Acura Wins at WeatherTech Raceway, Now Leads DPi Championship with One Race To Go!
When it mattered most, Ricky Taylor received a timely gift.
Acura Team Penske teammate Dane Cameron allowed Taylor to pass him as the leaders approached the final lap Sunday, and Taylor went on to win the Hyundai Monterey Sports Car Championship at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
The move allowed the team’s No. 7 Acura ARX-05 and its two drivers — Taylor and Helio Castroneves — to take a narrow lead in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Daytona Prototype international (DPi) driver and team championship battles heading into the season finale Nov. 14.
The decision was made after a restart with just under 19 minutes left in the 2-hour, 40-minute race. As Taylor chased Cameron for the lead, the team decided to allow Taylor to take over.
“Penske isn’t going to take away a win from somebody unless there’s a really big goal,” Taylor said. “I don’t know how the discussion went, but I feel bad for Dane and Juan (Pablo Montoya, Cameron’s co-driver). They did race a perfect race, and then we ended up leading one lap for the win.”
Taylor and Castroneves now lead Renger van der Zande and Ryan Briscoe by just two points in the standings. Van der Zande and Briscoe came into Sunday’s race atop the standings with their No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Konica Minolta Cadillac DPi V.R, but finished sixth.
Considering how far back the No. 7 team was after the first three races of the 2020 WeatherTech Championship season, leading the standings heading into the season ending Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Advance Auto Parts is astonishing to both drivers.
“It’s a battle,” Castroneves said. “It’s a championship battle. We’re part of an amazing organization, and everybody is looking for the same goal.”
The No. 7 car has won four of the last five races and has finished no worse than second after early season woes. The streak started with Castroneves’ run to the checkered flag in the rain Aug. 2 at Road America.
“We had the pace for most of the season, but we weren’t seeing the results,” Taylor said. “When Helio and I started putting it together on track and the team was really gelling and doing such a good job in the pits and off track, we put all the pieces together and it turned into race wins.”
Cameron held on for second place, 0.487 seconds behind Taylor in the car Montoya started from the pole. The No. 6 duo led a race-high 104 laps in what was a 119-lap race. The No. 7 car only led the last two.
The No. 31 Action Express Racing Whelen Engineering Cadillac DPi V.R co-driven by Felipe Nasr and Pipo Derani finished third. They’ll go into Sebring third in the team standings, nine points behind the No. 7 entry.
While Acura Team Penske created final-lap drama in the DPi class, Patrick Kelly had no competition on his way to clinching the driver and team championships in the LMP2 class.
Kelly, who overcame extensive injuries in a street accident a decade ago and resumed his racing career, teamed with Simon Trummer to finish 28th overall in the No. 52 PR1-Mathiasen Motorsports ORECA LMP2 07.
The championship came with IMSA’s Jim Trueman Award, which includes an invitation to the 2021 24 Hours of Le Mans.
“It’s one of the biggest things of my life,” Kelly said. “Since I started racing, I’ve dreamed of going to Le Mans. I remember seeing the Penske Spyders and saying, ‘God, I’d love to drive a P2 and can you imagine going to drive a car like that at Le Mans?’ Then I’ve had a lot adversity happen in my life over the last eight years. For me to be out here and have this happen, it’s just surreal.”
The Porsche GT Team is not going gently into that good night, but the No. 3 Corvette won’t be denied.
For the second straight IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race, Porsche claimed victory in the GT Le Mans (GTLM) class. On Sunday, it was the No. 912 Porsche 911 RSR-19 with drivers Laurens Vanthoor and Earl Bamber. Yet by finishing second in the No. 3 Corvette Racing Chevrolet Corvette C8.R, Jordan Taylor and Antonio Garcia wrapped up the driver and team championships with a race remaining.
Ending a victory drought of 483 days, 2019 GTLM champions Vanthoor and Bamber took class honors at the Hyundai Monterey Sports Car Championship on WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca’s 2.238-mile permanent road course. The triumph followed one two weeks ago at Motul Petit Le Mans by No. 911 Porsche teammates Nick Tandy, Fred Makowiecki and Matt Campbell.
Bamber held off Garcia in the No. 3 Corvette by 0.981 seconds at the finish, concluding a close battle over the final 19 minutes after the only full-course caution during the 2-hour, 40-minute race. The winning drivers were quick to credit their pit crew for lightning-quick stops, including the first one that vaulted the No. 912 ahead of the pole-sitting No. 3.
“Today we didn’t have the quickest car but it was definitely one of those tremendous team victories,” Bamber said after winning for the first time since July 2019 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park.
“Almost everybody did a three-stop in our class,” added Vanthoor, who started the race but turned over the wheel to Bamber on the second stop. “To make that work, the guys doing the tire changing have to be quick because the refueling time is short. And they did every time perfectly. That was, I think, the key to the race.”
With the runner-up finish, however, Garcia and Taylor pushed their points lead to 35 over No. 4 Corvette teammates Oliver Gavin and Tommy Milner, who initially finished third on Sunday but were moved to last in GTLM (sixth place) after a rear diffuser height infraction was discovered in post-race technical inspection. Garcia now has won five IMSA championships, three in the past four years, while Taylor collected his third title.
The No. 911 Porsche made a two-stop strategy work to finish in third place on Sunday – the third time this season that both Porsches have reached the podium. Bamber, Vanthoor and Makowiecki also combined a week ago to win the 24 Hours of Spa, in another Porsche. With the manufacturer set to exit WeatherTech Championship GTLM competition after this season, the sudden turnaround has provided some solace.
In the GT Daytona (GTD) race on Sunday, No. 86 Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian Acura NSX GT3 drivers Matt McMurry and Mario Farnbacher reversed a troubling trend, dominating the day to win at WeatherTech Raceway and reclaim the season-long championship lead.
Pacing the class for nearly the entire race, Farnbacher brought the No. 86 Acura home more than 10 seconds ahead of the No. 96 Turner Motorsport BMW M6 GT3.
“We made some changes to the car (after qualifying) that made some really, really big improvements, and handling the tire degradation was the other thing,” McMurry said. “We were able to keep much more consistent lap times over the whole stint, so I think that was big for us winning today.”
McMurry won the Motul Pole Award in qualifying Sunday morning and built a lead of more than six seconds before turning the car over to Farnbacher for the final two hours. Bill Auberlen closed the No. 96 BMW to within the back of Farnbacher’s bumper on a couple occasions, but the German never wavered and drove away on the final restart.
After finishing fifth, seventh and 10th in the past three races, the victory was a welcomed change.
“We had three frustrating races, so coming back like this means a lot,” Farnbacher said. “We never were gone but it put a lot of pressure on us, to say the least. I said to Matt and my team guys that we need to execute this weekend; we need to perform well. And we did.”
Farnbacher is looking to repeat as the GTD driving champion. With the win, he and McMurry – who won the 2019 WeatherTech Championship LMP2 title – recaptured the lead by seven points over No. 16 Wright Motorsports Porsche drivers Patrick Long and Ryan Hardwick, who finished sixth on Sunday.
Aaron Telitz entered the day as the GTD points leader, but an 11th-place finish in the No. 14 AIM Vasser Sullivan Lexus RC F GT3 on Sunday dropped him into third in points, eight behind the leaders. No. 14 co-driver Jack Hawksworth is 10 points back heading to the Sebring finale.
However, the No. 14 squad did wrap up the 2020 IMSA WeatherTech Sprint Cup title, which consisted of the seven GTD races two-hours and 40-minutes or shorter. Telitz and Hawksworth took the Sprint Cup drivers’ title, with the No. 14 AIM Vasser Sullivan scoring the team title and Lexus earning the manufacturer title.
The 2020 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season concludes Nov. 11-14 with the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Advance Auto Parts at Sebring International Raceway.