atlanta with less than two hours left, with Juan Pablo Montoya holding off the similar Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing’s Filipe Albuquerque.

Petit Le Mans IMSA, H8: Montoya leads with two hours to go
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The second half of the race had barely started when Loic Duval in the JDC-Miller Cadillac clipped the rear of Earl Bamber, making his Ganassi Cadillac debut, tearing off part of the Ganassi car’s rear wing and fender, prompting a seventh caution and sending Bamber to the pits twice and the others once.

That left Montoya in the Meyer Shank Racing Acura ARX-05 leading Alexander Rossi in the WTR Acura for the restart, but Rossi struggled and fell back to sixth over the next 20mins. Instead, Montoya’s nearest rival was Felipe Nasr in the #31 Action Express Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R followed by Duval, with Bamber in fourth. In fifth, back on the lead lap thanks to the way the cautions fell, was the fully healthy Mazda RT24-P, now with Harry Tincknell at the wheel.

However, with 4h15m to go, Duval started losing time and he was passed for third by Bamber and fell into the clutches of Tincknell who passed him just before the eighth caution for two LMP3 cars – Tom Gamble’s United Autosports entry and Rasmus Lindh in the Performance Tech Motorsports machine grinding to a halt on track with separate electrical issues.

When the Prototypes pitted, Nasr emerged ahead of the Meyer Shank car – now driven by Dane Cameron – ahead of Bamber and Tincknell. Duval was still fifth, and Albuquerque took over from Rossi.

Even before the ninth caution for an LMP3 car suffering a driveshaft failure – WIN Autosport’s Josh Skelton – the top four were covered by just five seconds. Under the caution, all the Prototypes stopped and Pipo Derani took over from Nasr and retained the lead. Behind him, Mazda Motorsports jumped its #55 from fourth to second, now with Jonathan Bomarito at the wheel, ahead of Cameron and Tristan Vautier (replacing Duval), while Bamber was replaced in the Ganassi car by six-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon. Albuquerque and Kamui Kobayashi ran sixth and seventh.

On the restart, Cameron immediately got past Bomarito to grab second and the following lap he dived past Derani at Turn 10 to take the lead. Albuquerque moved the #10 WTR Acura past Dixon to take fifth on Lap 277. That became fourth four laps later when Vautier stopped just 12 laps after the last caution.

The 10th caution flew for Connor De Phillippi’s BMW falling off the track with around 2h30m to go and so the Prototypes stopped – including Vautier again. Meyer Shank pulled out Cameron and replaced him with Montoya and maintained the lead ahead of Derani and Oliver Jarvis, who replaced Bomarito in the Mazda. Albuquerque held onto fourth, Simon Pagenaud took over from Kobayashi in the #48 AXR car, but Ganassi had trouble and Dixon lost a lap and fell to seventh. IMSA Radio reported this was down to a loose brake rotor.

At the restart, Albuquerque took third place from Jarvis, and right at the 2hour mark, Albuquerque made a brilliant pass on Derani around the outside of T10a to claim second place behind Montoya.

GTLM

After the seventh caution, Alexander Sims in the #4 Corvette C8.R led the class ahead of Matt Campbell in the #79 Porsche 911 RSR, chased by the BMWs of John Edwards and Bruno Spengler, until the latter was passed by Fred Makowiecki in the “extra” Porsche. The eighth caution saw them stop and Jesse Krohn took over from Edwards and Connor De Phillippi took over from Spengler.

Following the pitstops under the ninth caution and the restart, De Phillippi was at the front of class ahead of Makowiecki, Sims, Krohn and Campbell. De Phillippi fell to fifth in class following his pitstop until he drifted wide on the front straight and crashed through the advertising hoardings with 2h30m to go.

Following the stops under the 10th caution, Nick Tandy in the #4 Corvette emerged in front of the class ahead of the Porsches of Mathieu Jaminet and Kevin Estre, with Augusto Farfus down in fourth. Estre edged past Jaminet to grab second with two hours to go.

GTD

With only six cars on the lead lap, the battle was nonetheless fascinating between four different marques. Laurens Vanthoor in the Pfaff Porsche 911 GT3 R passed Daniel Morad in the Alegra Motorsports Mercedes-AMG GT3, the pair chased by Heart of Racing’s Aston Martin Vantage GT3 driven by Ross Gunn, Jan Heylen in the Wright Motorsports Porsche, Zach Veach’s Vasser Sullivan Racing Lexus RC F GT3 and Andy Lally in the Magnus with Archangel Acura NSX GT3.

They all stopped under the eighth caution, and emerged with Veach in front, ahead of Zach Robichon who replaced Vanthoor, Daniel Juncadella who replaced Morad, and De Angelis who replaced Gunn. Heylen’s stop took longer, as IMSA Radio reported the team was making significant adjustments to the rear.

De Angelis then got the Vantage fired up and passed Juncadella and Robichon to grab second, before the ninth caution. The pitstops saw Alegra get Juncadella into P1 ahead of De Angelis, Robichon, Frankie Montecalvo (taking over from Veach who had driven superbly), Spencer Pumpelly now in the Magnus NSX and Trent Hindman who replaced Heylen.

But De Angelis wasn’t to be denied, and the Vantage took the lead on the restart and swiftly pulled out a five second gap, while eventually Juncadella tumbled down to sixth until Hindman pitted.

This played out perfectly because that meant Hindman wound up leading the class when the class pitted under the 10th caution, although following the restart he came under hard pressure from fellow Porsche driver Vanthoor. However, Vanthoor had to watch his mirrors because they were filled with Gunn’s Aston Martin, which was edging away from Veach, Pumpelly and Morad. Just past the 2hr-to-go mark, Vanthoor claimed the lead and then Gunn took second from Hindman.

LMP2 and LMP3

The LMP2 battle reignited with 4h30min to go, with four cars on the lead lap, Tristan Nunez (WIN Autosport), leading Gabriel Aubry (Tower Motorsport), Scott Huffaker (PR1/Mathiasen Motorsports), Guy Smith (United Autosports), and the top three were on the same pace.

The ninth caution saw Tower able to send out James French in the lead ahead of Nunez and Smith, while PR1/Mathiasen replaced Huffaker with Mikkel Jensen. However, Nunez deposed French at the restart, and Jensen passed Smith for third.

Following the 10th caution, Jensen led the class ahead of Thomas Merrill in the WIN car, with French down in third ahead of Wayne Boyd in the United machine.

Only two cars were on the lead lap in LMP3, Scott Andrews of Riley Motorsport leading Spencer Pigot until outbraking himself at the chicane, allowing the Jr III car through into the lead. However, on the restart Andrews passed the former IndyCar driver to claim P1, and with two hours to go, Felipe Fraga was keeping the Riley car in front.

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