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Motorsport.com's top IMSA drivers of 2019

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Motorsport.com's top IMSA drivers of 2019
By:
Co-author: David Malsher
Oct 22, 2019, 3:53 PM

In this special feature, we pick out the 12 outstanding drivers of the 2019 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season, across both Prototypes and the GT divisions.

GTLM and GTD

6. United States Robby Foley (Turner Motorsport, 2nd in GTD)

Despite being an amateur partnering a BMW legend such as Bill Auberlen in the Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3, Foley was by no means overshadowed. As well as being a strong racer, he became one of IMSA GTD’s most consistent qualifiers – a vital quality in a large and densely packed class. Also admirable was that frustrations over a penalty that cost him a brilliant pole at Detroit, or the braking problem in qualifying for Petit Le Mans that again sent him to the back of the grid, didn’t trigger a mistake. At Road Atlanta, he wasted little time in slashing through to fourth in the field, laying the foundation for he and Auberlen’s well-deserved victory.

#96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3, GTD: Bill Auberlen, Robby Foley

#96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3, GTD: Bill Auberlen, Robby Foley

Photo by: David Yowe

5. United States Trent Hindman (Meyer Shank Racing, 1st in GTD)

In his first full IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season, Hindman was not found wanting, and he proved a worthy partner to Mario Farnbacher in the title-winning Meyer Shank Racing Acura NSX GT3. A starting driver often finds trouble, but Hindman generally handed over an undamaged car to his co-driver. That’s not to say he was a pushover, however, and his attempts to pass Foley’s BMW at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park were memorable. But it was Hindman's sheer consistency that impressed most: only a mechanical DNF in Road Atlanta prevented the #86 from finishing every championship race in the top eight.

#86 Meyer Shank Racing w/ Curb-Agajanian Acura NSX GT3, GTD: Mario Farnbacher, Trent Hindman

#86 Meyer Shank Racing w/ Curb-Agajanian Acura NSX GT3, GTD: Mario Farnbacher, Trent Hindman

Photo by: Jake Galstad / Motorsport Images

4. Spain Antonio Garcia (Corvette Racing, 3rd in GTLM)

For the second straight season, Garcia and teammate Jan Magnussen went winless, but the difference in 2019 was that they didn’t quite accrue enough points to snatch the title. Shaking off the embarrassment of his low-speed faux pas in the 2018 season finale, Garcia became one of the most trustworthy drivers in the class in 2019 and always seemed able to tease the last percentage of potential from the venerable Corvette C7.R in its sixth year. Magnussen, too, was capable and swift but seemed to lack his co-driver’s inspiration when that’s precisely what was necessary to combat newer and faster cars.

#3 Corvette Racing Corvette C7.R: Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia, Mike Rockenfeller

#3 Corvette Racing Corvette C7.R: Jan Magnussen, Antonio Garcia, Mike Rockenfeller

Photo by: Bob Meyer

3. United Kingdom Nick Tandy (Porsche GT Team, 2nd in GTLM)

Tandy made a couple of atypical errors – the off in practice at VIR, the spin in qualifying at Laguna Seca – but is ranked higher than co-driver Patrick Pilet because the latter made some potential race-losing mistakes such as the jumped start at Mid-Ohio that earned the #911 a drive-through and the trips onto the grass at Lime Rock. Pilet also lacked the aggression of Earl Bamber in the other Porsche at Long Beach, whereas one of Tandy’s calling cards is a warrior-like tenacity. He’s also strong in defense, looking unshakeable despite Garcia’s relentless pressure in the closing laps of the Watkins Glen 6 Hours.

Winner #911 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR: Nick Tandy

Winner #911 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR: Nick Tandy

Photo by: Scott R LePage / Motorsport Images

2. Belgium Laurens Vanthoor (Porsche GT Team, 1st in GTLM)

Quite how the 2009 German Formula 3 champion fell off the open-wheel ladder is anyone’s guess, but Vanthoor has been nothing but an asset to every sportscar squad he has joined, and since the start of 2017 he has been one of the key components of the Porsche IMSA squad. His pace in qualifying this season earned him two pole positions, but in a year when the Porsche 911 RSR was more often than not the car to beat, it was the fact that Vanthoor and teammate Bamber finished ahead of their teammates Tandy and Pilet eight times out of the GTLM class’s 11 races that proved crucial in earning the #912 crew the title.

#912 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR, GTLM: Laurens Vanthoor, Earl Bamber

#912 Porsche GT Team Porsche 911 RSR, GTLM: Laurens Vanthoor, Earl Bamber

Photo by: David Yowe

1. United Kingdom Richard Westbrook (Ford Chip Ganassi Racing, 4th in GTLM)

And so the Ford GT program ends with the #67 Chip Ganassi Racing entry being the most successful GTLM entry of the past four years (eight wins) despite never winning the title. The race victories are in large part due to the presence of Westbrook, a man who can maximize his car’s qualifying potential – vital, given the difficulty of passing on some of the tracks where IMSA’s GTLM class competes – yet can also lap endlessly at or near the limit in race stints without mistakes. No less important is that Westbrook is well capable of feather-footing his way to victory if an extraordinary fuel-saving stint is required. He is truly the complete sportscar driver.

#67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT, GTLM: Richard Westbrook

#67 Ford Chip Ganassi Racing Ford GT, GTLM: Richard Westbrook

Photo by: Richard Dole / Motorsport Images

Prototype

6. United States Colin Braun (CORE autosport, 10th in points)

There was only one occasion during the season that Braun qualified the #54 CORE autosport Nissan DPi – and that was when the 31-year-old upset the odds to put it on pole at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park. Unfortunately for he and his now-retired driving partner Jon Bennett, fourth place in the Rolex 24 at Daytona was as good as it got in 2019, but Braun’s class still often shone through during a trying campaign. Fingers crossed he lands the top DPi ride his talent deserves for 2020.

#54 CORE autosport Nissan DPi, DPi: Jonathan Bennett, Colin Braun

#54 CORE autosport Nissan DPi, DPi: Jonathan Bennett, Colin Braun

Photo by: Art Fleischmann

5. Brazil Pipo Derani (Action Express Racing, 2nd in points)

While Felipe Nasr was probably on balance the quicker driver overall in the Whelen Engineering-backed Cadillac DPi-V.R, Derani was still an indispensable asset to Action Express Racing in his first season with the squad. He was certainly instrumental in both of the #31 car’s wins, the Sebring 12 Hours and Petit Le Mans, and in particular, he showed blistering pace in the tricky conditions of the former to score his third victory at the classic Florida venue. BoP allowing, he and Nasr have to be regarded as strong title contenders in 2020.

#31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi, DPi: Pipo Derani

#31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi, DPi: Pipo Derani

Photo by: Scott R LePage / Motorsport Images

4. United Kingdom Oliver Jarvis (Mazda Team Joest, 5th in points)

Jarvis demonstrated in 2019 that he is one of the fastest Prototype drivers over a single lap, maybe the quickest of all. His tally of three poles (including a scintillating Daytona effort) put him top of the league and also made him the only Mazda driver all year to start from pole. In race trim he was equally dependable, and considering the speed of the RT24-P he and Tristan Nunez were perhaps unlucky to come away with only a single win at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park. That triumph owed something to fortune, as the sister Mazda suffered worse in the pits – but arguably it was karma for all the other occasions the #77 car ran out of luck.

#77 Mazda Team Joest Mazda DPi: Oliver Jarvis, Tristan Nunez, Timo Bernhard

#77 Mazda Team Joest Mazda DPi: Oliver Jarvis, Tristan Nunez, Timo Bernhard

Photo by: Art Fleischmann

3. United Kingdom Harry Tincknell (Mazda Team Joest, 9th in points)

It was a tough call whether to put Tincknell or Jarvis ahead in this list, but when the Mazda was on top form it was usually the former who got the absolute most out of it in race conditions. For various reasons, the factory Ford driver’s campaign didn’t really get going until Watkins Glen, but that race showcased Tincknell at his brilliant best, as he made an aggressive pass on Juan Pablo Montoya to seal Mazda’s first-ever IMSA win. Two races later at Road America he repeated the feat, and without a bad pitstop at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, he and Jonathan Bomarito could have been celebrating a hat-trick of wins.

#55 Mazda Team Joest Mazda DPi, DPi: Harry Tincknell

#55 Mazda Team Joest Mazda DPi, DPi: Harry Tincknell

Photo by: Richard Dole / Motorsport Images

2. Brazil Felipe Nasr (Action Express Racing, 2nd in points)

Given how uncompetitive the Cadillac was for at least half the season, Nasr did well to come within five points of defending his Prototype crown alongside new Action Express Racing teammate Pipo Derani. The ex-F1 racer was reliably the best Cadillac qualifier, taking the only pole for a DPi-V.R all season at Road Atlanta, and his performances in the Rolex 24 at Daytona and Sebring 12 Hours were exceptional. Only the unfortunate timing of the red flag at Daytona denied he and the #31 crew what would have been a well-deserved sweep of wins in the three biggest races of the year.

#31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi, DPi: Felipe Nasr, Pipo Derani, Eric Curran

#31 Whelen Engineering Racing Cadillac DPi, DPi: Felipe Nasr, Pipo Derani, Eric Curran

Photo by: Jake Galstad / Motorsport Images

1. United States Dane Cameron (Acura Team Penske, 1st in points)

While Montoya was the driver who dominated the headlines for adding an IMSA Prototype title to his already bulging resume, in reality it was Cameron who has to be regarded as the outstanding Acura Team Penske driver in 2019. Of the three victories scored by the #6 ARX-05 this season, two (Detroit and Laguna Seca) were a result of Cameron’s on-track moves, while his run to second at Road America was equally impressive. The American’s qualifying record was also markedly better: on the five occasions he qualified the car, Cameron beat the sister Acura three times; Montoya managed the feat only once in the same number of tries.

DPI Motul Pole Award Winner #6 Acura Team Penske Acura DPi, DPi: Dane Cameron

DPI Motul Pole Award Winner #6 Acura Team Penske Acura DPi, DPi: Dane Cameron

Photo by: Michael L. Levitt / Motorsport Images

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